We are only a month into our current sermon series on prayer and already God has spoken to me in numerous ways. He has reminded me that He is on my side, and that He wants His very best for me. He has challenged me to pray with others, not just for them. He has impressed upon me the critical nature of listening in prayer, so that I can intercede as led by the voice of the Holy Spirit. God is teaching me to pray more like Jesus did, which is in stark contrast to many of the prayers I’ve prayed in the past.
This week, we are going to consider one of the greatest hindrances of prayer - unconfessed sin. When we knowingly harbor sin in our life, and continue to live disobediently and unrepentant, our prayer lives shutdown. For someone to ask God to honor their petitions while they themselves are consciously dishonoring His commandments is one of the most pretentious and hypocritical behaviors imaginable. Yet often, this is exactly what we do.
Picture God’s answers to your prayers as electricity and yourself as a light bulb. Apart from the current of the LORD flowing through you, your light will be unable to shine. Now consider that sin, either confessed or unconfessed, is the switch. When we remain unrepentant, and knowingly regard sin in our hearts, the power of God is cut off and our prayers stunted. We we confess our sins, He faithfully forgives us of them, and the connection is made once again.
There are several different types of prayer. Adoration is when we praise and exalt the LORD. Thanksgiving is when we express our gratitude to God for all He has done and will do. Prayers of Supplication, Intercession, and Petition are those we offer for ourselves or on the behalf of others. There are additional kinds of prayers besides these. But perhaps the most difficult type of prayer is that of Confession, or Contrition; when we come before God and admit our wrongdoings and ask for His forgiveness. This is a must if we are ever to have a powerful and effective prayer-life.
DVD TEACHING SEGMENT (from "When God's People Pray" Bible Study)
I. THERE ARE NO “SECRET SINS” (Romans 2:16, Luke 12:2-3)
One of the reasons we don’t confess our sins is because we foolishly think that we can keep them concealed. Somehow we delude ourselves into thinking that no one will ever know about them. Yet even if other people don’t know, the Bible is abundantly clear that God does. Not only is He fully aware of our “secrets”, but He will also hold us accountable for them.
We live in a nation that has historically held “the right to privacy” in high regard. But with recent revelations of NSA spying, this issue has been thrust into the spotlight again. We don’t want the government, or anyone else for that matter, intruding into our personal and private lives. It is none of their business! But when it comes to God, there is nothing we can do that He doesn’t know about. It is all His business.
Not only will our secret sins incur judgment, but they will also be exposed. The words, thoughts, and deeds which we shroud in secrecy now will someday be brought into the light. According to Jesus, they will be shouted from the rooftops. Knowing this, wouldn’t it be wise to confess our sins now rather than having to explain them to God later? There are no secret sins.
II. THERE ARE NO “HARMLESS SINS” (Isaiah 63:8,10; Joshua 7)
A second reason that we don’t confess our sins is because we don’t see the effect that they have on other people. We delude ourselves into thinking that the consequences of our sin can be isolated to ourselves only. This leads us to believe that as long as we are not actually hurting others, then our actions don’t really qualify as sin. And if they don’t qualify as sin, then there is no need to confess them, right?
To begin with, all sin is hurtful to God. While it may invoke anger and disappointment, more than anything it makes Him sad. The LORD is grieved when we sin, because He loves us and He knows the devastating effects that it has on our lives.
Secondly, all sin harms the sinner. Any time you practice sin, it allows Satan to have a foothold in your life. His presence will have an effect, even if it is not apparent in the short-run. Over time, the small and seemingly harmless sins you allow to remain unconfessed will grow, inevitably leading to great personal pain and hardship.
Lastly, all sin has a corporate affect on others. You and I are naive to think otherwise. The link between my sin and its unintended consequences on others might not be obvious, but it is there. The so-called little, petty sins of individual Christians have a damaging affect on the church at large. The well-being of the entire congregation of believers is impacted by the sins of of its individual members.
The unconfessed sin in your life that you foolishly believe isn’t harmful is actually hurting God, you, and others - even if you can’t see it. There are no harmless sins.
III. EFFECTIVE PRAYER REQUIRES CONFESSION OF SIN (Isaiah 59:1-2, 1 John 3:21-22)
When we practice disobedience, and harbor sin in our hearts, the result is a separation between ourselves and God. The line of communication between us is broken, so that the LORD does not hear us. The only prayer that is effective at this point is that of confession. Our petitions, intercessions, and so on will be utterly useless until we first come humbly before God and repent of the sin in our lives.
There is a major difference between a condemned soul and a condemned heart. A condemned soul describes a lost person, while a condemned heart describes an unrepentant believer. When we as Christians confess our sins the LORD forgives us of them and our hearts are no longer condemned. Then we can approach the throne of grace with confidence, knowing that God will hear and answer our prayers. When we aspire to live in obedience to the LORD, and consistently repent of our iniquities when we fail, God promises to give us whatever we ask. Confession of sin is a perquisite for effective prayer.
Here is the unchanging principle that is clearly revealed in Scripture - God will not hear the prayers of a person holding onto unconfessed sin. This is certainly true for the nonbeliever. Before one can receive salvation, they must admit and confess their sin. But it remains true for the Christian. God will not hear our prayers unless we first confess our sins. Even though I was born again years ago, I still sin everyday. And while I know that I have been freed from the eternal penalty of sin, still I wonder how many prayers I’ve offered as a believer that have gone unheard because of unconfessed sin that I harbor within my life…
For me, the hardest facet of prayer is confession. It is enjoyable to worship and adore God, easy to find things to be thankful for, and I’m never at a loss for things to ask for. But when it comes to humbling myself before God, confessing and turning from my sins, and asking for His forgiveness - well, then prayer becomes a bit more difficult. Perhaps this is why we don’t pray confessional prayers as often as we should.
There are no secret, hidden sins. There are no harmless, little sins. All sin, whether big or small in our eyes, whether public and private, regardless - all sin will hinder our prayers. As such, we must make confession and repentance a daily practice.