If you find yourself telling God over and over again that you are sorry for the same sin, then you may need to expand your prayer life around the issue. Here is a tool box of 5 repentance prayers I use regularly to help change my heart and behavior so I can move into greater faithfulness to God.
1) Pray for understanding. The process of repentance requires that you first get out of denial and begin to accept responsibility for your own actions. Some times we sin out of ignorance. Some times we know better but convince ourselves it is okay. Praying that God will reveal to you your sin can be a powerful first step. You find even greater benefit in praying regularly for God to help you understand truth. If you understand truth, sin and evil become obvious.
2) Prayer of confession. Once you own the fact that your behavior or attitude is wrong you need to confess it. Be very specific. For example, if you are struggling with being judgmental, lift up to God specific examples, such as, “Lord, when I went to the mall today, I found myself looking around and rapidly making snap judgments about the people I saw. It was extremely shallow of me and lacked the grace of Jesus Christ. You love me unconditionally, but I do not do the same for others. I am constantly giving preferential treatment to the people who most make me feel comfortable. I ignore or avoid others who may actually be a gift you sent my way–someone to love, support or befriend. Forgive me when I categorically reject people around me.”
You get the idea. Taking time to get specific will heighten your own awareness about your sin. You will catch yourself more frequently when you are committing a wrong.
3) Prayers for softening a heart. Knowing something is wrong does not equate to feeling remorse. When I was a child my younger sister and I fought. My mother would break it up and once she figured out who started it (and she always figured out who started it) she would tell the guilty party, “You need to say you are sorry.” More often than not one of us would spit out a terse and completely disingenuous, “Sorry.” As if on cue my mother would then immediately chime in, “Say it like you mean it.” We would, but then we would rapidly lapse back into fighting once she was gone.
Our cycle of fighting was a wonderful example of confession without remorse. If you find yourself constantly lapsing back into old behaviors, then there is a good chance that you lack deep heartfelt remorse. I use to think that if I didn’t feel remorse, then there wasn’t a lot I could do to change that. This isn’t true. You can ask God to soften your heart and God will. You can also take to time to ponder the consequence of your sin and that will frequently begin to soften your heart as well. Think of the impact that your sin has on your family, friends, health, work, and relationship with God. If nothing else, take time to reflect on the fact that your sin is the cause of Christ’s crucifixion. It is hard to take lightly your sin when you realize it cost an innocent man his live.
4) Pray to commit to a new path. For example, if you struggle with judging others as i described above you might pray something like, “Lord God, I will remind myself that you made every person for a purpose. I will treat each person as if they are a gift to me. I will resist judgmental thoughts and strive to replace those thoughts with prayers of thanksgiving or intercession. I will try to always treat other people with respect even if they don’t respect me. I will also strive to encourage and praise other people so that they feel your love for them coming through me. I will honor you in all of my contact with other people.”
So, what is the exact opposite of you sin? What behavior would you adopt if you were free from it? What mindset would your replace? If you were to make a promise to God about to do something new…something better… what would it be? Pray these things.
5) Pray for support. As you move down a new path, don’t do it alone. Pray for God to strengthen and guide you. Pray for God to protect you. Pray for God to send you mentors or people who will walk along side you for encouragement. Most of all pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit so that God my transform you by the renewal of your mind.
I hope you will try each of the prayers of repentance. I find that if I continue to have a recurring sin it usually is because I am failing to address one of the critical areas of repentance that each of these prayers address.