Understanding Repentance in Prayer
If there is one idea in the Christian life that many people struggle to understand, it’s repentance.
Yet, it is the key to connecting with God and finding a life of freedom. Repentance is about realizing that we do not have the strength within ourselves to live a holy life, that we will never be able to obtain that strength through our own means, and that we are thus in desperate need of Jesus Christ, Who does have that strength and Who draws near to a broken spirit (Psalm 34:18).
You may wonder how we can start praying with an attitude of repentance.
Below is a brief outline that will hopefully help you approach prayer in a way that will change your life.
The humility of a few words
Ecclesiastes 5 tells us to approach God with few words and rather go before Him to listen than to speak. This is because we need to be aware that His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9) and that He is infinitely more loving, kinder, and trustworthy than we are.
Our words to Him come from our imperfect perceptions and hearing what He has to say to us first allows us to receive perfect instruction from the ultimate architect of creation. While God absolutely loves to hear our every thought, feeling, and concern, we are reminded that it is far better to first listen for His loving voice, rather than beginning our prayers with a list of requests and demands.
Repentance of our sinful nature, rather than only one sin
A preacher once wisely said that it is not so much each individual sin that we commit that needs to be listed in our prayer, but rather the much wider concept that we are sinful by nature.
In other words, rather than listing each sin committed throughout the last week, we can rather confess to God that our thoughts, actions, and emotions are naturally drawn towards the sinful and that we cry out for His help to be transformed in our thoughts and actions so that we can live more holy lives. Even the greatest missionary of all time struggled with sin (Romans 7:18-25) and cried out to God for help in living a pure life.
The joy of repentance
When you think of repentance, you may imagine yourself whipping your back and beating yourself down about how sinful you are.
The good news is that repentance is much, much more joyful than that. Yes, our sin is horrific. Our tendency to do evil is to be despised. But the simple reason why repentance is more joyful than self-loathing is that your attention is on Christ’s perfection and forgiveness, rather than your own shortcomings.
The difference between the agony of loathing yourself and the joy of true repentance is that true repentance keeps your focus on God, not yourself. You are only a point of reference for seeing why God is worthy of our praise. You are not the focal point. Look to Him, and you will experience true joy and freedom!
The reason why focusing on Christ gives us a joyful perspective of repentance is because all of our sins, which come with a penalty of death, have ALREADY been paid for by the horrific death of the perfect, sinless messiah, Jesus Christ. His sacrifice paid for our sins (John 3:16).
It is our choice
The gift of Christ dying for our sins is a free gift. However, like any gift, it needs to be received. We are invited to accept the gift of Christ’s forgiveness, but until we receive it, it does not become part of our story. The key to accepting this gift is our own repentance. It is only by acknowledging our sin that we can see our need for a savior and embrace the gift of His salvation.
With a better understanding of what repentance is and how it applies to us, we can look at how we should pray. Jesus’ disciples asked him directly and he gave them a detailed prayer to use in Luke 11.
An important part of this prayer is the phrase “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”
In order for our repentance to be effective, we need to choose to forgive others that have wronged us. Knowing that everybody has sinned and we are all in need of salvation can help us to forgive others. Forgiving others is not an emotion. We may be struggling with anger, bitterness, or disgust at how someone else has treated us, and choosing to forgive them may not relieve those emotions, at least not immediately, but we still need to make the decision to forgive them.
Speak it. Declare it. Ignore your feelings for a moment and make the choice to forgive, so that you can live in freedom. You forgive so that you can live in freedom, regardless of whether or not the other person accepts the forgiveness offered to them.
When you pray, declare out loud for yourself that you realize you cannot earn God’s glory, you need God’s forgiveness through the death of His son Jesus Christ, and you accept Jesus into your heart. Invite Him to live in your heart forever, so that by His strength you can pursue a life of holiness.
Repentance is traditionally seen as an agonizing self-despising, but it is actually intended to be a joyful experience, where we see our own shortfalls and embrace Christ’s perfection to set us free from our own sin.
When you see repentance in that light, you can eagerly find more things in your life that you can confess to God as stopping you from obtaining His glory, and find joy in the truth that Christ has set you free!
Global Disciples Canada is a Christian mission organization that trains local leaders living near to reach least-reached communities to multiply disciples for Christ. One-third of our world hasn’t heard the Good News of Jesus. Yet, Global Disciples refers to these as “least-reached” people, and fewer than 10% of all missionaries work among these groups.
We live in a time when many of these people are within reach of a local church. Through our simple and practical training and coaching strategy, believers share the Gospel in their nations and cultures.
Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” and we’re committed to doing just that. If you want a Christian mission organization to partner with to become a better disciple and help make disciples, connect with us today!
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