You may find it easy to pray every day, or you may find it difficult. Or maybe there are times when sin in your life keeps you from prayer and the guilt weighs you down. If you’re having a hard time focusing on prayer and setting aside time for God, then these reminders will help you fight through the guilt and shame.
Erik Raymond, pastor and writer, has written an article for The Gospel Coalition titled "When Sin Keeps You from Prayer." Raymond offers 5 reminders for Christians who are stuck in a negative prayer cycle; here are 3 of his reminders:
1. Remember – Sin Always Keeps You from Prayer
When we commit a sin, either an action or thought, we are not thinking about God; we are usually thinking about ourselves. And after we commit a sin, we usually do one of two things: we either react like Adam and Eve and hide aka ignore God and try to move on like nothing happened or we throw ourselves on God’s mercy and ask for forgiveness. But the longer we delay repentance the more guilt we feel, and the more ashamed we become. How can I go to God with this now, when I’ve been holding onto it for so long? Yet, God is waiting for you with open arms and a loving heart.
“Prayerlessness is always a manifestation of sin and its effects. We should never be content to sit in a season of prayerlessness but rather to recognize why we are in it and labor to remedy it.”
It’s like going to the gym, you know it’s good for you but it’s really hard to get there sometimes. And the more times you skip it, the less likely you are to go and the faster you get out of shape. Then you realize it’s been a month since you’ve gone. And a voice in your head says you’re too tired, you have other obligations that are more fun, or you just want to eat that Chic-fil-A sandwich and binge watch Netflix—whatever it is sin can always find an excuse and tempt you to stay away from what’s good for you—what your soul needs.
Memorize this verse:
“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” -Romans 6:14
2. Remember - Prayer Leads You Out of Sin
Sin tries to keep you away from prayer, but prayer is what leads you out of sin. Though you may feel trapped in sin, prayer offers complete freedom and release. Raymond describes it as making contact with a Search and Rescue Team. Whether it feels like you’re stuck on a mountainside or treading water in the sea, you know the only way out is help from someone else. And prayer is that lifeline; God is the only one who can help you when you’re stuck. He asks us to confess and repent in prayer. The result is not what we expect—penance or punishment—but instead mercy and freedom as promised by the gospel.
“Sin, at its core, is pride. Prayer, at its core, is the expression of humility. The only way out of sin is to humble ourselves before God, embrace reality, and plead for mercy and grace. Our hearts our tricky and quite deceptive (Jer. 17:9). We will tell ourselves that we can’t pray because we haven’t been praying. Our flesh will rage against humbling ourselves before God in prayer.”
Memorize this verse:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:9
3. Remember – Access to Prayer is Not Based on Your Sin Level
God does not weigh your actions and set your sin on a scale to see if you’re worthy of approaching Him. If our sin level mattered, then no one would ever be worthy. But because of Jesus Christ, when God looks at us He sees His Son’s sinless life and innocent sacrifice. Therefore, because of the gospel we are free to approach God and communicate with Him.
When Isaiah was brought before the Lord (Isaiah 6), he fell down at his own unworthiness and could not look at God. Isaiah had no merit to earn God’s favor, but through a gift God made Isaiah righteous. Just as God removed Isaiah’s guilt with a burning coal, He removes your guilt with the blood of His Son. This gift is a one-time gift; you are made guiltless in God’s eyes. However, since those saved by Christ still live in a fallen world we will still fall prey to sin. When we pray for forgiveness, it draws us away from sin and pulls us closer to God. And when we pray often, we think about sin less.
“We never come to God in prayer reciting our qualifications for approaching him. We don’t tip our hat to our heavenly Father and then run down our resume, “I have not done this and I have done that” (Luke 18:9ff). Never! …When we come in prayer we come as sinners covered in the blood of Christ. Remembering the truth of the gospel and preaching it to our hearts will provoke prayer—even amid personal sin.”
Memorize this verse:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” -Hebrews 4:15-16
Christians know what’s good and what’s bad…our eyes were opened at the moment of salvation—our hearts have been transformed by the gospel. We feel it in our heart when sin tempts us, and we feel our wrongdoing when we follow through with sin instead of resisting. Though we would like to achieve our own perfection, it will never happen. We need to remember that Christ’s perfection is the only one that matters. His sinless life makes it possible for us to be sinless in the presence of a mighty and gracious God.
“It’s been rightly said, sin will keep you from prayer, and prayer will keep you from sin. But it is also true, prayer will lead you out of sin. Sometimes this is hard work. But it is good work. Remember, you are never too sinful to pray when your prayer is one of repentance. Christ is mighty to save, and his grace is greater than all of our sin.”
You can read Raymond’s other two reminders and his full article at TheGospelCoalition.org.
Don’t let sin keep you from prayer. If you haven’t prayed today, or in a while, take 5 minutes today and close your eyes - thank God for who He is and who He has made you to be. Ask Him to forgive any sin in your life, especially the sin that has been holding you back from Him. Let His love pour over you and refresh you.
You are worthy of all praise. You have given me life even though I am unworthy and undeserving. You have taken my sin and made me guiltless. But right now I don’t feel guiltless, and my shame has made me forget who you made me to be. You have made me your child and heir, and you have given me the greatest gift anyone could ask for—eternal life in your presence. But I have forgotten this in my sin; Lord please forgive this sin and grant me mercy. I do not deserve it, but I thank you that because of your Son's sacrifice I am freely forgiven and loved. Please grant me your strength to resist this sin and other sins, and Holy Spirit please urge my soul to spend more time in prayer and praise because in your presence is where I truly belong.
In Your name Jesus,
Try praying each day this week for 5 minutes; if you forget, pray as soon as you remember. Then try to up the time to 10 minutes, maybe get up early or set aside time in the evening. Try reading Scripture while you pray or singing a song. Prayer shouldn't be a check off of your to-do-list, but instead time to really get to know God and meditate on His word and promises. Remember for believers there is no sin that can keep us from God's presence.
Publication date: October 24, 2016
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.