The Terrible Mistake of Starting Prayer with Confession

The following quotation was taken from a helpful interview (listen to this 27 minute interview!) of New Frontiers leader Terry Virgo by Mike Reeves:

Some people say when you start to pray begin confessing your sin to clear the decks. I think that’s a terrible mistake because once I get sin-centered when I pray I think the devil is standing just behind me…I think the Devil would say “how’d you do this? how’d you do that?” and so you know you just get more and more oppressed by failure.

We need forgiveness. But if we start with sin, it might sound good because it clears the decks, but I find it clutters me up. I want to come aware of my Father. Aware of how good he is. How kind. How gracious. I’ll use the Lord Prayer as a kind of structure. I’ll go through it as a kind of headings. But I start God-conscious. Start thankful. I just find that warms my heart.

Terry frames this idea with Psalm 100:4 where the Psalmist writes:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name.

Another encouraging text that I find gives a biblical framework for this is found in Ephesian 3:11-12, where Paul writes,

This was according to the eternal purpose that [God the Father] has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Boldness and confidence in prayer starts with the Father’s eternal purpose of grace realized in the person and work of Jesus. It starts with something God has done for you, not something you have done or not done for God. By all means, we should confess sin while we pray, but start with thankfulness and praise in what God has done–not what you have done.