“Forgive Us Our Debts”: Getting Specific When Confessing Our Sins to God

We have to acknowledge our need of a savior, Christ, which means we are in need of salvation.

I think one of the more difficult parts of prayer is making a serious effort at confessing our sins. In my own personal prayers, I have no problem confessing my sin. I regularly pray, “Lord, please forgive me of my many sins.” Who of us can go but a few moments without sinning? Hence, I feel the need to confess my sins quite regularly any time I bow my head in prayer.

 

The familiar phrase, “forgive us our debts,” is probably known to most Christians because it comes from the Lord’s Prayer. When Christ’s disciples asked him how they should pray, Jesus identified the confession of sin as one of the key elements of prayer (Matt. 6:12).

I suspect that most Christians recognize they are sinners—recognition of this fact, after all, is one of the fundamental elements of making a valid profession of faith and joining a church. We have to acknowledge our need of a savior, Christ, which means we are in need of salvation. In simple terms, we are sinners.

As simple as this fact is, I think one of the more difficult parts of prayer is making a serious effort at confessing our sins. In my own personal prayers, I have no problem confessing my sin. I regularly pray, “Lord, please forgive me of my many sins.” Who of us can go but a few moments without sinning? Hence, I feel the need to confess my sins quite regularly any time I bow my head in prayer.

It is every person’s duty to repent of his or her particular sins.

Even so, at times I struggle with some pastoral guidance that the Westminster Confession offers concerning repentance:

Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.” (WCF 15.5)

As important as it is regularly to confess our sins, we shouldn’t be satisfied with a general confession. When we seek Christ’s forgiveness for our sins, our prayer should go beyond the general, “Forgive me of my sins.” As the Confession counsels, we should get specific.

Are you spiritually “asleep at the wheel”?

Admittedly, I find this to be a challenge at times. Mind you, I have no delusions of grandeur that my inability to get specific in my confession of sins is due to any degree of impeccability on my part. Rather, I owe my generic and unspecific confession of sin to the fact that I’m often spiritually “asleep at the wheel.” I’m simply not paying careful attention to my conduct and don’t realize when I do engage in sin. I grow accustomed, for example, to certain patterns of behavior and fail to recognize that what seems mundane to me actually transgresses God’s law.

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