One of my kids peaked into the room and I looked up from where I was reading in bed.
It was well past their bedtime and I wondered if they had a “good reason” for still being awake.
“I can’t sleep. Early today I ______ and I know I shouldn’t have done that.”
I put my book down and told my kiddo that I was so glad they’d told me what they had done and then said, “Would you like to ask God’s forgiveness and ask Him to help you not do ____ any more?”
“Yes!” said my kid, as they bowed their head and said,
“Dear God please help me to not do _____ any more! Thank you amen!”
My child looked up at me expectantly. And I responded, “But you forgot to ask forgiveness!!”
This above scene has actually happened several times recently and it got me thinking, am I being too particular with my children, or is that act of saying “Sorry” to God in prayer vitally important? After all, they had just come to me with a seemingly repentant heart, right? But the more I thought about it, the more I was reminded that Scripture teaches us that a time of repentance is key in our relationship with Jesus and we can find important value in specifically taking the time to ask God for forgiveness.
After God's Heart
First let’s start with scripture, I’m currently reading 2 Samuel and am struck yet again by the messiness of David’s life. When you get to 2 Samuel chapter 11, David straight up sins against God and man. Yet this is God’s special king! When God takes the kingdom from David’s predecessor, Saul, and gives it to him, God describes David as “a man after God’s own heart!” 1
And this is where repentance comes into play. David’s repentant heart when he is faced with his sin is one of the key differences between David and Saul. In chapter 12 of 2 Samuel, we see David’s reaction to his sin. We also see his reaction beautifully captured in Psalm 51, the verses filled with his misery and feelings of unworthiness regarding his disobedience.
Don't Skip the Best Part!
In discipleship one of the important elements we practice is keeping each other accountable regarding our struggle with sin. But lately I’ve noticed that it's super easy to brush over this important moment of repentance and sadness - dare I say lament - regarding our sin.
Often I’ve found when either I, or someone I’m discipling, talk about our sin it goes a little something like, “Guys, I totally messed up! I did _____ again.” The response is usually quick and free flowing “Awww! Thanks for being so honest! We’ll all pray for you to do better.” or maybe even “How can we help you not mess up again?”
This probably sounds familiar, because it sounds a lot like the conversation I had with my child at the beginning of this article. We are right to acknowledge sin and also ask for help for the future. Yet I believe there is something critical and beautiful in what comes in the middle: simple, direct acknowledgement of our sin and a plea for forgiveness from God.
The Importance of Lamentation
Indeed, when we take a closer look at David’s story we see he made space for deep and profound sorrow regarding his sin (I’m not saying we have to take days like David, but at least taking the time to give voice to our lament). I believe it is then, and only then, that we get the great blessing of praise and healing. It says that after lamenting over his sin and the punishment for that sin, David went to the House of the Lord and worshipped (and God also blessed him with his son Solomon).
If you’ll allow me to be really honest and personal with you here, I believe that we as believers in the United States are in that middle place right now. If we wonder why the hardships of 2020 carry into 2021 without any sign of letting up, if we wonder why there is discord and disagreement at every turn both in politics, in race and even amongst the Body of Christ, then I believe we have not truly spent time in the sacred space of Lamentation.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start by simply making the space for a simple “I am so sorry for my sin.” It really does make a difference. Back to my night-owl child: After actually saying a quick “I’m sorry” prayer they broke out into a big smile and headed off to bed with added peace and joy in their heart.
I believe by being more intentional in our repentance, we will find greater joy and freedom in the days ahead.