Game plan for prayer: address sin

July 10, 2024
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by Shannon Caughey

As a coach, you know that there are various issues that can undermine team cohesion. One of the biggest is a failure to address a problem right away. Maybe one of your players violates a team rule. Or perhaps you sense some friction between a couple of your athletes. Even if these issues seem small, if not dealt with they will fester and hurt your team. It’s far better and far healthier to honestly address the problem and seek the solution needed.

What’s true of your relationships with your athletes and the relationships within your team is also true of your relationship with God. Various issues can undermine our closeness with the Lord. In this case, the fault is always ours. We sin against God when we choose not to follow his good design and instead do our own thing. We violate his life-giving commands. We think, speak, and act in ways that are hurtful to others and ultimately destructive to us. And if we don’t deal with these things we’ve done against God, our sin issues fester and damage our ability to fully experience the relationship the Lord desires for us with him.

This is why in his teaching on prayer, Jesus directs us to address the sin in our life right away. We’re continuing our series on the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. As we’ve discussed in the last several devotions, the purpose of Jesus’ teaching in this passage is to provide a framework, or game plan, for prayer. We’ll grow in prayer as we consistently apply this framework to how we pray.

After beginning with a God-focus (“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…”) and expressing our dependence upon him (“Give us today our daily bread”), Jesus turns to the need to address our sin (v. 12): “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Jesus uses the term “debts” because we owe God a spiritual debt for our sin against him. When we follow the instructions of Jesus to regularly pray in this way, we engage in several crucial factors for spiritual growth:

1. We ask God to show us any sin in our life so that it can be addressed.

This prayer expresses our recognition that we continue to sin against God. We want to keep our hearts open to his conviction of our sin. As the Lord does this, we resist the temptation to rationalize or excuse our sin. Instead, we own it and seek our Heavenly Father’s forgiveness. We want to keep a short account regarding our sin so that it doesn’t fester and damage our relationship with the Lord.

2. We desire to cultivate a heart of forgiveness so that we’ll be open to receiving God’s forgiveness.

The second part of what Jesus directs us to pray—“as we also have forgiven our debtors”—indicates the importance of the condition of our heart. If we are unwilling to forgive others when they sin against us, it demonstrates a hardness of heart. When our hearts are hard, we fail to recognize how grievous our sin against God is—and this makes our prayers for forgiveness largely hollow. But as we cultivate a heart of forgiveness, which involves a willingness to pay the cost of extending grace to others rather than demanding pay-back for their sin against us, our hearts are open to receive forgiveness and grace from God for our sin.

3. We experience the assurance that God forgives us, enabling us to draw closer to him.

There’s a wonderful promise tucked into Jesus’ instruction to ask our Heavenly Father to forgive our sin debt: when we seek his forgiveness, he readily grants it. It’s the promise that 1 John 1:9 expresses clearly: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This assurance of God’s forgiveness enables us to leave that sin behind and draw closer to him.

Coach, don’t minimize or neglect this part of the game plan for prayer Jesus gives us. It’s far better and far healthier to honestly address your sin and seek the solution needed. Make it your practice to regularly ask God to show you any sin in your life so that you can ask for his forgiveness. Rejoice in knowing that in his love and grace, your Heavenly Father willingly forgives your sin and wants you to experience a deepening relationship with him. 

For reflection: Take some time to ask God to show you any unconfessed sin in your life. Confess this sin to him and ask for his forgiveness. Thank him for his grace in forgiving all your sin.



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