A Guide To Intercessory Prayer
by Rev. Richard W. LaFountain

Step Four: Confess Your Sins

"If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" 1 John 1:9

John, the beloved disciple, warns us against an attitude of innocence before a holy God. To say that we have nothing to confess to God is to call Him a liar, and to practice self-deception before our Maker. David says: "Behold I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalm 51:5) And Isaiah adds to his own unworthiness before a holy God when he says: "All of our righteousnesses (that is, our best efforts) are as filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6) Most of us misread that passage and think that God means "all of our unrighteousnesses." But it is all our best effort at right living that are still as filthy rags. Even if we could keep all the law and stumble in only one small point we would be guilty of all.

Woe Is Me!
Isaiah, a man filled with the Spirit, a prophet of God, a man above reproach, is a good example of this truth. In Isaiah 6 he first sees the Lord in all his beauty, high and lifted up, and glorified. The sight was so awesome that the just and righteous Isaiah fell on His face before God with an acute awareness of his own sinful nature. He was not exaggerating. He was not bemoaning the sinfulness of other people. He saw himself in the light of God’s holiness and cried "Woe is me I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips." (Isaiah 6:1-5)

We are not just to come into God's presence presumptuously, but humbly (2 Chronicles 7:14) contritely, with a sincere perspective on our own nature. We need a vision of ourselves, our true fallen nature, our minds which are unclean, and of which God knows every passing thought. (Psalm 139:1-5)

Until we recognize our own state of bankruptcy before a holy God we cannot truly lean upon His Righteousness, without which no man will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14) We would instead come into his presence as the Pharisee, proud, bragging of his kept laws, righteous deeds, his right to gain the Father's favor. We need to see ourselves as destitute, and totally depraved, without the righteousness of Christ. We have nothing of which to boast. We, are as the rich church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. We need to see ourselves as God sees us. "Lukewarm...wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."

A.W. Tozer says:
"We need to admit...the shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, the worldliness of our lives, our fleshly fallen nature that lives on, yet unjudged within us, uncrucified and unrepudiated, and the hyphenated sins of the human spirit, self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, self-indulgence, and a host of other self-sins. They are not something we do, they are something we are..." – The Pursuit of God


"If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me." Psalm 66:18

To regard iniquity means to leave it alone, to tolerate it, to know it is there and do nothing about it. It is to hide it, to cover it by excuses, to consider it unimportant, to ignore its dangers.

God considers any iniquity to be an abomination. An abomination is a horrible disgusting thing. There are no "good guy" iniquities, no little white lies, no insignificant rebellions of the heart! God calls rebellion in any form "as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness as idolatry." (1 Samuel 15:23) God considers sin as sin and all equally appalling to His holiness. Sin in our heart is to the Lord as festering sores, and maggots in his holy offerings – slimy, crawling, slithering, disgusting, maggots defiling the whole! (Isaiah 1:6)

Daniel was conscious of the subtle ways in which sin surrounds us and creeps into our thoughts, actions, and in-actions. In his exemplary prayer in Daniel 9 he identifies nine faces of sin.


  1. Sinned v 5 Missed the mark, fallen short
  2. Committed iniquity v 5 Deliberate conscious sin
  3. Done wickedly v 5 Life-style habitual sin
  4. Rebelled v 5/9 Said no to God!
  5. Not hearkened v 6 Closed our ears, ignored
  6. Not obeyed voice v 10 Grieved the Holy Spirit
  7. Transgressed law v 11 Legal term, to know law and disobey
  8. Departed from God v 11 Backslidden, wandered away
  9. Made not prayer v 13 Sin of prayerlessness

Jesus emphasized the need to deal with sin each time he spoke of prayer. In the Lord's prayer he deals heavily with the need to deal severely with sin. That is, in fact, the primary lesson of the Lord's Prayer. Immediately after citing it he pointed out the need to forgive as well as ask for forgiveness. In Matthew 5:23-26 Jesus further deals with sin in prayer by saying that when we come to God's altar with an offering we must first do something about broken relationships before we pray and offer praise!!! An attempt at reconciliation must be made before our prayers will be heard. I Peter 3:7 includes the marital relationship as being a hindering factor in prayer.

A man that truly enters into the presence of God cannot but help to see himself as unclean. Even the Scripture admits that "all of our good deeds are as filthy rags." So was the feeling of Isaiah before the throne in Isaiah 6, and of Daniel in chapter 9. The holiness of God cannot tolerate the presence of sin! We are exhorted to confess our sins to God (I John 1:8-9), and even admit our faults one to another (James 5:16) so as to pray effectively and fervently and be healed.


  • Conviction is seeing sin as exceedingly sinful.
  • Repentance is "Agreeing with God about my sin," and turning from it.
  • Confession is exposing it to God & asking Him to forgive and cleanse.

We cannot do penance for our sins, it would do no good. We cannot pay the penalty of our sins. The penalty or "wage of sin is death." Therefore God has provided a better way. We lay our sins on Jesus.

Isaiah 53 is a magnificent passage that describes the atonement of Jesus Christ for sins. Jesus paid it all on the cross. That is why he could say, "It is finished." Verse five says, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." Verse six goes on, "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquities of us all." Verse twelve goes even further, "He was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

There is nothing more for me to do but lay my sins on Jesus. That is why the thief on the cross could be saved. He could not do penance. He could not make restitution for what he had done. He could not even prove his sincerity. He simply laid his sin on Jesus and said, "Have mercy on me." That is what Jesus came to do. "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

Lay your sins on Jesus - he is your sin-bearer. Then rejoice in what God says he has done with your sins. Confession is not commiserating or grieving over your fallen nature, your secret thoughts, or your sins of commission or omission, but asking and receiving forgiveness and the covering of the blood of Jesus. Do not leave the altar of confession without appropriating the provisions of the cross!. Be forgiven and give thanks.

Helpful Hints

Don't leave this step without thanking and praising God for what he has done with your sin. He has cleansed you! Rejoice in that cleansing. Claim it before the throne! Take these promises and write them in the fly leaf of your Bible so as to never forget them, and never be without them.

  1. Paid in full - Romans 5:11 / Isaiah 53:6

  2. Forgiven/pardoned – 1 John 1:9

  3. Laid on him – Isaiah 53:6

  4. Washed whiter than snow – Isaiah 1:18

  5. Covered – Psalm 32:1

  6. Cleansed by blood of Jesus – Hebrews 9:22/ 10:4

  7. Blotted out – Isaiah 44:22

  8. Removed as far as east from west – Psalm 103:12

  9. Cast in depths of sea – Micah 7:19

  10. Forgotten forever – Jeremiah 31:34
Read Psalm 51 and Psalm 139 as part of your confession of sin.

Sing a Song:

It is Well

My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul.

Practical Disciplines Workbook

(Check up on your own secret sins)

1.  Selfish desires             ____  James 4:3
2.  Secret sins                 ____  Psalm 66:18
3.  Idle words                  ____  Matthew 12:36
4.  Lustful fantasies           ____  Matthew 5:28
5.  Marriage conflicts          ____  I Peter 3:7b
6.  Ingratitude                 ____  Philippians 4:4-8
7.  Unforgiving Attitudes       ____  Mark 11:25-26
8.  Unresolved conflicts        ____  Matthew 5:23
9.  Doubt                       ____  Hebrews 11:6a 
10.  Prayerlessness             ____  Hebrews 11:6b / Jeremiah 2:32
11.  Indecision & doubt         ____  James 1:6 
12.  Bitterness                 ____  Hebrews 12:15
13.  Rebellion of heart         ____  I Samuel 15:23
14.  Known disobedience         ____  James 4:17
15.  Temper                     ____  Ephesians 4:26-27
16.  Anger                      ____  Ephesians 4:26, 31
17.  Impatience with others     ____  Ephesians 4:32
18.  Murmuring/complaining      ____  1 Corinthians 10:10
19.  Lying/saying half-truths   ____  Colossians 3:9
20.  Strife in your heart       ____  James 3:14

There are sins that "easily beset us" that serve only to weigh us down and cause us shame and hinder our fellowship with God. (Hebrews 12:1) Each of us has our own set of reoccurring sins. Confession is laying it out before the Lord... for "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." (Hebrews 4:13)

(Lord, these are areas I need cleansing and forgiveness!)

1.  _______________________________
2.  _______________________________
3.  _______________________________
4.  _______________________________
5.  _______________________________
6.  _______________________________
7.  _______________________________
8.  _______________________________
9.  _______________________________
10.  _______________________________
When you have finished with your list and have prayed for forgiveness take this list and burn it! It is gone!