Praying for the Grace of Repentance

By | May 3, 2017

flowerRecently I was amazed at our persecuted brothers and sisters in Egypt who were praying for the evildoers that sought to murder them. These Christians understood that evildoers can take their life but not their living hope in Christ Jesus (, ). One persecuted leader, Fr. Boules George, explained that his prayer for his enemies was in faithful obedience to scripture.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. – .

I was struck by how the Gospel of Matthew ties God’s common grace to all men as one reason why we should pray for and love our enemies. As often as God sends rain to water the earth, we should send prayers up to God on those who persecute us. Praying for our enemies is one way we can love them. We should actually pray for all people (), including unsaved loved ones that we love dearly or even our enemies who persecute us. What can we pray for specifically on those who persecute us and do not fear God? How about praying for their repentance?

What does repentance look like?

By [repentance], a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments. – WCF 15:3

God’s forbearance on evildoers is not for naught. He is storing up holy wrath against evil. The patience and delay of our Lord’s awesome wrath and justice is meant to lead sinners to repentance (). God commands sinners everywhere to repent (, , ,). Repentance is a matter of life and death. Without it, there can be no salvation (). It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God ().

Praying for those who don’t deserve our love shows that we are children of God, for the power to do this is supernatural. This prayer can only come from a humble heart that realizes that we don’t deserve God’s love either (). Consider the attitude of Stephen who prayed for his murderers () or the actions of David who spares the life of Saul on more than one occasion, even though Saul was determined to destroy him (). Certainly these men understood God’s heart.

For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live. – .

We must see repentance as a matter of eternal life or death. Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others (). Christ followers must proclaim the good news of the gospel, proclaiming that forgiveness comes through faith and repentance.

Repentance is a beautiful thing. And we should plead with God to grant the grace of repentance.

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. –

As Thomas Watson explains, “Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”  We should pray that sin would be bitter to us and to those we love. Watson explains that “Repentance is the inlet to spiritual blessings… Never do the flowers of grace grow more than after a shower of repentant tears.” Picture the fruit of repentance like flowers growing after the gentle rain.

How often do you pray that you would bear fruits in keeping with repentance? Repentance does not end once a person becomes a follower of Christ. We will sin until the day we die, so we are to live a life of repentance, even while waiting for God to deliver us (). Thomas Boston explains: “Repentance itself is not a passing act, but an abiding grace; a continuing frame and disposition of the soul; a principle lying deep in the heart, disposing a man to mourn for and turn from sin on all occasions.” If we claim to follow Jesus Christ, we should seek to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (), bearing our cross daily and dying to ourselves to follow Him.

I would encourage you to pray the following prayer of repentance for yourself:

Lord God, help me to hate sin as much as you do. My sin put you on the cross. Make me miserable when I sin. May sin be odious and filthy to me. Help me to grieve over my sin and hate my sin. Sin is an offense against your great name. In my foolishness, I live as though there are things you created that are more satisfying than you. I live as though you are not the greatest thing ever. Forgive me and be merciful to me because Jesus died for my sin. May my sin become ever so bitter, so that Christ becomes ever so sweet. The one forgiven much loves much and the one forgiven little loves little. Help me to be one that loves you and others much since you have forgiven me of all of my sins! Help me to live a life full of love and devotion to you. You loved me and gave yourself for me to free me from slavery to sin. Make me a slave of righteousness. May transgressors see your ways and may sinners return to you (). May your great name be praised!

Then modify this prayer by inserting the name of your loved ones who are not walking with the Lord or even the name of your enemy!

photo credit: Nederland in foto’s Waiting for the sun via photopin (license)

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (ESV)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (ESV)

2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, (ESV)

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (ESV)

30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, (ESV)

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (ESV)

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Mark 1:14-15

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Mark 1:14-15

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (ESV)

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (ESV)

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (ESV)

31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (ESV)

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (ESV)

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (ESV)

12 May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. (ESV)

32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (ESV)

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. (ESV)

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (ESV)

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (ESV)

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you. (ESV)