Confession and Repentance

The mnemonic ACTS helps us to remember a number of the important elements in praying - Adoration (or Praise), Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (including intercession, our prayers for others, and petition, our prayers for ourselves).

Confession and Repentance

Confession is when we open to God those parts of our lives which conflict with his will.
The Greek word translated "confess" literally means to "say the same thing." God already knows the condition of our lives, but when we confess we are agreeing with him that all is not well.
Repentance is more than "being sorry" for our sins. It is a change of heart leading to a change of life. Confession of sin and repentance should always go hand in hand.
Read through and reflect on Psalm 51, especially verses 1-5 and 10. David had sinned, not only against Uriah, not only against Bathsheba and himself, but against the Lord (2 Sam. 11 and 12). There may be words from Psalm 51 that we can make our own prayer of confession.
Or read and reflect on Psalm 139. Come to the Lord with the openness of the closing verses, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (vv. 29-30).
The words of 1 John 1.8-9 bring us both warning and assurance, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
Always let our time of confession end with assurance. Marvel at the words of Paul, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst" (1 Tim. 1.15).
Following confession, be aware that as forgiven people we are to "produce fruit in keeping with repentance," as John the Baptist put it (Lk 3.8). There may be relationships to be mended, apologies given, wrongs that need to be set right...
Jesus placed strong emphasis on our willingness to forgive others. He taught us to pray, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Mt. 6.12; see also 5.7 and 18.21-38).

Group Prayer

James wrote to "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (Jas 5.16). He was concerned about the effect of unconfessed sin on our health. Detailed public confession is often inappropriate. However, read together one of the above Scriptures and allow time for private reflection on it and self-examination before God. Be sure to pray for one another in whatever private struggles we may be facing.
© Peter J Blackburn, 2003
Scripture quotations are from the New International Version © International Bible Society, 1984