Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed(James 5:16, ESV).
How’s your prayer life been this week? How many breakthroughs are you experiencing with the items on your list? How much light is God starting to shed on certain areas that perhaps have been unclear to you for a long time? Even in those places where things seem to be getting worse instead of better—where Satan is tightening his grip and not easily letting go—how encouraged have you been by God’s ability to keep you persistent in prayer, refusing to give up, passionately pursuing an ever-deeper, ever-growing relationship with Him?
A fired-up prayer life is such an awesome adventure.
But you won’t have that when sin is causing a blockage to the answers you seek. Not when pride, stubbornness, or indolence is clogging your connection with God, turning prayer into a shallow, lifeless experience that makes you want to avoid it instead of lean in to it.
The Bible says this is one reason to regularly “confess your sins.” In fact, it’s why we need to break the familiar pattern of prayer we’ve always known as ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) and switch it to CATS . . . because confession should come first—even before praise and adoration. God says to those who approach Him with unclean hands and impure hearts, “Who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings” (Isaiah 1:12–13). Bring instead a humble heart that is quick to say,
“I have no excuse.”
“Nothing that anyone else did in any way justifies my sin.”
“I’m wrong. I’m sorry for _______ [name your sin].”
“Please forgive me.”
Those aren’t easy words to say, much less to mean. But they are truly powerful, and they’re able to ignite your prayer life from barely a flicker to a blazing flame.
Yet in addition to confessing your sins to God, Scripture says to “confess your sins to one another.” Throughout church history, a misreading of this statement from James 5:16 has led to some false doctrine, whereby many have been taught that confessing their sins into another’s ear is a necessary means of receiving forgiveness. It’s not. Forgiveness comes from God alone.
But when you “confess your sins to one another,” you do receive assurance of forgiveness. All those places where you struggle to stay pure, where your heart has grown hard and insensitive, where you doubt God’s ability to ever forgive the grievous, hidden trespasses you’ve committed—despite all that, you can be restored to tenderness and faith as you confess your sins to one another and receive the encouragement that, yes, God loves you. Yes, God is good. And, yes, God forgives.
A thousand things can conspire to come between you and a vibrant, victorious, totally open and expectant relationship with God through prayer. Commit today that unconfessed sin will no longer be one of them.
Confess your sins to God.
And “confess your sins to one another.”
This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission.
James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at WalkintheWord.org.