Confessing to God in Prayer

Christian Life & Theology, Podcast Episodes

What does confession look like in prayer?

Rather than list out all we’ve done wrong or rack our brains for sins, confession is the grace of relationship. In this short episode Phylicia breaks down how to confess to God and why it’s so important to a Spirit-led life.

Biblical repentance:


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Welcome to Verity Podcast. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonnheimer, and I am here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before, and they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey, because Every Woman is a Theologian. 

Hi, friends, and welcome back to Verity Podcast for our miniseries on Prayer. This week we are going to talk about confession and confessing in prayer. Now, I feel like I’ve talked about this at length in the episode, what is biblical repentance? So I don’t want to repeat myself. That episode is 40 minutes long and this one will be around ten minutes.

So if you want a full scale treatment of repentance and confession, that’s a great episode to listen to. But in this episode, I want to specifically hone in on confession and prayer and what that can look like practically. Sometimes when we talk about confession, I think we make it something very formal. We feel like we have to be talking to God, like we would be confessing to a priest, or that we have to kind of list out everything that we’ve done. Or conversely, maybe we say, why should I confess anything? God already knows what I did. But if you remember that prayer is about intimacy and relationship, it makes sense that you would be bringing all of yourself to God. And that’s what confession is. So in other traditions, they call this the Prayer of Examen, E-X-A-M-E-N.

There are different parts to this prayer practice. There’s a simple examination of yourself and how God has been present during your week. But then there’s an examination of your own conscience and where God may be convicting you. And this is something that I have practiced extensively in the last few years. But it was also a big part of my own prayer practice when I first came to faith, because if you listen to my testimony episode, you know that I came to faith primarily because of a struggle with pornography. And I was very conscious of my sin. And so confession was a big part of my prayer practice at first. But at the beginning, the way I prayed in confession was very guilt induced, which I don’t think is always bad because it drove me to Christ. But as I’ve matured and as I found freedom from pornography, confession was not so much this list of failures as it was a growing consciousness of what God wanted to grow in my life. The Holiness he wanted in my Life. It’s not up to us to figure out all the areas God wants to improve. That would be overwhelming. It’s up to us to listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting on the specific area he’s working on at that time. So I’ve had a few things that he’s brought to mind in the last six months as I’ve been praying and confessing to him. And they’re areas that I probably wouldn’t have thought of except that I was in regular prayer with God. And he said, look, you’re not walking in restraint in these areas, and you need to work on this.

So as we are confessing in prayer, we’re not playing a game with God or trying to get his attention or trying to gain his forgiveness, because our forgiveness is already secured in Christ. But confession draws us near to God and makes us aware of the parts of our life that need sanctification, which in turn, makes us more reliant on the Holy Spirit. And we are listening for his voice when those situations arise in which we’re struggling with that particular sin issue. I love this quote from Anthony Bloom. It says, “your prayer must be turned inwards, not towards a god of heaven, nor towards a god far off, but towards a god who is closer to you than you are aware.” I just love that phrase. He is closer to you than you are aware, and that is our comfort in times of confession. 

One of the most beautiful prayers that illustrates confession is in the book of Psalms. It’s the Psalm that was written after David sinned with Bathsheba and murdered Bathsheba’s husband. In this psalm, we see a picture of a heart that’s broken by sin. Here’s what it says, “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. Against you you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. So you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb. You taught me wisdom in that secret place. 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.” I read verses 1 through 12, and I’m pausing there. There’s another seven verses. But I think Psalm 51 really illustrates what we’re talking about here.

David is obviously conscious of his sin and he’s bringing it to God. He’s confessing it to God. He’s acknowledging it. He’s not trying to hide it, and he’s certainly not saying, well, God knows everything, so he knows what I did. No, he’s bringing it to God for cleansing and for forgiveness. Now, did David still deal with consequences from his sin? Yes, he did. Many, many consequences. Even in light of that, David knew he could cast himself on God and be forgiven by his faith in God, which was credited to him as righteousness.

And the same goes for us today. When we cast ourselves on God in confession, we are guaranteed that we are not condemned. Those who are in Christ do not live under condemnation. They are not facing God’s wrath. They are instead favored by God and given his grace through Christ Jesus, that is the hope that you have in confessing prayer. So if you’re looking for a way to practice confession, I think there’s a lot of ways you could personally, what I find most helpful is to pray something like Psalm 51. I prayed Psalm 51 at the height of my struggle with pornography.

You could also try dedicating one or two days of the week where you specifically sit with God. You pray and ask him to show you if there’s any area of sin that needs to be exposed. And then you journal your prayers as you listen, as you study scripture and see if anything stands out. If it does, you confess that to the Lord and you ask him to cover it, with Christ’s blood. And then you move forward into your week free. If you need to reconcile with somebody, you need to apologize to somebody, do that, follow through on his prompting. And then when the Holy Spirit brings to mind that thing that you’ve confessed in the next week, as you move forward, you listen to his voice, you pause. You choose obedience.

That’s the beauty of the Spirit led life. It’s a constant conversation with God. It’s not guilt induced. It’s not shame induced. It’s led by the Holy Spirit into greater and greater righteousness. And confessing prayer is a big part of that. I hope this is encouraging to you. 

For more on this, listen to What is Biblical Repentance? Or grab our quick theology book. What is Biblical repentance in the Every Woman a Theologian Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of Verity Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, would you take the time to leave us a review? It helps so many other women around the world find out about Verity and about every woman a theologian as a ministry and a shop. We appreciate you and I hope you’ll be back next week as we continue to go deeper into God’s word and the heart of Jesus Christ.


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