When new believers as the disciples how to be saved in the name of Jesus, Peter told them to “Repent and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ…. (Acts 2:38). Thayer defines Repent “μετανοέω” or “metanoeōas” in Greek as 1) to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent and 2) to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sin.
Over the years and from many teachers, I have learnt “repenting” as being the acknowledgment of one’s sins and the turning away from them, and then proceeding in the opposite direction. However, to repent of one’s sins means we need first to acknowledge our sin; and to acknowledge our sin, means we also need to confess to our sin.
In the model prayer which Jesus taught His disciples, confession of our sin is also included as He says in Matthew 6:12 “… and forgive us our debts as we forgive others.” Debts here, as Thayer defines the Greek “ὀφείλημα” or “opheilēma” are 1) that which is owed, 1a) that which is justly or legally due, a debt and 2) metaphorically offence, sin. Jesus is telling us here that for our debts, our sins to be forgiven, we need also to forgive those who have sinned against us. To do that, we need to confess our sins.
First John 1:9 speaks further to this point saying “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
To be a Christian without repenting is impossible; Peter determined it to be the first step when one comes to belief in Jesus. If we don’t repent, we are still under bondage and our blessings will be restricted and our lives stunted.
The effects of confession of sin runs deep for Christians, as James 5:16 also warns us: “Confess faults to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous one avails much.” I say warns, because this is a conditional command; if we do not confess our faults and pray for one another, we will not be healed. Jesus warns us that confession of sins is necessary for Christian, and James his brother, says it also.
If we find that our life is not going quite as we had expected, unconfessed sin could well be at the root of the problem. Unconfessed sin stops blessings from God.
In most of my prayers I pray for the forgiveness of my sins. I ask for forgiveness of my sins of omission (things I should have done but have not), my sins of commission (sin I have committed) intentionally and unintentionally, known sins and unknown sins. Until today I thought I had covered all the bases….
As I was reading a Prayer of the Prophet Daniel today, I came to understanding that my legalistic coverall prayer wording was dishonest and inappropriate before a God who knows everything already. I recognised that I should not be ashamed of confessing out loud all my sins and naming them one by one. This way, I open myself not only to dispensing with them all properly, but clearing my conscience of the guilt related to the individual sins. By attempting to hide my individual sins from God and confess them un-named as a generic group, I am only hurting myself. God already knows everything, whether I mention them or not. I am also restricting myself from hearing from God as to sins I have committed which are unknown to me, and which are unknowable to me. If I don’t sit down and take time to list them out singly, I restrict the opportunity for God to put more into my mind for confession.
When Daniel set to pray for his people, there is a lot to learn not only that from which he said, but from that which he did.
The first thing Daniel did was to “purpose” himself for prayer. Any study of the Prophet Daniel reveals that he was 100% purpose driven and his purpose was aligning himself with the will of God. Thus in Daniel 9:3, Daniel says “… I set my face toward the Lord God.” In starting the prayer, Daniel was set on God; God was the sole focus of his attention. Daniel 9:3 continues, “… to seek by prayer and holy desires, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.” Even before he opened his mouth in prayer, Daniel was prepared for prayer and for communication with God. He fasted – a means of further humility before God (see Psalm 15:13), he dawned sackcloth and ashes, again, submitting himself to deeper humility and mourning before God (see Jeremiah 6:26).
This was Daniel’s purpose and he set himself to that purpose at the exclusion of all else. Daniel 10:2-3 gives more insight into Daniel’s purposeful prayer life, saying:
“In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no food for delight, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, until three whole weeks were fulfilled.“
Daniel 9:4-5 then continues,
“… and I prayed to Jehovah my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and awesome God, keeping the covenant and mercy to those who love Him, and to those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from Your commandments and from Your judgements.”
Note now Daniel commences his prayer; calling God, “my God.” This is a very personal appeal to God. He then proceeds to confess and dwell on the greatness of his God, before starting on his confession of sin. Christians are called to do just the same – confessing Jesus for who He is.
Matthew 10:32 “Then everyone who shall confess Me before men, I will confess him before My Father who is in Heaven.”
Romans 10:9 “Because if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”
First John 4:15 “Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God.”
Daniel then continues his confession of sin, identifying with his people and openly and honestly acknowledging and confessing that which he knows they have done wrong and the ways in which they have broken covenant with their God. Daniel labels each sin individually; iniquity, wickedness, rebellion, disobedience, refusal to hear God’s prophets.
Daniel did not come before God simply saying, “Forgive me Father for I have sinned” and assume that that was it done and finished with. Daniel purposed himself and abased himself before his God and openly confessed all that which he knew was wrong, all the sins of his people.
The manner of Daniel’s prayer can also be sensed in Daniel 9:20 as he says of this particular prayer, “And while I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin, and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my cry before Jehovah my God for the holy mountain of my God..” Clearly, Daniel was crying out for his people. This was a gut wrenching, soul searching, on the knees, tear filled emotional and honest prayer to a personal God whom he loved and who answered him. This was a purposed prayer and the sum total of scores of years on his knees before his God. As Daniel 6:10 says:
“…. Daniel went to his house. And his windows were open in his roof room toward Jerusalem; and he kneeled on his knees three times a day and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did before….”
Thus when the Archangel Michael came to Daniel from the Lord, Daniel was already on his knees and as Daniel 10:15 says: “And when he had spoken such words to me, I bowed my face toward the ground, and I became dumb.” The total and abject humility of Daniel in prayer comes through clearly, yet when heaven answers him, and comes to talk to him, he bows even lower.
Daniel purposed in prayer and his prayers were answered. His life style seems to have been built around his prayer life; three time a day, on his knees before God and an open window facing Jerusalem the city of his birth and the home of his God on earth.
There is a lot we can learn from Daniel about successful prayer, and Confession of Sin, is just one. Daniel’s prayers, after all, were answered prayers.