After greeting and acknowledging God when we first approach His throne of grace, the next element of our prayer conversation should be an act of purification. We are constantly in engaged in a struggle between operating in our spiritual ideals and sinful nature. Romans 7:21 expresses this struggle as “ So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” One of the greatest spiritual dangers is believing that because we are “good people” we are not simultaneously guilty of sin. We commit sin in a variety of ways – by our thoughts, our words, as well as our actions. We can commit sin knowingly or unknowingly. We can commit sin by what we do as well as what we fail to do. Some people believe that being a nice person or having good intentions is good enough to secure our spot in heaven. That is a deceptive suggestion from the enemy! Roman 3:23 states “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Thanks be to God, each day we get a new chance, a new opportunity to get it right, to grow another step closer in our journey from salvation to sanctification. It is paramount that we optimize our potential spiritual growth each day by cultivating spiritual disciplines including bible study (discipleship), prayer, nurturing relationships with others (fellowship), worship, and service. Each day carries a combination of successes and failures in obeying God’s commandments. Whenever we miss the mark, we are guilty of sin. The more we grow in our relationship with God, the stronger our connection to God’s Holy Spirit, the more easily we can identify when we’ve missed the mark and committed sin in one way or another. Hebrews 3:13 says we should “…encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” That arrogant voice that assures you that you are justified in your unforgiveness, rudeness, self-righteousness, etc. is simply the enemy trying to delay your access to the freedom from sin through repentance.
When we pray, we must acknowledge our sins and ask God’s forgiveness before petitioning Him about any other needs. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Confessing our sins and seeking God’s forgiveness eliminates spiritual burdens and distractions. It renews a right spirit within us and allows us to fully focus on presenting needs to God and hearing His instructions.
Would you bake a traditional turkey using rotten food for the stuffing mixture? Of course not! Yet, when we attempt to pray without repenting, we are doing the same thing – focusing on the presentable outside appearance or perception when the Lord can distinguish those rotting, festering sins inside our hearts. We must address those issues within ourselves before seeking the Lord’s direction and intervention with concerns outside of ourselves. The beauty is, removing those ugly, personal, sinful areas creates space for marvelous godly things in our lives – new hopes and dreams, as well as the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says that “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
We may as well be honest and transparent with the Lord about our sins, fears, and failures. He can see it all anyway. Hebrews 4:13 says “ Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” God is not impressed nor deterred by outward appearances, He looks at the heart. Asking God to perform heart surgery – to forgive our sins and heal those wounded places – sets the atmosphere for a rich and rewarding prayer life.