(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 3)
Like me, I am sure that you have heard a lot about the power of prayer. Prayer changes things and the Bible tells us that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16).
When we face trouble, we pray. When we are scared, we pray. When we don’t know what to do, we pray. When we need God’s strength to go through a particular challenge in life or there is something we have been wanting but have no power to give ourselves, we know how to roll out the prayer mat and take to our knees, our eyes lifted up to heaven.
Much is said about the prayer life of the Christian. We know that if we do not pray to the true and living God through his Son Jesus Christ, our lives would be a colossal failure.
Prayer is absolutely essential, a necessity, a must.
Yet do you know, that as powerful as prayer is it is rendered generally useless if we do not practice repentance?
Much is said about the prayer life and people will even come up to you at Church or preach from the pulpit with the words: “How is your prayer life?” I however, have one question: How is your repentant life?
A repentant life is not something I hear very often, yet it is very important as a precursor to effective prayer. It makes no sense to be praying to God and there is sin in your life that you refuse to confess to him and forsake. It makes no sense to pray to him, if you don’t have a heart that is sensitive to his will, so as to know when you have wronged him and need to ask for his forgiveness.
It is easy to pray but it is not easy to repent.
For, repentance requires you to humble yourself, to take a good look within at all the ugliness of non-forgiveness, malice, envy, jealousy, gossiping and other sins that are there, to admit to God that you have done wrong, that you are not such a nice person as you had thought you were and that you are sorry for these sins.
Contrary to popular belief, repentance is not just for the unbeliever who finally believes in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that he is Lord, confesses it with his mouth and so comes to Christ. It is also for Christians who commit sins daily, so as to maintain fellowship with God who is holy.
Repentance is therefore needed for the unsaved unto salvation but it is also necessary in the lives of Christians who have already been redeemed but have done wrong, so that they can be forgiven, cleansed and restored. This is necessary for Christians who are already saved because if a Christian sins (which he or she does from time to time) but does not confess it to God and turned away from it, this undermines the closeness of his or her walk with God, can result in his or her hedge of protection being withdrawn from his or her life, to the extent that God permits it and also adversity, trouble, upheaval, sterility and unheard prayer.
1 John 1:8-10 underscores the need for Christians, as sinful creatures, (even after we have been redeemed) to have repentant lives. It states:
- “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
If your heart has grown hard throughout the years and you don’t have a repentant life, yet you frequently get up at Church to pray, even using great, swelling and impressive words, there is no telling if that prayer is reaching heaven. It may well just be bouncing the top of that ceiling and coming right back down and hitting you on the head.
God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). He expects his children to actively repent when they have done wrong, especially when he has revealed what they have done, to them.
King David in the Bible was not perfect. After all, he slept with another man’s wife, got her pregnant and then arranged to have the man murdered, when his plan to have him pass off as the father of the child, failed. He did a lot of wrong, yet God described him as a man after his own heart.
I believe that one of the reasons for this was that David had a heart that genuinely wanted to please God, that loved his presence and that was continuously repentant. Whenever he sinned, he knew and felt that it had negatively impacted his close walk with God and it was a nightmare to him to exist in life without feeling God’s presence near him. This drove him to humble himself under the mighty hand of God and to repent for his wrongdoing, without offering any excuses. When he came to God to confess his wrong, it was not just words but genuinely expressed from a heart of sorrow and grief that he had hurt God by his actions.
One only has to read the book of Psalms to see how great a repentant life David had. He prayed to ask petitions yes but this was always mixed with prayers birthed from repentance. He understood the importance of having a right relationship with God and being in right standing, before sending prayers up to ask for something. He was humble and constantly examined himself and the ugliness of his actions and motives before the true and living God, from whom he could hide nothing.
He was not satisfied with RELIGION but craved after RELATIONSHIP with God and so, knowing the will of God and sensitive to it, he was usually quick to confess to him when he had sinned, genuinely intending never to do the sin again.
In Jeremiah 3:6-14, we see the importance of repentance to God. He wanted no sacrifices, no offerings and no one to enquire of him, until Israel and Judah (his chosen people), came humbly to him and repented with genuine godly sorrow for their sins.
He wanted to do great things for them but he needed them to admit that they had done wrong first with a heart that was determined to not do it again. Yet, in their stubbornness, pride and self-righteousness, Israel and Judah refused to do so. They refused to be real and honest with God, to admit that they had been wrong and him right. For to do so, required humility and they were puffed up. To do so required a period of self-loathing and brokenness and shame before God and they loved themselves too much.
One of the worst things is to have a bunch of sins over your head and you continue on praying as if nothing is wrong and as if you are right in your walk with God. Those sins needs to be confessed and forsaken and where there are addictions, we need to continually ask the Lord for deliverance, until he delivers.
Jeremiah 3:6-14 reads:
- “The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not…And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord. And the Lord said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.”
In Hosea 5:15, God said through his prophet about the wayward Israelites who had sinned and refused to repent and who as a result, God had exposed to painful afflictions: “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.”
Many Christian women today are wondering why they are stuck, why God isn’t sending the husband and why he is taking so long to bless them with that good thing they have dreamed of for years. Yet, they don’t take inventory of the wrongs they have done in their life and ask God genuinely in sorrow, for forgiveness. They never get to the place where they are broken because of their sin and ask the Lord to have mercy, even as the Publican who smote his breast to emphasize that his sorrow for his sin was heartfelt, did at the Temple.
Instead, they have sinned, not repented, just moved on and expected God to forget what they did and the people they have hurt and bless them anyway. For example, there are those who have gossiped and badmouthed others, then dismissed it as nothing or was envious against that sister and secretly hated on her for whatever reason or had a fling with someone, which did not reach sex but still, they kissed that person and touched that person in ways they knew were meant for marriage, some even having done that with someone with whom they knew they were unequally yoked with. Some were disrespectful to parents, malicious to that coworker, jealous of that ex-boyfriend, non-forgiving to that person who wronged them and a range of other sins, like being full of pride and self-righteousness and malice.
Yet, they have moved on with their lives, continued praying to God, laying out their long list of requests and petitions, without ever repenting from the heart for their wrongdoing or confessing it before God and asking him to cleanse them of their iniquities concerning these issues.
We should do an inventory of our lives and the hurt we have caused others, God and even ourselves and acknowledge before God that we were wrong, that we acted wickedly, that we sinned against him and others, that we are genuinely sorry for our actions and don’t ever intend to do them again.
When, in pride, we dismiss the wrong we have done or make excuses for it, we set ourselves up for failure. Our prayers will be to no avail because the prayer God wants to hear most is the prayer of repentance.
The Bible states in Proverbs 28: 13-14: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.”
When we don’t confess to God that he was right and that we were wrong, that he was faithful but we were disobedient and when we don’t admit to him the details of the ugliness and wickedness of what we have done and we try instead to make excuses for our sin or just assume that God will understand, then we cover our sins and will not advance in life in any meaningful way.
In conclusion therefore, we should not just focus on having a healthy PRAYER LIFE but also a healthy REPENTANT LIFE. They go hand in hand. For, if we come to God full of unconfessed sin and we pray for his help and blessings, we would be fooling no one but ourselves. As a speaker often said, this would be like if we were spinning a top in mud. We would make no progress in life by God’s enablement because as we wait for God to bless us, he is waiting for our mouths to speak words of confession, out of a heart that bleeds with sorrow, regret and repentance, not for the consequence of our sin but the ugliness of the sin itself.
Refusing to repent from the heart is like a barrier. It blocks our prayers from passing through.
(Written on 5th July, 2018)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be informative, edifying, beneficial or interesting, you may also be interested in reading the following under the ‘BROKEN Daughters of God’ Page:
- Note 11- ‘What Is Repentance?’
- Note 13 – ‘Backslider, Repent!’