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Online Course

Session 3: Confession

How to Experience God in Prayer

In light of who God is, who are we? Confession answers this question as we take responsibility for our actions and trust in the grace of God.

Online Discipleship: How to Experience God in Prayer
Part 3: Confession

Welcome to session three of How to Experience God in Prayer. In our last time together, I introduced you to Philippians 4, verses 6 and 7, and to that little acronym ACTS – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.
I don’t know how you did since our last time of really adoring and praising God. A confession I have is that it doesn’t come naturally to me. I really had to learn to do that, and to look at nature, and use some great worship songs and sing out loud, and take some psalms, like Psalm 103, and pray them and actually do it out loud.

But as I do, “who God is” gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And then that leads me to this next thing that we do; it’s confession. Notice what He says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

This word “supplication” is the second most common word in the New Testament for prayer. It has a focus on my need or my want. But if the first step is to see God for who He is, the second step in prayer, where you really connect, where you really experience Him, is to see yourself for where you are in light of who God really is.

It’s a focus on our need and our lack of resources. It’s my inability to handle the situation. It’s an awareness of my limitations and my dependency.

That leads me to a time of confession, a time to sit quietly first and ask, “Lord, is there anything in my life, anything in my motives, anything in my attitudes?” Most of us come to God in prayer with life situations, right? A work situation here, a health situation – if you’re a parent, or if you’re married, or if you’ve got a roommate situation, a financial situation – we are anxious. I don’t think it’s an accident that the four words on prayer are addressing the issue of the command to stop worrying. Don’t be anxious and let Me give you peace. Let the Spirit of God fill up your soul.

And so the second word is about recognizing that need before you ask and I think that always begins with a time of significant confession.

The classic Old Testament passage on confession is when King David had sinned with Bathsheba, and to cover his sin – which we all do, we try and cover our sin if we don’t confess – he has her husband killed. And then the prophet comes to him and confronts him with his sin. This is what made David a man after God’s own heart. It wasn’t that he didn’t mess up. It’s how he responded when faced with the truth of his failure.

David would write, “Be gracious to me, O God, according to your steadfast, loyal love; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.” Did you notice? Where does David go? He starts with, “God, we all mess up. But I am starting with You. I’m not starting with what I can do or how I can make it up.” And then notice his request, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin. I know that I have sinned against You; it’s ever before me. I have sinned against You and I have done what is evil in Your sight. You are justified, God.”

The word “confess” literally means to agree with God. It’s to own our stuff. If you want to experience God, the prerequisite is to be honest. We are a people of denial; we are a people who blame others.

This morning I had a prolonged time in prayer and I walked through this process. As I walked through this process and I sat quietly, there was part of it that was painful as God brought pictures to my mind, motives that I have had, things that have come out of my mouth, and situations of conflict – some of them way long ago. God brought my side of it out that I hadn’t ever fully owned. I just asked, “Lord, forgive me.”

Psalm 145, verse 18 says, “The Lord is near to those who call upon Him, to those who call upon Him in truth.” At the heart of confession, and this is why it’s so hard to pray, it’s painful to see yourself, it’s painful for me to see myself for who I really am. But David does. And as he does, then he shifts gears.

Confession isn’t beating yourself up. Confession is admitting we can’t do it. God is mindful that we are dust. But as far as the east is from the west, He has removed our transgressions from us when – what? When we come and confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us. And not just forgive, but to cleanse.

David goes on and says, “Purify me, clean me, wash me.” And then he says, “Make me hear Your joy; don’t hide Your face from me. Create in me a clean heart.” Here’s what I want you to get; this is so important. He says, “If You delighted in sacrifices, I would give it. But You are not pleased with burnt offering.” Verse 17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

I want you to know that part of our mind wandering, part of not experiencing God, is it takes courage to be honest, to sit quietly. I want to give you something very, very important. As you sit quietly, if you hear a little voice that says, “You’re a terrible person, you don’t measure up, condemnation, condemnation. You should have done this, you should have done that”, that’s not God.

The Holy Spirit convicts. It’s very specific. Condemnation makes you want to run away from God. Conviction, when we make a confession, is God pointing specific things out that He has forgiven to draw you close to Him. As you do and unload those things – adoration, confession – there will be a load that comes off you and a peace that will come in and the connection with God.

In our next time together, what we are going to learn is how to begin to turn the corner and give thanks and move into the present.

So, let me encourage you, take some time in what we have lined out for you. Have a season of confession after adoration. Little by little, we are going to learn how to really experience God when we pray.


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61 comments on “Session 3: Confession

  1. I am just beginning to understand what the Bible says about sin and how it affects us after we are born again. I recognize my need to be more intentional and specific when I confess my sins–remembering always that “doing things my way” is rebellion and rebellion is sin.

    Help me Lord to recognize and confess any rebellion or other sin in me.

  2. I am becoming more aware of the mystery that God is; how far beyond my understanding He is; and how incredibly compassionate He is toward His creation. Because He loves me, He became a human being (Jesus Christ) so that He could rescue me: By His death my wretched sins were forgiven; because He chose me, I am redeemed; because He lives, I live also.

    Jesus is wherever I am. Psalm 139:18(b) “When I awake, I am still with You.” What a profound thought!

  3. Thank you for this lesson, it is not easy to see myself as God sees me and for me to make excuses for my behavior. But when I do and come before Him and the other I have wronged by my behavior or actions He takes the load from me and I can begin walking with a lighter step, to love more freely and forgive more freely.

  4. This is not easy to do & never feels good the moment you confess – much easier to excuse or put fault on others – you do feel a cleansing – it is also hard to ask the Holy Spirit to show my wrongs to confess – it is so much easier to just say – forgive me of my sins, but sometimes I know I need to spend more time on confession

  5. This session helped me realize that I often focus primarily on giving God thanks when I pray, and that I don’t spend nearly enough time in adoration. And while it’s funny to have that realization come now, during the ‘confession’ session, I guess that’s a good sign that the time and effort I put into thinking about and praying about the previous session is bearing fruit!

  6. It’s good to slow down and remember just Who God truly is, that His is heart for us, and focus in on all of God’s blessings in our lives. When I forget God’s real view of me, I get scared and let fear control me. Then, I don’t confess my sins, but I repress my feelings and concerns while hiding/avoiding Him and my struggles. This only creates distance from my Lord and Savior, while causing frustration and angst in my other personal relationships. Confession to God that I’m struggling and that I need His help is a strength, not a weakness. I will seek to remember this essential truth about my daily walk with Jesus Christ, as I move forward in my prayer time before God. Thank you for this excellent time of reflection Living on the Edge Team and Chip Ingram.

  7. This lesson supports and enhances my on-going, prayer-filled work to have God (*) reveal my weaknesses, fears, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes; and (*) help me to learn, heal, spiritually grow, and transform each day into my true self.

  8. for years I never did confession. It wasn’t taught at home or at the church where I grew up. Really became aware in 12 step program for over-eaters. Confession is freeing. God is forgiving

  9. This session reminded me of the difference between conviction and condemnation. The importance of confession and feeling the conviction with NO condemnation. Thank you

  10. It helped me to see just how urgent I need to be about repentance and confession of my sins! I want to thank you Chip for offering this lesson on confession and for all of the Scriptures you offered in this lesson on confession! It has been an eye opening experience.

  11. I need to spend more time in Prayer
    It’s the hardest thing for me
    This is my favorite verse
    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit
    A broken and a contrite heart O God you will not despise..Psalm 51:17

  12. I definitely need to spend more time in confession daily and acknowledge my sin and life that don’t line with His truth.

  13. The more time I spend in prayer, I find God revealing to me sins that I may never considered sin or sin I even tried to justify. Knowing God is a loving God and forgiving God relieves me of the guilt I have felt by not confessing my sin.

  14. It is definitely hard to pray about yourself. I find it hard to name the sin that I am struggling with to God. It makes me feel small and unworthy to go to Him about that sin I am struggling with.
    Once the sin is named, oh what a relief it is knowing that you can admitted it and seek God’s help with it. At times it is still a struggle to admit the sin that I am struggling with. When I do it gets easier to deal with it and use the tools that God has equipped me with to deal with this sin.

    1. What great honesty! Thanks for sharing!! In my personal life, sometimes I can discover my sins when I take the time to think about what I judge others for. “That person has terrible patience!” … Wait … I do too…

  15. I can’t do LIFE alone…. God will order my steps…i just have to be patient and focus on his word…NOT my understandings.

  16. I am accustomed to saying short prayers throughout the day and have recently gotten in the habit of taking time out of my workday to just praise, adore and give thanksgiving without asking for anything. I don’t always want to go the Creator with my hands out.

    This session is teaching me how to spend quality time (longer periods) with the Most High and not rush through the process. Prayfully, I’ll learn what hearing HIS voice really means.

  17. So many bad things have happened to me that I felt like God didn’t care so why pray. I have felt alone in this world and invisible. I am really trying to trust God and go to Him more.

  18. struggling very much with my prayer life sometimes .I just want to throw my hands up and say enough I will never get it . but I haven,t yet

  19. I still sin( flesh ) but the Holy Spirt teaches and warns me regarding sin; but I am not an enemy of God. Through the Word and teaching of the Holy Spirt I aline my thoughts to His ; this is the wisdom of God.I now see things/people though God’s word/ wisdom which now shows me an accurate picture of me; or where I am not like God so I confess. As I have sinned against God and God alone( hurt God) ;yes there is always consequences to others when we sin and that is where forgiveness comes in .God forgives me and does not remember my sin so I must also forgive myself. This leads me to looking at others sin’s with grace and to make intersession through prayer for them. Always trying to put others needs ahead of my own and when I fail ,confession .

  20. So helpful! The Voice of conviction vs the voice of condemnation. Confessing my need to my Father and then sensing His convicting presence, but not His condemnation. What a sweet understanding of our Father.

  21. So great areHis mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. As far as the east is from the west He removes our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11 12.
    Thank you Jesus

  22. These last 3 weeks of Chip’s presentation of principals, purpose re: prayer has been MOST impactful, a renewing of my mind and a refining in my soul.
    The briefness and clarity is evident of the Holy Spirit empowering Chip to teach. I have trulely studied these 3 weeks, pondering, praying, applying this refreshing series.

  23. A great blessing today…
    Best explanation of “confession” I can ever recall!
    Tears flowed as I remembered the sin in David’s life
    but more importantly the forgiveness that followed his confession, as my own. Praise God!

  24. I have learned that be beginning my prayer session with adoration for God – by actually feeling His glory and love for me – I come to realize how hurtful sin really is to me, my family/friends and especially to God. By choosing to do the wrong thing, I miss out on sharing love. By confessing the sin is how I acknowledge it to myself and God, learn from it, & try to make a better, more loving choice in the future.

  25. It’s humbling to write down my unconfessed sins. It was good for me to have Chip explain the difference of feeling condemned for my sins and feeling convicted. If I can see myself the way God sees me, I’m praying that I will stop condemning myself for not measuring up to my expectations and instead feel the peace that God promises us.

  26. This is something I pray all the time before I go to supplication. I thank God for allowing me to pray for others, but then I ask you first to cleanse my heart and show me if there is any unconfessed sin in my own life so that my prayers for others will not be hindered. I thank you that through your name, I can come boldly before you and pray with confidence, according to your will and know that you hear me. In that way I’ve tried my best to get my sins out in the open with God.

  27. I know it is hard for those who live in big cities to really “see the big picture” & praise God. I live out in country surrounded by mountains. Just go out my door & I see His majesty. I also have changing seasons. Just looking out at fall & the majesty of colors on the leaves & mountains wow!!

  28. I’m really seeing that confession is the path to JOY, not to condemnation. Whoa, what a revelation!! I can speak my truth about what I’ve done and be free. Thank you Jesus.

  29. I am reminded that to truly experience God I must be honest. I love how adoration moves me to see God for who He is and this prompts me to be authentic, before His presence.

  30. Feeling “condemned” is a negative, hopeless feeling whereas “conviction” is more of a reminder for me of what I’ve done wrong and how I need to confess it. Knowing the good I should do but doing the opposite is always convicting for me! Confession is a pouring out to a merciful God who loves me no matter what.

  31. For me, honesty before God is not a problem because He already knows. I feel a freshness in knowing that I come to Him dragging no baggage. I can openly confess my need and my dependence on Him, as well as my confidence in His ability to provide direction.

  32. Conviction vs condemnation discussion is so freeing!

    Taking Question 8 seriously- praying for a very specific situation at work to keep sin from my heart.

  33. It will make me listen closer to whether thoughts are condemning or convicting. I had never thought about how condemnation makes us run away from God and conviction from the Holy Spirit brings us back to a closer walk with God.

  34. Self examination is needful – a quote (I can’t remember where it came from) says it in a nutshell: “To overlook one’s own faults is to miss a free valuable education.”

    The other takeaway was knowing the difference between:

    condemnation which attack our being
    conviction which attacks our doing

    was very helpful.

  35. Learning not to beat myself up when I confess is hard. I am a people pleaser and I don’t want God to see me messing up. Silly as that sounds since he sees and hears all!

    I want him to be proud of me and I need to internalize that he is. I am just as much a saint as anyone else he has called to do his work.

  36. The vulnerability in confession breaks down my own walls so that I can walk in humility. Though I often fail, this session is such a great reminder that being honest with God helps bring us to the dependency in Him as intended.

  37. Sharing a few verses from Psalm 51 was perfect for this topic. I also appreciated Chip sharing that condemnation is never from God put conviction is (when God shares specific things to draw me closer to Him).

  38. I struggle with the “critical parent” in my head…always pointing out how I don’t measure up. I worship first thing in the morning to enter into the presence of my loving Father and move away from the condemnation. I appreciate how Chip emphasizes the difference of a loving God’s conviction and the enemy’s condemnation. One morning I struggled with the condemning words in my head and I heard the Holy Spirit gently say, “Why don’t you confess that you’re forgiven, that you’re a daughter of the King of kings, that you’re the apple of My eye, a precious treasure.” It led me into citing scriptures of His love for me and brought me into a deep and humble state of greater love and appreciation for Him and my desperate need for Him.

  39. The statement, “it’s an awareness of my limitations and my dependency.” Being honest that I can’t do it Lord, crying out to the One who can! Also, how it takes courage to be honest and sit quietly is humbling.

  40. Today I realized that confession is for me – -the Lord knows all but when I come before him in complete honesty admitting my limitations and dependency on Him it opens the door for me to experience God more fully.

  41. By explaining the second part of ACTS and how to actually do this. It makes a big difference to have an understanding of HOW to do something. I have prayed many times and just felt I was not doing it the right way. I realize that God hears us and accepts our prayer no matter how it comes out, but this did not feel right to me. Unfortunately, if I do not feel I know how to do something, I will do it less, so this is have the effect of me praying more regularly.

  42. It’s amazing to realize that when I sin, when I turn away from God to pursue my own way, He is working to draw me back to Him through conviction of my sin and then my confession of it to Him. He’s not an angry God with his arms crossed, but a loving Father who’s actively working to restore our relationship.

  43. It is not easy to look honestly at yourself and examine the sin in our lives. I love that Chip shares how important it is in building your relationship with God.

  44. Very helpful to know that once we admit our limitations, we go to God first for Him to fix it and that we can’t do it ourselves. This immediately brings us closer to Him as a result of our confession.

  45. This is one of those lessons where I think “sharper than any two-edged sword” – ouch – but for good reason(s). We want to lie to ourselves, hide our sins, keep things that we judge as “okay” or insignificant – hide the things we need to confess rather than be exposed in them. Love the very important distinction Chip drives home that we have to be really honest about ourselves (not easy!) and that God wants to draw out those things we need to confess through conviction (not condemnation).

  46. I have struggled with habitual and willing sin (idolizing) followed by shallow requests for forgiveness. Today’s session made me realize that I lack a contrite heart, my request is not with honesty and I don’t fully realize what Jesus did for me on the cross.

  47. I never realized that confession is admitting that I can’t do it. This was a great new perspective that I will keep to heart.

  48. I appreciate this session’s reminder that we need to be honest with ourselves and God to experience Him. It’s important to for me to admit my dependence on Him and call to him for help.

  49. This session was so encouraging! Chip’s explanation that supplication is an awareness of our limitations and dependency on God was very helpful.

How did this session make a personal impact?

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