The Privilege of Praying for Forgiveness

“Father, forgive me.”

I sigh as I pray these all too familiar words. It's only the middle of the morning, and I find myself asking for forgiveness. Again.

Guilt surrounds me as I think an ungracious thought about a friend; I respond unkindly to my husband; I overindulge, exaggerate the truth, and complain; I ignore, refuse, doubt, and remain indifferent; I lust, loathe, and lose time to Netflix. 

I’m a Christian, yet my days are often plagued by all of the above and more. I easily identify with Paul’s struggle: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15).

On days like these, I half expect someone to burst through my front door and expose me as a fraud.  

THE ACCUSER AND THE ACCUSED

I am well-acquainted with feeling like an impostor, and my accuser consistently reminds me of my inconsistency. Charles Spurgeon knew the feeling, too, as he wrote in his daily readings:

“It is ever the holy spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, ‘Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.’ All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.”

My enemy holds a mirror in front of my face daily. My preoccupation with self bids me to look into it, if only to see my shortcomings. He tempts me to just keep looking at myself, and the longer I do, the more I see the picture he conveniently frames. 

I see an unworthy sinner who keeps messing up, and therefore can’t be who she claims to be. I see an impostor. It’s easy to believe my enemy when the evidence is so visible.

WHAT THE MIRROR CAN’T SEE

But that mirror doesn’t reveal everything. It doesn’t tell the whole story.

My story changed when I trusted God to make me his. My story changed when Jesus traded places with me on the cross, and I believed. He took my sin and gave me his righteousness. (2 Cor. 5:21). The mirror can’t reveal what must be seen by faith.

My father lovingly draws my eyes away from myself and towards him. He gives me something better to behold. He shows me Christ in all his radiant beauty—living, dying, and rising from the dead for me. He looks back at me with love and acceptance, not annoyance and censure.

Satan’s vision for me can’t compete with what my Father shows me.

He lets me see what he sees: Christ in me (Gal. 2:20). What a beautiful sight! Satan’s vision for me can’t compete with what my Father shows me. 

And there’s more!

“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus (Rom. 8:1). God’s Word gives hope to sinners who don’t deserve forgiveness but receive it anyway. He promises that Jesus, our great high priest, can sympathize with our weaknesses because of his own experience with temptation—even though he never sinned. He invites us to confidently approach his throne for mercy and grace in times of need (Heb. 4:15-16).

FORGIVENESS IS OURS

Because I’m a child of God, my rally cry can be, “Father, forgive me!” This cry is my birthright. It’s yours, too.

Forgiveness is ours because we belong to him. His word promises that if we confess our sins, he is not only faithful and just to forgive us, but he will cleanse us from all our unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

“Father, forgive me” isn’t something we shamefully mumble in despair. It’s not something we thoughtlessly yet dutifully utter when we sin. “Father, forgive me” isn’t something we have to say—it’s something we get to say.

“Father, forgive me” isn’t something we have to say—it’s something we get to say.

We need to spend less time looking in the enemy’s mirror and more time looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). We need to train our eyes to behold him. We must ask him to give us eyes of faith to see beyond what the devil shoves in front of our faces. 

When we see Jesus in all his glory, our hands and feet will be quick to obey. And when we do not, our lips will boldly ask for forgiveness. We will repent in faith, trusting him to forgive and cleanse us and cover us with his spotless righteousness.

Oh Christian, do you recognize what a mighty privilege it is to be able to approach the almighty God for forgiveness and to receive it? Do you take lightly his great grace which washes us as white as snow? 

May we be a people not driven to despair by our constant need for help. May we be thankful for a Savior who sympathizes with us in our weakness. Let our repentant prayers rise as we humbly approach the throne and boldly cry out, “Father, forgive me!” 


Christy Britton is a wife and mom to four boys. She writes Bible study curriculum for Docent Research Group and serves as the Discipleship Classes Coordinator for Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C. She is an orphan advocate with 127 Worldwide and contributes administratively to bring pastor training opportunities to Africa for Acts 29. You can follow her on Twitter.