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.
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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.