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April: Confession Prayer

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“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.” (Dan 9:4-6)

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit…. 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.” (Ps 32:1-2,5)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb 4:16)

Our April 2024 Contending in Prayer Guide is focused on Confession Prayer where we honestly acknowledge our sin before “God’s throne of grace” (Heb 4:16) and then welcome the forgiveness and freedom that God promises us (cf. 1 John 1:9). It is not popular today to highlight our sin at all and our need for forgiveness, but this is a central element in biblical faith. We might prefer positive messages about how loved and valuable we are (which are certainly true), but there is no moving forward into freedom and full life without first confessing our sin and brokenness.

Confession prayer may seem difficult or even unnecessary for Christians who have been walking with Jesus for many years. What exactly is there to confess? While we most often define “sin” as a list of bad behaviours that we should avoid or a list of good behaviours that we need to do, sin is much deeper than this and revolves around our heart posture. Some have said that sin is ultimately the failure to worship the Triune God and instead to orient our lives toward ourselves (or some other idolatrous passion). It is this fundamental sin that leads us to sinful actions where we fail to image God (or represent God) properly in the world and we embrace behaviours that work against God’s shalom (or life-giving) purposes for humans and creation.

Sinful actions are like cancer cells that have spread but are not the ground zero tumour. Individual sinful actions (cf. Gal 5:19-21) are not the totality of sin but simply symptoms of our deeper sinful heart posture. Confession prayer should begin with the deep sin that we discover at our core and asking God for forgiveness, cleansing, and healing there. Confession prayer moves on to confess the sinful actions that come out of that core.

It is sometimes difficult to believe that confession prayer really makes any difference at all. It is often a challenge to believe, deep down in the centre of our being, that sin has been forgiven and that we have been cleansed—but without this belief, we will continue to live in bondage to that sin. In the history of some church groups, it was common for the congregation to speak out words of truth in response to confession of sin (viz. “In the name of Jesus, your sins are forgiven”) so that this reality would be heard out loud and embraced.

Sin, like cancer, often has ripple effects that negatively affect other people, creation, and one’s own self. While receiving forgiveness from God is a central first step, forgiveness and cleansing from all unrighteousness may involve follow-up steps where we seek to make things right (e.g., asking forgiveness from others, repaying for stolen things, embracing acts of compassion/kindness that we chose not to do, etc.).

Confession prayer makes us face the truth about ourselves, and our need for the ongoing forgiveness and healing that only Jesus brings. It also leads us in the direction of shalom with God, others, creation, and ourselves. Confession prayer is Kingdom prayer!


  • As you examine yourself, in what ways have you failed to worship the Triune God and made some other passion or affection the goal of your life?
  • As you examine yourself, what specific behaviours do you want to confess in your life that are in conflict with God’s calling in your life?
  • Are there any restorative actions the Holy Spirit is calling you to as a result of being forgiven?

Confession Prayer: Praying in the Pattern of Psalm 51

Psalm 51 provides us an encouraging example of confession prayer. Read this psalm out loud and then add your personal confession prayer at the end.

Have mercy on me, O God,    according to your unfailing love;according to your great compassion    blot out my transgressions.Wash away all my iniquity    and cleanse me from my sin.For I know my transgressions,    and my sin is always before me.Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.Let me hear joy and gladness;    let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins    and blot out all my iniquity.Create in me a pure heart, O God,    and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence    or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;    a broken and contrite heart    you, God, will not despise.

Express thanks to God

Thank you, God, that we can come boldly to your throne of grace! Thank you, God, that you have promised that if we confess our sins, you will forgive us and cleanse me from all unrighteousness!

Confess sin honestly and openly to God

I confess, Jesus, that I have failed to orient my life fully toward you and your Kingdom. I have been seeking first something else instead. By your grace, forgive me and cleanse me from this sin. 

I confess, Jesus, that I have sinned by ________________________________________.By your grace, forgive me and cleanse me from this sin. 

Welcome God’s forgiveness and cleansing

Thank you, Jesus, that you have promised that if I confess my sins, you will forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I’m believing this truth today for the sins that I have confessed.

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal if there is anything else that needs to be “made right”

Holy Spirit, please reveal to me if there is anything you are calling me to do about the sins that I’ve confessed today and that you have forgiven. Give me clarity, opportunity, and courage to do what you have called me to do. 


1 comment

Jack Fawcett April 1, 2024 - 16:54

Amazing article Ken, confession is a huge party of repentance and forgiveness in this life we live. With the chains of quiet and constant sin, how are we supposed to help others break free of what holds them. God know our hearts in ways we don’t understand and can be the person reaching out to heal us. Amen and God bless you


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