3: The Role of Prayer, Part 1

Dan Parks October 25, 2018

What is Christianity?  And what is the point?  Lesson 3: The Role of Prayer, Part 1

Biblically, a Christian is a disciple — in other words, a follower — of Christ.

To follow Christ, we must repent — in other words, turn, by faith

from selfishness to selflessness (seeking good for others),

from seeking what we want to seeking what God wants.

In short, we must turn from doing things our ways to doing things God’s way.

So why would we follow Christ?  Why would we follow anyone?

John 14: 1 [Jesus:] “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Again, the point of all of this: Reconciled, restored, mutually loving relationships with God.

John 3: 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Ephesians 5: 1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

2 Corinthians 5: 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

1 Thessalonians 5: 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.

And we don’t reconcile to stay estranged, right?  That defeats the purpose:

2 Corinthians 6: 1 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.

Titus 1: 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

So what do relationships need?  How do they work?  (What does it mean to “live together”?)

And how does this work with God?  What’s the same?  What’s different?

James 5: 13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 6: 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  …

Luke 5: 16 … Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

How does prayer factor in?  What is prayer?

Prayer is talking with God — & God is a Person.  So prayer is talking with a Person.

            Who (or what) tends to be your focus when you pray?

We’re going to look at four different kinds of prayer, but they’re really just four different kinds of   

talking.  We talk to each other in something like all of these as well (or

should, at least):

A doration:               Praise — Acknowledging the greatness of God

C onfession:              Acknowledging our failures & shortcomings

T hanksgiving:          Acknowledging His goodness to us

S upplication:            Requests (for supplies) — Acknowledging our dependence on Him

So what is “adoration”?  What does it mean to adore someone?

This is not the same as thanksgiving, though they are similar.  Thanksgiving is more focused on

actions, while praise is more focused on attributes — what the actions show about

(in this case) Who God Is.

It’s possible to be “thankful” in a shallow way that stays self-centered — focused on how the

other person benefits us (thus reducing his/her inherent value).  Praise/adoration works

against this by pushing us to consider the other person further.

Psalm 117:        1 Praise the LORD, all you nations;    extol him, all you peoples. 2 For great is his love toward us,    and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.

   Praise the LORD.

Isaiah 63:            7 I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD,

   the deeds for which he is to be praised,    according to all the LORD has done for us— yes, the many good things he has done    for the house of Israel,    according to his compassion and many kindnesses.

Isaiah 40:           10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,

   and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him,    and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:    He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;    he gently leads those that have young.

 12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,    or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,    or weighed the mountains on the scales    and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has understood the mind of the LORD,    or instructed him as his counselor? 14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,    and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge    or showed him the path of understanding?

 15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;    they are regarded as dust on the scales;    he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. 16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,    nor its animals enough for burnt offerings. 17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;    they are regarded by him as worthless    and less than nothing.

 18 To whom, then, will you compare God?    What image will you compare him to? 19 As for an idol, a craftsman casts it,    and a goldsmith overlays it with gold    and fashions silver chains for it. 20 A man too poor to present such an offering    selects wood that will not rot. He looks for a skilled craftsman    to set up an idol that will not topple.

 21 Do you not know?    Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?    Have you not understood since the earth was founded? 22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,    and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,    and spreads them out like a tent to live in. 23 He brings princes to naught    and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. 24 No sooner are they planted,    no sooner are they sown,    no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither,    and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

 25To whom will you compare me?    Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:    Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one,    and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength,    not one of them is missing.

 27 Why do you say, O Jacob,    and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD;    my cause is disregarded by my God”? 28 Do you not know?    Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God,    the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary,    and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary    and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary,    and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD    will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;    they will run and not grow weary,    they will walk and not be faint.

Psalm 8:              3 When I consider your heavens,

   the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars,    which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him,    the son of man that you care for him?

Luke 12: 4 [Jesus:] “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Isaiah 49:            13 Shout for joy, O heavens;

   rejoice, O earth;    burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people    and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

 14 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,    the Lord has forgotten me.”

 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast    and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget,    I will not forget you!

Psalm 121:          1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—

   where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD,    the Maker of heaven and earth.

 3 He will not let your foot slip—    he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel    will neither slumber nor sleep.

 5 The LORD watches over you—    the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day,    nor the moon by night.

 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—    he will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going    both now and forevermore.

Numbers 23:      19 God is not a man, that he should lie,

   nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act?    Does he promise and not fulfill?

Psalm 103:          1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;

   all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,    and forget not all his benefits— 3 who forgives all your sins    and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit    and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

 6 The LORD works righteousness    and justice for all the oppressed.

 7 He made known his ways to Moses,    his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,    slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse,    nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve    or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,    so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west,    so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children,    so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed,    he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass,    he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,    and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting    the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,    and his righteousness with their children’s children18 with those who keep his covenant    and remember to obey his precepts.

 19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,    and his kingdom rules over all.

 20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,    you mighty ones who do his bidding,    who obey his word. 21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,    you his servants who do his will. 22 Praise the LORD, all his works    everywhere in his dominion.

   Praise the LORD, O my soul.

Psalm 62:            1 My soul finds rest in God alone;

   my salvation comes from him. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation;    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.  …

 11 One thing God has spoken,    two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong,  12 and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person    according to what he has done.

Psalm 36:            5 Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,

   your faithfulness to the skies. 6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,    your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.  7 How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men    find refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house;    you give them drink from your river of delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life;    in your light we see light.

How is this good for our relationship with God — in both directions?

            It’s good for any relationship to spend time thinking about the good in the other person.

The more we recognize the extent of His goodness — His strength and His love — the

easier & more natural it is for us to trust Him, & thus to obey Him (that is,

to love Him), to prefer His ways to our own.

How is this good for all our relationships?

This is not about phoniness or play-acting; that’s bad for relationships, especially with God. It’s

about acknowledging even a fraction of Who He Is — how great & awesome & loving He Is.

And it often takes time for us to work this into our hearts, but the more we take that time to

consider Who God Is, the more we find to praise Him for — and the more joy we

find in doing so.

Psalm 147:          1 Praise the LORD.

   How good it is to sing praises to our God,    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

 2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;    he gathers the exiles of Israel. 3 He heals the brokenhearted    and binds up their wounds.

 4 He determines the number of the stars    and calls them each by name. 5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;    his understanding has no limit. 6 The LORD sustains the humble    but casts the wicked to the ground.

 7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;    make music to our God on the harp. 8 He covers the sky with clouds;    he supplies the earth with rain    and makes grass grow on the hills. 9 He provides food for the cattle    and for the young ravens when they call.

 10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,    nor his delight in the legs of a man; 11 the LORD delights in those who fear him,    who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Psalm 34:            1 I will extol the LORD at all times;

   his praise will always be on my lips. 2 My soul will boast in the LORD;    let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 3 Glorify the LORD with me;    let us exalt his name together.

 4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;    he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant;    their faces are never covered with shame. 6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;    he saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,    and he delivers them.

 8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;    blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. 9 Fear the LORD, you his saints,    for those who fear him lack nothing. 10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,    but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

 11 Come, my children, listen to me;    I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12 Whoever of you loves life    and desires to see many good days, 13 keep your tongue from evil    and your lips from speaking lies. 14 Turn from evil and do good;    seek peace and pursue it.

 15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous    and his ears are attentive to their cry; 16 the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,    to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

 17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;    he delivers them from all their troubles. 18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

 19 A righteous man may have many troubles,    but the LORD delivers him from them all; 20 he protects all his bones,    not one of them will be broken.

 21 Evil will slay the wicked;    the foes of the righteous will be condemned. 22 The LORD redeems his servants;    no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

Psalm 63:            2 I have seen you in the sanctuary

   and beheld your power and your glory. 3 Because your love is better than life,    my lips will glorify you. 4 I will praise you as long as I live,    and in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

 6 On my bed I remember you;    I think of you through the watches of the night. 7 Because you are my help,    I sing in the shadow of your wings. 8 My soul clings to you;    your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 33:            1 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;

   it is fitting for the upright to praise him. 2 Praise the LORD with the harp;    make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. 3 Sing to him a new song;    play skillfully, and shout for joy.

 4 For the word of the LORD is right and true;    he is faithful in all he does. 5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice;    the earth is full of his unfailing love.

 6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,    their starry host by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;    he puts the deep into storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;    let all the people of the world revere him. 9 For he spoke, and it came to be;    he commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations;    he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,    the purposes of his heart through all generations.

 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,    the people he chose for his inheritance. 13 From heaven the LORD looks down    and sees all mankind; 14 from his dwelling place he watches    all who live on earth— 15 he who forms the hearts of all,    who considers everything they do. 16 No king is saved by the size of his army;    no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;    despite all its great strength it cannot save. 18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death    and keep them alive in famine.

 20 We wait in hope for the LORD;    he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice,    for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,    even as we put our hope in you.

This process of acknowledging Who God Is grows real trust in the real God — trust

grounded in Truth that endures even in difficulty.

And just as His actions help us identify His attributes, so His attributes help us interpret &          anticipate His actions:

Psalm 119:          73 Your hands made me and formed me;

   give me understanding to learn your commands.  … 75 I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous,    and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. 76 May your unfailing love be my comfort,    according to your promise to your servant. 77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live,    for your law is my delight.

Lamentations 3: 1I am the man who has seen affliction

   by the rod of his wrath.  …  19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,    the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them,    and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind    and therefore I have hope:

 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,    for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning;    great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;    therefore I will wait for him.”

 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,    to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly    for the salvation of the LORD.  …  28 Let him sit alone in silence,    for the LORD has laid it on him. 29 Let him bury his face in the dust—    there may yet be hope. 30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,    and let him be filled with disgrace.

 31 For men are not cast off    by the Lord forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,    so great is his unfailing love. 33 For he does not willingly bring affliction    or grief to the children of men.

Joel 2:                 1 Blow the trumpet in Zion;

   sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble,    for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand—  2 a day of darkness and gloom,    a day of clouds and blackness. … 11 The LORD thunders    at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number,    and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the LORD is great;    it is dreadful.    Who can endure it?

 12 “Even now,” declares the LORD,    “return to me with all your heart,    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

 13 Rend your heart    and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God,    for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love,    and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity    and leave behind a blessing….

So: Is it selfish or arrogant for God to call us to praise and adore Him?

Psalm 145:          1 I will exalt you, my God the King;

   I will praise your name for ever and ever. 2 Every day I will praise you    and extol your name for ever and ever.

 3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;    his greatness no one can fathom. 4 One generation will commend your works to another;    they will tell of your mighty acts. 5 They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,    and I will meditate on your wonderful works. 6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works,    and I will proclaim your great deeds. 7 They will celebrate your abundant goodness    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

 8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate,    slow to anger and rich in love. 9 The LORD is good to all;    he has compassion on all he has made. 10 All you have made will praise you, O LORD;    your saints will extol you. 11 They will tell of the glory of your kingdom    and speak of your might, 12 so that all men may know of your mighty acts    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,    and your dominion endures through all generations.

   The LORD is faithful to all his promises    and loving toward all he has made. 14 The LORD upholds all those who fall    and lifts up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you,    and you give them their food at the proper time. 16 You open your hand    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

 17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways    and loving toward all he has made. 18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,    to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;    he hears their cry and saves them. 20 The LORD watches over all who love him,    but all the wicked he will destroy.

 21 My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.

   Let every creature praise his holy name    for ever and ever.

Malachi 1: 6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.

   “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’

 7 “You place defiled food on my altar.

   “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’

   “By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. 8 When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.

 9 “Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the LORD Almighty.

 10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.

 12 “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty.

   “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.”

Revelation 5: 1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

 6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song:

   “You are worthy to take the scroll    and to open its seals, because you were slain,    and with your blood you purchased men for God    from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,    and they will reign on the earth.”

 11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they sang:

   “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!

 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:

   “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

 14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

God is worthy of — He deservesall honor & praise; and so it’s good and right and

even healthy for us to give it to Him.

In fact, it’s best for us & everyone around us when we remember this, & bad for us &

everyone around us when we forget.  So it’s actually loving for God to

remind us.

Also this:

           

Zephaniah 3:   17 The LORD your God is with you,

   he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you,    he will quiet you with his love,    he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Psalm 149:        1 Praise the LORD.

   Sing to the LORD a new song,    his praise in the assembly of the saints.

 2 Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;    let the people of Zion be glad in their King. 3 Let them praise his name with dancing    and make music to him with tambourine and harp. 4 For the LORD takes delight in his people;    he crowns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the saints rejoice in this honor    and sing for joy on their beds.

God already adores us; we are the self-centered ones in this relationship.  We need the

practice taking the focus off ourselves.

So the stage is set for the next part of our prayer conversation. (Conversations can hurt

relationships as well as help them, of course.)

We have begun to consider the One we’re addressing; now it’s time to acknowledge who we are:

Jeremiah 3:      25 “Let us lie down in our shame,

   and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the LORD our God,    both we and our fathers; from our youth till this day    we have not obeyed the LORD our God.”

Nehemiah 1: 5 … “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.”

So what is confession?

Admission & acknowledgment of sin.  (And what, again, is sin?)

Our selfishness hurts other people, and it hurts our relationships with them.  (How could it not?)

And so God wants us to acknowledge this — not just to ourselves, but also to those we’ve    hurt:

Numbers 5: 5 The LORD said to Moses, 6 “Say to the Israelites: ‘When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty 7 and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged.”

Matthew 5: 23 [Jesus:] “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

James 5: 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. …

All this is just as true in our relationships with God — more so, in fact: All sin is sin first and

foremost against God:

Psalm 51: For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

 1 Have mercy on me, O God,    according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion    blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity    and cleanse me from my sin.

 3 For I know my transgressions,    and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned    and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak    and justified when you judge.

How is this true?

Matthew 22: 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind [and with all your strength*].’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”                                                                                   [*In parallel passage in Mark 12:30]

1 John 5: 1 … everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.

And God always knows:

Jeremiah 23:     24 “Can anyone hide in secret places

   so that I cannot see him?”             declares the LORD.    “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”             declares the LORD.

Psalm 139:          1 O LORD, you have searched me

   and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise;    you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down;    you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue    you know it completely, O LORD.

 5 You hem me in—behind and before;    you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,    too lofty for me to attain.

 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?    Where can I flee from your presence?

Jeremiah 2:       22 “Although you wash yourself with soda

   and use an abundance of soap,    the stain of your guilt is still before me,”             declares the Sovereign LORD.  … 34 “On your clothes men find    the lifeblood of the innocent poor,    though you did not catch them breaking in. Yet in spite of all this  35 you say, ‘I am innocent;    he is not angry with me.’ But I will pass judgment on you    because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’

Romans 14:  10 … we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

   “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me;    every tongue will confess to God.’”

 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

So confessing to God is not about admitting things He doesn’t know; it’s owning up

admitting our selfishness & foolishness & accepting responsibility for the pain we’ve caused.

And this is usually true in our other relationships as well.

So why is this important?  How does confession help our relationships?

It allows the relationship to begin the process of moving past the offense, toward

reconciliation. And by contrast, to refuse to admit our fault is to keep the threat alive.

We don’t confess for confession’s sake; real, meaningful confession is the first step in a healing

process that involves admitting fault, apologizing, & then turning back (repenting,

in other words), renouncing & forsaking our selfish, hurtful behavior:

Proverbs 28:     13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper,

   but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Isaiah 55:         7 Let the wicked forsake his way

   and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Acts 26: 19 [Paul:] “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.”

What (good) is confession without a commitment to the rest of this process?  What good is  admitting sin & still refusing to repent?

Galatians 6: 7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

The point is to restore relationships hurt by our selfishness.  And when others hurt us

with their selfishness, God wants us to forgive them for this same reason: to restore these           relationships:

Colossians 3: 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Ephesians 4: 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Luke 6: 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Matthew 6:      12 “‘Forgive us our debts,

   as we also have forgiven our debtors.  …’

   14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

God wants us to be reconciled to Him & to each other — & this involves admitting fault, asking

forgiveness, giving forgiveness, & resolving not to hurt each other again.

Every part of this is good for our relationships — & each part is necessary.

Confession & repentance & forgiveness aren’t just religious rituals; the purpose is to            restore damaged relationships.

They allow both parties to demonstrate committed love — even in spite of our failures —

so trust and closeness can be restored:

Psalm 32:          1 Blessed is he

   whose transgressions are forgiven,    whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man    whose sin the LORD does not count against him    and in whose spirit is no deceit.

 3 When I kept silent,    my bones wasted away    through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night    your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped    as in the heat of summer.  … 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you    and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess    my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave    the guilt of my sin.  …  6 Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you    while you may be found…. 10 Many are the woes of the wicked,    but the LORD’s unfailing love    surrounds the man who trusts in him.

 11 Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;    sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Confession lets God show us His mercy & grace, & helps us begin to see how big they are

— which leads us back to praise.  Adoration & confession both lead to the other.

Together, adoration & confession — better seeing God for Who He Is, & ourselves for who we are:

Remind us that all we can hope for is mercy, that what we actually deserve is punishment                                 (this is just);

Remind us, then, to be grateful for the grace we get all the time (& the incredible price God                            paid for it); &

Remind us that God is good either way: just to punish &/or merciful to forgive.

This is a good place from which to continue praying — & doing all things — in Jesus’s Name…

... through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  … (Romans 5:2)

Or, on the other hand, our prayers can die here:

Isaiah 59:          1 Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,

   nor his ear too dull to hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated    you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you,    so that he will not hear.

As always, we have two paths, going in opposite directions.  So…

… choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life…. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20a)

 

 

Dan Parks

B.A., English Writing, DePauw University 
M.F.A, Creative Writing, The University of Alabama

Dan and his wife, Brooke, have attended Faith since 2015. They have two children, Anna-Claire and Isaiah, and live in the North End of Lafayette. Dan helps to coordinate Faith Church North's men's ministries and the greeting team