Do you have trouble praying? You’re not alone. That’s why I’m chatting with Mal Gill lecturer at Sydney Missionary and Bible College (SMBC) about ways to prayer. We’ve identified three essential elements when praying; thankfulness, saying sorry and things to ask for when we pray. You mentioned previously when we’re praying to God, it’s a great thing to thank God. But then you also said you move on from that to saying sorry. So we’re gonna talk about that today. Saying sorry to God.
A few years ago, I heard a sermon, and it was an interesting and a relevant to life. But what was most astounding and memorable about this message was that the guy who was preaching, he had a lovely tie and a nice-looking jacket. It was a relatively formal sort of sermon. But then when he got right to the end, he pulled off his coat, and it revealed his shirt which was totally ripped up and torn. And it was a bit of a shock. It was like, “Well, what’s going on here?”
The idea that he was trying to communicate in that was that he preached a whole sermon, and we had a perspective and a view on him, but when he took away the jacket, we could see everything that was there.
And there’s a bit of a concept that resonates with me, I think, in regards to saying sorry to God. Often we do very well generally as people of hiding our shame and the wrong things we do, but the reality is we can’t hide from God. We know that going right back to Genesis. But that’s our nature is when we do the wrong things to conceal them and to hide them. But the reality is the Bible says we need, to be frank, and open with God about our shortcomings.
So for example in Proverbs, it says, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses them finds mercy.” And that’s why Jesus even when he teaches us to pray, part of the Lord’s Prayer is forgive us our sins as we forgive others who sin against us. And in any good relationship, we need to say sorry. So whether it’s with my child, or friends, or wife, because inevitably we do the wrong thing.
And one of the things as Christians though, we often get to the points in our life where we do the wrong things. We offend God, and we do that by not treating our neighbour well, or the words that come out of our mouth, or thoughts in our hearts. But often we run away from saying sorry to God. And so one of the things in prayer that we are to do is on a regular basis is just to admit our shortcomings and recognise what Jesus has done for us by dying for us that we can be forgiven. So the Bible even tells us, if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive us. Because I think a lot of us walk around as it were with suit jackets on, and you know, everybody out there would think oh, everything is fine in your life, but often there’s that shame of sin and failing that many of us carry. And I would say carry unnecessarily.
What about when it is hard to say sorry? What tips do you have in that regard?
I think it’s one of those when sometimes we almost feel like we’ve gone so far that we can’t even say sorry, and we almost feel like we need to pull our socks up, and you know, be a bit more respectable, and then we can grovel towards God. But the Bible welcomes us, or exhorts us to come to God, and that He welcomes us when we admit our faults.
So as you know, Sam, I love the Psalms. When you read Psalms, like Psalm 51 or Psalm 32, we have great models of people who were just transparent before God. They’ve said, “God, I’ve failed.” And they don’t try and hold back. They just come with empty hands and guilty hands, and say, “God, I’ve done the wrong thing.” And rather than expecting God to sort of you know, whack them, the reality is God welcomes them and forgives them, and offers fresh starts. And I would say even that’s one of the applications I think I have for myself. Regularly confessing my sins is what I need to be doing.
And the good news is the Bible doesn’t say we need to go and confess it you know, to a minister, or we don’t need to confess it to somebody else, but we can have direct access to God, and to come and say sorry. It is hard because it’s not our natural bent. Our natural bent is to cover, and to hide. We have a parable where even the father sees his prodigal son coming and runs towards him. And we often think, we’re trying to run away, but we have a Father, who runs to us and wants to forgive us.
That’s an incredible thing about grace is there’s always grace for us. No matter what we’ve done, you know, we come, and we confess, and God will always show us grace with open arms like that father.
It’s a beautiful picture.
Next week Mal, we’re going to continue this series on prayer, looking at things to pray for. What do you pray for? What does it mean for God’s will when you pray God’s will? And we talked about that before, but what shall we be praying for?
Each Sunday, FRESH presenter Sam Robinson chats with Malcolm Gill, lecturer at Sydney Missionary and Bible College (SMBC), about different aspects of living the Christian life—or ‘running the race’. Hear them on air Sundays at 6.20am and 9.20am, or on FRESH just after 9pm each Saturday.