The Sweetest Prayer

Repent! For some the word conjures up fiery preachers with piercing eyes; a bony finger pointed in the face of a “sinner in the hands of an angry God.” But repentance isn’t always like that. Sometimes it means a quiet acknowledgement that things aren’t right, and a humble resolve to change our thinking. Either way – repentance brings about peace with God.

We all know that life is about decisions. Some decisions are morally neutral – brown jacket or grey, cornflakes or toast. But some decisions are highly charged in terms of right and wrong. And we have all made decisions that we would go back and change if we could. We have all sinned, and we fall hopelessly short of God’s standard.

In the face of Judah’s stubborn sin, God asks through His prophet Jeremiah: “Don’t people get back up when they fall down? Don’t people turn around when they go the wrong way?” (Jeremiah 8:4) The question is rhetorical, of course. God expects the fallen to get up; He expects the wayward to turn back. He even provided the acceptable form for a change of heart – “if my people . . . will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn back . . . then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

While Jeremiah and Chronicles talk of national repentance by Israel, John the Apostle makes the same principle very personal. If we say we are without sin, we are arrogant and untrue, but if we are humble enough to confess our sins, then God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us. This is the message of 1 John chapter 1. But a careful reading reveals that what is in view for John here is fellowship – with God and with one another. Four times he mentions the significance of fellowship in just this chapter. The very purpose of our confession and repentance is to restore fellowship, to repair a relationship that has been strained by our bad decisions.

God stands ready to forgive us and cleanse us, and to welcome us back to intimate friendship with Him. So when we sin, let’s not sugar coat it, nor shrug it off, nor dismiss it as trivial. Fellowship with God is at stake. But sweet communion is only a prayer away.

Copyright © 2008 by Dr Terry Boyle. All rights reserved worldwide.

Posted in Failure, Forgiveness, Prayer, Sin and tagged , .

Dr Terry Boyle serves as Pastor for Insight for Living UK. His ministry involves teaching a weekend radio programme, hosting the weekday Insight for Living broadcast, helping with issues that come in from listeners, and providing a personal and local approach to Chuck Swindoll’s ministry.

Terry was born in Windsor, England. He moved to the United States in 1981. Although he began his professional life as a biochemist, Terry holds a Th.M. in Pastoral Ministry and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas.

Terry served as senior pastor of Skillman Bible Church in Dallas until he and his family moved back to the UK in 2007, to take on the role of pastor for Insight for Living United Kingdom.

Terry and his wife Rose Ann have been married for twenty seven years, and they have three grown children: Hannah, Emily, and Terence.