How do you stop sinning? The question has troubled people for centuries. It began to bother me to the point of distress shortly after I began to earnestly seek God’s will for my life through writing a daily prayer journal.
The story I read of how 19th century evangelist George Mueller kept a prayer journal attracted my attention. How it worked was like this: Mueller wrote down in his journal the date when he made a prayer request, and then he noted the date when his prayer was answered. This system allowed him to document hundreds of answers to prayer.
At first I felt awkward to write down prayers by hand, and my initial prayer was simple: “Dear God, thank You for this day. Thank You for life. Please forgive my sins. Please save my parents, my sister and other relatives. Help me to honor You today. Amen.”
The next day and the days following I sat down to write out my prayer, and the exact same words came from my pen. On the fourth day, I thought my prayer was getting ridiculous. I was praying for the same things over and over again. I was bored, and I wondered whether God might feel the same way about my repetitions. So I turned the prayer journal into a diary where I shared my deepest thoughts and also my sins with God. It was then that I became distressed.
A decade of selfish living had left me with a poorly disciplined spiritual mind that offered easy access to temptation. Over the weeks, I noticed a pattern develop in my prayer journal: If I had committed a particular sin, however small, I would repent and ask for God’s help to not do it again, but then ended up writing that I had committed the same sin again. My prayers were growing repetitious again, which in my thinking was worse because of repeating the same sin.
Finally, I stopped my prayer journal. I couldn’t bear the pain of writing about my unfaithfulness again and again. But I was wrong. None of us should ever give up. God assures us that we don’t have to continue in the circle of repeating selfish sins. He says, “Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings” (verse 22 NKJV). That is a promise!
Prayer: “Dear God, sometimes it seems that I cannot get out of the ditch of committing the same sin again and again. But today I will cling to Your promise to heal me of my backsliding when I return to You. I will return though regular Bible study and prayer. I will not give up. Heal me. And allow me to share the wonder of You with others. Amen.”
Journalist in Russia