There are lots of reasons to engage in prayer, but the primary one is to gain closeness and intimacy with God. In order to do that we need to get really good at asking for his forgiveness. Something happens when we engage in sinful behavior, it puts a barrier between us and God. Often this is true even when we don’t realize we’ve done anything wrong. We usually think of sin as wrong, hurtful or even wicked things we’ve done, but sin is really doing anything that God has asked you not to do or not doing something he has asked you to do. Even if it’s because you forgot or just weren’t thinking, the curse of sinful behavior is separation, the cure is his forgiveness.
When we seek God’s forgiveness any grip the enemy had on us is broken. The curses and consequences were defeated with Christ’s death and resurrection. But this side of eternity, we still feel their effects when we engage in sinful behavior whether intentionally or not. Receiving forgiveness restores and renews us giving us victory again over the consequences of sin.
Seeking forgiveness does something else, it combats our pride. When we seek the Lord’s forgiveness we acknowledge his perfection and our imperfection, his sovereignty and our inability. This posture of humility is essential for closeness with God. One of the ideas that is repeated in scripture in both the New and Old Testaments is this: The Lord opposes the proud but gives grace, and favor to the humble.
Engaging in Forgiveness prayer
I’ve found there are three ways in which I regularly engage in praying for forgiveness. In all three cases my prayer is similar, it goes something like this:
“Jesus, I thank you for the you forgiveness won for me on the cross. I now confess to you my every sin, I confess my pride, arrogance and disobedience, (if you have a specific sin confess it here). I renounce every sin and humbly accept your forgiveness and the freedom that comes with it. In Christ, I put off the old man and take on the new. I now ask that you search my heart and know me and if there is anything else I need to confess, I ask that you reveal it to me now.” (If the Lord brings something to your mind that you need to repent from, ask for forgiveness from that thing and repeat the process until there’s nothing left to seek forgiveness for).
The three times I find myself engaging with this prayer are:
- In my daily prayers. I have a regular time with the Lord each day in which I seek his presence, his wisdom and direction. It’s a time of reconnecting and receiving power and strength for the day. I use this prayer template to structure that time. One of the items I always include is a time of seeking forgiveness.
- Whenever God reminds me of something. This might be when I’m praying about something else and God brings to mind something I need to repent of. It might also be out of the blue, at work, on a walk, or talking with a friend when a completely unrelated event will come to mind an I’ll realize I didn’t follow God in that moment. Whenever this happens, stop and seek his forgiveness as soon as possible. You don’t want that thing, whatever it is, interfering with you and God.
- The third time is likely the hardest. It’s when someone else, a friend, boss, coworker, spouse or even one of my children, will show me that I was wrong. In these moments, I’ve found it’s best to immediately ask their forgiveness and then pray and ask God’s forgiveness. Again, you don’t want this junk in the midst of your relationships.
One more thing
Be honest about your sin and your need for forgiveness. God knows you better than you know yourself, so any attempt at rationalizing or justifying your behaviors won’t bring the restoration you need. Just own it, embrace forgiveness and let God bring restoration.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. – 1 John 1:5-10, ESV (emphasis added)