Anatomy of the Soul #1 - Prayer & Confession


A Prayer Guide

Read psalm 32 Aloud

A Guide to Understanding Psalm 32

The alternative to confession: In our time, most people think they can get along fine in life without a healthy “confession system”. The idea of sin is viewed as outdated, prudish and stifling. According to this line of thinking, it’s healthier for people to do away with the idea of sin rather than regularly confess it. But in Psa. 32 David shares his experience of choosing this alternative to confession. He chose not to acknowledge his sin, to conceal it and keep silent about it. What happened? Verses 3-4 vividly describe the effects - David’s spiritual energy, life and vitality were drained. He carried a weight around that affected him emotionally, physically and spiritually. What did he learn? The alternative to confession is to keep our sin to ourselves - to keep inside where it eats away at our soul.

The nature of confession: We might think the feeling of humiliation and shame that comes from admitting sin and wrongdoing is worse than keeping it inside and trying to move on with life – but this isn’t true. David says he finally realized what was happening, so he confessed his transgressions to the Lord and God forgave the “sinfulness of his sin” (v5). Confession breaks the silence. Confession is telling God (out loud) specifically how we fell short, strayed or rebelled against His will. David’s experience of God’s readiness to forgive all who confess resulted in a profound insight (verse 6). He says a faithful person is a person who prays “immediately” (also translated, “in a time of finding”). A faithful person breaks the cycle of long periods without confession. They come immediately to God in honesty. Instead of hiding their sin, they hide in God (v7) and they find that God is ready to protect them and surround them with joyful shouts of His saving love (not shouts of condemnation!). Those who learn to confess quickly and sincerely find confession gradually breaks them of their pride and stubbornness. They become humble and responsive to God’s instruction and guidance in life (verse 8) and less like a horse or mule that only come close by force (verse 9). 

The Results of Confession – The results of true confession are forgiveness and joy. Psalm 32 begins with joy (v1-2) and ends with joy (v11). Psalm 32 is David’s “teaching prayer” that reveals the unexpected source of joy in the human soul. What we thought would bring shame, scolding and spiritual gloominess (admitting our sin) instead brings shouts of celebration, happiness and the sunshine of God’s favor. If this is true, why we do sometimes feel unmoved when we ask for God to forgive us? We can ask ourselves two questions about this: 1) Do I assume forgiveness? Assumed forgiveness minimizes sin and sees it as God’s “job” to forgive us. We don’t feel the ugliness, seriousness or weight of what we’ve done. We say a quick prayer. What we’ve done is not that bad compared to others anyway. Assumed forgiveness won’t bring us joy. 2) Do I accept forgiveness? We confess our sin but we then we try to make up for it and beat ourselves up over our sin. We want to pay. We deserve it. We should have done better. This is unaccepted forgiveness. It magnifies our sin; making it bigger than God’s grace. Unaccepted forgiveness won’t ever bring us joy.

The confession that brings joy never assumes forgiveness and fully accepts forgiveness on the basis of God’s promise. A closer look at the source of joy in verses 1-2 helps us see how this happens. The word “forgiveness” (v1) doesn’t mean overlooking or excusing sin, it means sin is borne or lifted away. Our sins don’t simply vanish, there must be a sin bearer. Our sin also must also be accounted for (v2). The sin that is in my “account” must be charged somewhere. In Romans 4, the apostle Paul quotes Psalm 32:1-2 to show how it is possible that a confessing sinner can be called “righteous” (v11). Because Jesus bore all our sin and was charged with all our debt, by faith in Him we are credited his righteousness as a gift. The gospel shows us how all three of these things come together every time we confess: 1) the seriousness of our sin 2) the cost of our forgiveness 3) the completeness of our forgiveness.  Whenever these 3 things come together to drive us to Jesus – we experience the joy of confession.

A Guide to Praying Psalm 32

1. Opening Prayers – Ask God to search and examine your heart.

  • “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23, 24)

  • “Help me see my sin for what it is. Help me see Jesus for all of who He is for me in the gospel.”

2. Praise God for who He is and what He has done, is doing and promises to do using the language of the Psalm as a “springboard”.

  • Praise him for his forgiving mercy. (v1-2)

  • Praise him for His holiness and love expressed in his perfect will and commands to us.

  • Praise him using the imagery of the Psalm – He is a hiding place, protector, a deliverer (v7), He is a God of joy, who seeks our joy (v11), He wants to surround us with his faithful (covenant) love (v10).

3. Confess things that have been weighing on your heart and draining your soul (verses 3-4)

  • Acknowledge ways you have fallen short (sin), gone astray (iniquity), rebelled (transgression

  • Express the ways sin affects you, your inner life and your relational life.

  • Confess your pride. How you live like a stubborn mule (v9)

4. Thank God and rejoice in the specific ways Jesus lifted away your sin by bearing it himself. Rehearse your forgiveness until you “feel” it (verses 1-2).

  • “Thank you that Jesus, the perfect and innocent One, bore my sin on the cross. Thank you that he bore every sin I ever committed or will commit!”

  • Rejoice that God charged your sin to Jesus’ account and Jesus’’ righteousness to your account.

  • Rejoice that God doesn’t see you as a sinner but as covered in the perfection, worthiness and beauty of Jesus’ righteousness.

5. Ask God to guide you away from fleeting joys of sin and into the greater joys of obedience (v8, 11)

  • Ask God to give you the humility to receive his instruction, guidance and counsel on how to keep away from the specific sin(s) you have confessed.

  • Ask God to make your heart soft and ready to confess your sin “immediately” and not wait until His heavy hand of Fatherly discipline compels you to confession.