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Prayer Questions IV: Vows and Confession

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Question #1:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

In my Christian walk (been saved for 15 years). Most of my prayers get answered, but then there are times when they aren't answered. I trying to understand why is this the case? I search my heart and can't come up with any answers, even when I ask God in prayer, why are not my prayers being answered. Some will say that it will be answered in God's timing, or that I have unconfessed sin. I pray almost every day that if there be any sin in me, reveal it to me so that I can repent from it. This is what I say in my prayers to God. Why are some prayers not answered? and is there an effectual way to have our prayers answered? My own opinion is that sometimes we may be praying for the wrong things. So why are some prayers not answered? and is there an effective way that we can pray for our prayers to be answered?

God Bless,

Response #1:

Wow! If your "batting average" is that good, you are truly to be commended. Here is what John says:

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1st John 5:14 NIV

So the promises we have received that our prayers will be answered hang upon the caveat above – and a good thing too. If all prayers of all believers were instantly answered in precisely the way they asked for them, 1) where would the building up of faith be, since then no patience would be required? and 2) since many ask for the wrong things, even if the motive is good, the mess ensuing would be enormous. But God the Father is the perfect parent. So just as we would not give our five year old a big bottle of nitroglycerine – just because he asked for it – so our Father knows best what we need.

In my experience, He always answers our prayers – just not in precisely the terms we cry out for; rather, giving us precisely what we do need: He knows, we usually don't, at least with precision.


Prayer Questions

Prayer Questions II

What can we do to make our prayers more effective? Get a better handle on the Will of God through greater attention to the Word of God. In other words, the answer to this question as to most others is "continue to grow spiritually".

We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.
John 9:31 NIV

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
James 5:16b-18 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Bob,

A brother in Christ was depressed that God had not been answering his prayers. He was asking why God was ignoring him, and is God supposed to be responding back in an audible voice? He didn't know how he was to recognize the "voice" of God, or whether his prayers are being answered. Others were telling him that he was "grieving the Holy Spirit" by sinning a lot. He said that everyone sins and got upset over it. Others were telling him that perhaps there were unconfessed sin in his life that needed to be repented of. I chimed in and said that we have to put on the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) so we can be in tune with God's will and see if our prayers are coming to pass in that sense, and through obedience to His commandments out of love for Him. Then there were those who said that he wasn't even saved at all, and that made him very angry and he got defensive. Of course, nobody really knows what kind of life this person leads except for him and God. I think he might be looking for some outward proof that God is indeed responding back to him. He says he waits for God to answer back in a voice. I know that God answers my prayers because I know God's will for my life with absolute certainty, and I can see it being fulfilled through requests in my prayers that help me to accomplish God's will for my life. I don't know how prayers are answered in the life of other Christians, or how they were to know they are saved so they can get their prayers answered. Or if they were grieving the Holy Spirit, and what exactly needs to be done in order to know with certainty that they are having their prayers answered.

God Bless,

Response #2:

Well done!

Putting unreasonable demands on God indicates a lack of faith (among other spiritual problems). The whole point in prayer is putting the problem (whatever it may be) in God's hands, and trusting Him to provide the perfect solution for it. Asking for proof is the exact opposite of having faith (reminds me of Gideon and the fleece), and without believing that our prayers are going to be answered, there is little point in praying.

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:6-8 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L

Question #3:

I still wonder how I should approach the prayer. It has evolved over the years, but I remain uncertain about some issues. For example repeating some of the supplications before the Lord every day. I often go through a long list of intentions that are identical each day and I wonder if I should do that. For example, I pray that my Bible study is fruitful - that my heart is open, that in the power of the Holy Spirit I study the scripture as I should and do not waste time, that I am able to see and understand what I didn't see and understand before, that I am able to understand difficult passages. I do not want such an intention to become a rote I go through every day. The same goes for praying for all my brothers and sisters. I wonder how much I should say (many intentions repeat themselves for all of them - progressing in the scriptural truth, spiritual growth, ministry preparation, etc.) and what I should perhaps not be repeating every time. I know that at least some of these may be matters that each one of us must address, but any guidance from you would be much appreciated.

Response #3:

On prayer, I hear what you are saying. The first point I would wish to make is that guilt feelings are a poor reason for doing anything. Prayer is an incredible privilege! Just think of it. We have the right to place our petitions directly before the God of the universe because of the access to the throne of grace we have as belonging to Jesus Christ (Eph.2:18; 3:12; Heb.4:16). People will attempt to move heaven and earth to get an audience with a king or other ruler, but it is the Lord who can actually do anything He is pleased to do (Prov.29:26). Add to this the fact that we are a kingdom of priests (Rev.1:6; 5:10), royal priests of the King Himself. So we have both a duty and a privilege to exercise this office as long as we are on this earth – and how much more is that not true of those of us who really do understand the issues and the importance of all this, and have confidence in the Lord's willingness and ability to help our brothers and sisters and who are intent on leading them forward.

"Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way."
1st Samuel 12:23 NKJV

Persistence in prayer is of great worth. But of course there is a time for everything (Eccl.3:1ff.), and that includes a time to leave off praying for certain people and certain things. Generally speaking, more is more and less is less, but we ought never to let the power of the Spirit drain out of our prayers. The more we are aware of actually having a conversation with the Lord as we lay these petitions before Him, the better. The more things become dry and a mere rote, well, that can be a problem. Remember: you have seen many of your prayers answered, and powerfully so, both for yourself and for those in whose behalf you have prayed.

So my bottom line: if you are aware or convicted of some prayer being wrong or misguided, don't pray it. But when in doubt, pray.

Question #4:

I read this passage and I wept bitterly, for I felt that it was describing ME. But then I felt the presence of the Lord, and he took away my guilt.

You should start praying for the commencement of the Tribulation to happen NOW. The timetable you presented is only a rough guideline, because God can shorten it. Revelation 8:4 states that the great tribulation will happen in response to the prayers of the saints.

Response #4:

I'm encouraged by your spiritual rallying, my friend!

If the Tribulation begins sooner than scripture seems to indicate, we will endeavor to persevere through whatever the Lord gives us to handle; and the same thing goes for the possibility that He will delay it. But as far as praying for a change to the time line, I'm not inclined to do that beyond what our Lord gave us to pray: "Thy kingdom come!" Amen!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Dear Professor

Your writings continue to bless me and my family and those immediately around us.

I am continuing to go through your Subject Index for my benefit and hope it will also benefit others in due time. Also with some people I would even highlight the Index. Quite a few Pre-Tribbers in town who may initially be more inclined to look up topics of interest to them. (Why bother too much with the Tribulation when you will be a heavenly spectator anyway?).

My desire is to have believers engage and learn, and unbelievers to think about the purpose of life and our need for a Savior. And as I found out, it can be a lonely existence when you leave any false church.

Then again, in their many different situations I am concerned for all my children, family and friends.

Prayer is the only thing that can help in some cases and definitely helps us in all cases.

Professor, I see, as you so generosity expound, that the time is so short. Thank you for highlighting, through the scriptures, the need for constant preparation for the dark times ahead, before the glorious return of our dear Lord and Savior.

In His Holy Name.

Your student

Response #5:

Looks good! The subject index is important – that's why I've got one. Your PDF will be a big help and a fine addition to site navigation; I truly appreciate it.

I'll be keeping your family in prayer. When you say "it's all we can do sometimes", that may be true, but prayer is A LOT. People spend a great deal of time, money and effort trying to get audiences and bend the ear of human dignitaries and officials. But we have access directly to the King of the universe – and He does hear all of our prayers. That is no small thing even though most of us don't value as we should this special access we now have as members of the Body of Christ. We need no intermediary to place our petition directly before our Lord.

He is working it out for good. We have to wait, often, as a test of faith and to temper that faith. But He knows our heart and has already put the solution into the decrees of the Plan of God before the universe was even created.

I do promise to keep your family in my prayers, my friend.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hi Robert,

I have another question which has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind. How can I know what God’s purpose for my life is while sitting at home and never leaving except to go to my doctors appointments? I want so much to help others but I don’t get out due to feeling very ill or feeling anxiety and fear from the symptoms I have been experiencing and feel my life passing by so quickly and I am not serving God by staying home each day and resting so much. How can I serve our Lord? I struggle every day with anxiety and fear and listen to Scripture dealing with these issues. I try to constantly remind myself that Jesus truly is with me beside me all the time and that thought comforts me. I know you are very busy and will respect that and appreciate your time and any suggestions you may have. Ty so much!

Your Sister in Christ Jesus,

Response #6:

Everyone is different and everyone's situation is different. The Lord is very well aware of that and gives us all as much as we are willing to handle when it comes to wanting to do His will.

He wants us all to grow up spiritually through attention to the truth. You have access to the internet and so to all of the thousands and thousands of pages available at Ichthys. There is no limit on how much truth you can access, consider, believe, take in, and begin to apply.

He wants us all to progress spiritually through applying the truth we are learning to our circumstances, passing the tests that come our way by means of believing that truth and using it to negotiate the troubles we face. You are already doing that and we can all do more of that and do better with that. BB 6A is focused on helping believers to do just that (link).

And He wants us all to contribute to the spiritual growth of other believers. That will lead, eventually, to a personal ministry which the Lord has designed for each of us. There is no "cookie-cutter" pattern for such a ministry either, and they always will correspond to the gifts and talents He has given us. No believer ever fully comes into such a ministry without growing and being vetted, so the fact that this hasn't happened yet is not to be bemoaned at all. And we can all serve even before that ultimate personal ministry reveals itself. One thing we can certainly do – something few of us do enough of – is pray for others. Here is the link to the Ichthys prayer request list. And I'm sure you know many others who need prayer as well. Also, you are very good with your words of comfort and encouragement. That is ministry too, even if it is happening over email or the phone or however it is done. With the advent of the internet, there are all manner of opportunities for innovative ministry as well.

So take heart, my friend. You have a fair chance to win the three crowns and to please our Lord in so doing.

Keeping you in my prayers day by day.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hello Professor,

Thank you for your prayers. And all of them. I will let you know when I get the answer. It would be a wonderful deliverance.

Professor - this has been a great explanation of the issue. I appreciate the time you have put to get me to where I am - with everything. If I think that the greatest grace is spending eternity with God through our Lord's sacrifice, then it is your ministry has been God's greatest provision to help me grow afterwards. I understand all the points and this is exactly where my question came from - whether the zeugma would not mean reading into Peter's words something that he did not intend to put into them. But your point about this figure of speech being in use - as are others in our day - makes sense.

Professor, our friend, who I believe has just been saved, asked me about Abraham's intercession in Genesis 18:22-33. I have given this some thought and looked at the commentaries as I wanted to put together a clear response and there are aspects of this dialogue about which I'm not sure.

Firstly, some commentators make the points that Abraham is interceding for Lot and, according to others, also for sinful Sodom - based on the fact that he was himself saved by grace (Unger). I'm not certain about this. The key motive seems to be for God not to destroy the righteous with the wicked rather than the intercession for grace for Sodom. But it is true that he asks that the entire city be saved rather than just the righteous. This is somewhat similar to Moses' intercession on behalf of unfaithful Israel.

This is the key point, as I understand this at the moment - a plea for God's justice. On the one hand, Abraham must have known that God is just. On the other - God knows our needs and yet we are to pray to Him.

And this brings me to the other point which I see as important to mention - that Abraham, with all his humility, does persevere with the prayer - as boldly as he is humble (Luke 11:8).

What are your thoughts on this intercession?

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #7:

You're most welcome as always, my friend. I'll be keeping this on my prayer list until we hear the good news. I'm prayer for our friend too.

As to your question, it seems to me that Abraham's willingness to keep reducing the number necessary for deliverance means that he knows very well that there aren't many believers in Sodom. It also means he's not concerned for Sodom. He's concerned for Lot – and it turns out in the end that Lot is (apparently) the only believer in town. Abraham could have just asked for Lot to be dragged out of the city – which is what happened. But Abraham, no doubt correctly, was figuring that Lot would be reluctant to go (and he was right about that too: Lot picked the town, wearying I suppose of the sojourning life – a bad sign given the analogy – and even afterwards wanted a town to go to: Zoar).

A little before this, Abraham had been personally responsible for delivering the entire population of Sodom and all they had from the hands of the army that had conquered the town. And yet Lot had not taken this horrible event as a sign that Sodom was "bad news". He couldn't expect Abraham to keep bailing him out forever, after all. Given the behavior of Lot's wife and his daughters, I rather suspect that while Lot was "tortured in his righteous heart" by constantly being bombarded by the evil in Sodom (2Pet.2:7-8), the women in his family liked it there (his wife "looked back" and his daughters had fiances), and he was not strong enough on his own to get them to move, not really wishing to do so himself either. Abraham was very smart and no doubt had picked up on that too. So from his point of view during this intercession, the simple solution was to keep Sodom in place.

It is a bit sad and perhaps funny to think of Abraham realizing that no one was going to change Lot's family's mind, and so no one was going to be able to change Lot's mind – concluding therefore that the solution was to try to get the Lord to change His mind. It was not Abraham's best moment – as anyone reading about him bargaining with God in this way must surely conclude anyway. But he was acting out of love for Lot. Better always to act out of faith in the Lord. With hindsight – which none of us possess when we're on the battle line as Abraham was – perhaps when the Lord said He was going to destroy Sodom, Abraham might better have said, "What about Lot?", or "Would you please save Lot?" That is precisely, after all, what Abraham wanted – and it is precisely what the Lord did.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hello Professor,

Firstly, thank you for your explanation of Genesis 18:22-33. It makes very good sense. I didn't even consider that Abraham would base his prayer on the assumption that Lot would be reluctant to move away from Sodom, but once we recognise that this is where the context is pointing, everything else makes sense - unlike it is the case with the other explanations I've read where there always seemed to be something missing.

One part of your explanation that I'm not entirely clear about is when you say that Abraham wasn't concerned for Sodom. Now I understand that once we accept that Lot was the main motive behind the supplication and he didn't want to move, then we can also see why he wanted the whole city to be delivered even if he was not concerned for it. It's just that this conclusion seems counterintuitive when we see Abraham plead for the whole city.

Would you say that any of the following points is worth mentioning when explaining this passage:

a) Abraham pleads for mercy for sinful Sodom based on his understanding that his own salvation is by grace through faith (Genesis 15:6). This is what Unger says in his commentary. It is true that we are all sinners, but it still seems rather unlikely to me that this should constitute a part of Abraham's motivation, particularly given that Sodom and Gomorrah were known for their exceptional wickedness.

b) Perhaps it could be mentioned that Abraham does plead for God's justice to be executed, similarly as it is the case with the Psalms. The Psalmists know that God is perfectly just and will execute His judgment in righteousness - and yet they ask for Him to do so, often using the argument of His righteousness to "spur Him on" to action. So on the one hand - we believe that God will do the right thing, but on the other - there is nothing wrong in us asking for Him to act in this way. So although with his assumption about Lot he goes things in a roundabout way and the "negotiation" is not, as you wrote, his best moment, he still asks for the execution of righteousness.

c) Finally, we could still make the point that Abraham does actually make the supplication - instead of trying to take matters into his own hands and deciding to rescue Lot by his own effort and without God's help.

Response #8:

I don't see any value in Unger's take. Abraham appeals to justice because he thinks this will solve his problem – but this approach overlooks the facts that i) God knows everything, and ii) He would never do anything unjust, so iii) it is Abraham who is the one who hasn't sized things up exactly right. This is a good lesson for us all because we all get upset about things that happen and we all become anxious from time to time in our prayers about what we have been or are praying for. But just like in this case, God has it all planned out perfectly and for the good (Rom.8:28). On your point "c", certainly; we have to give him that, at least.

Question #9:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

First of all, I'd like to thank you for your replies to my questions because most are reluctant to answer them because they haven't studied the bible enough. My question is why do people close their eyes in prayer? I can't recall the passage in the bible, but when Jesus prayed, it said that He lifted up his eyes" while praying. I think so. Where does closing eyes in prayer come from? Tradition? I close my eyes in prayer because it removes all the distractions around me. Is it essential to close our eyes in prayer? One of my friends was saying that he never closes his eyes in prayer. I don't know where closing eyes in prayer comes from. Your thoughts on this?

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #9:

You're certainly welcome, my friend. I think posture of any sort in prayer (see the link) is at best a reflection of our attitude – one hopes for good (i.e., perhaps as a mark of respect). I don't know of anything that requires closing one's eyes; doing that for concentration is, when possible, a good thing. But, for example, if we are driving and the brakes fail, keeping our eyes open as we pray would be advisable.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Another question I have is more personal. How exactly do you pray? I am not sure I have a clear thought how prayer ought to proceed. I thank God in the morning for all the people he has given to me to help me grow in the Truth and I pray for them asking for a supply of his peace and grace to sustain them in their daily work and walk. I pray for my family and for those whose difficulties with the Truth have scarred me somehow. Then throughout the day, I typically just mention things that make enough of an impression on me to God in "prayers in passing", sort of. But I wonder how I can pray for all the people I would like to pray for like the Ichthys prayer list. I present them all as a whole before God and ask Him to address each specific issue according to His Grace. I mention what I remember exactly as samples of the prayer requests but that's it.

I know that it is a matter of personal application but I think I can make a better application if I could probably be given some guidance. So far, it's just my own ideas, not that I could even state them clearly.

Response #10:

Praying is something the Bible has a lot to say about, but it is also a very personal thing. Your approach sounds like a good one to me. Thanksgiving is important; so is prayer for others. Like anything else in the Christian life, the more you do it and the better you do it the better it is. So praying for everyone in a group at once is a good thing; praying for individuals and their specific concerns is better; both are better than not praying at all – as long as one is praying with the right attitude in the power of the Spirit. The more one grows, so also grows the amount of time devoted to prayer – and the effectiveness of it too. As with many other issues of application, there is not a single "perfect approach" that can be bottled or canned – because we are all different. If there was such an approach, it would be in the Bible. Our Lord gave the disciples the Lord's prayer when they asked a similar question, and that prayer is a perfect rubric to orient believers to all good things, if it is understood: We have a Father, He is perfect and able to do all we ask; we are going to be with Him in a perfect kingdom by and by; we have been provided for today, the only "day" any of us should be concerned about: because yesterday Jesus died for our sins and they are forgiven (provided we too walk in forgiveness), and our ultimate deliverance safe into the kingdom is assured. In other words, we are praying for things we already know are going to happen and have happened – and that same spirit of faith and confidence in the answer to our prayers should be present in all we add to this framework (see the links: "The Lord's Prayer I" and "The Lord's Prayer II").

Question #11:

Hi Bob,

Before R.C. Sproul died he had the following to write.

Most of us probably do not engage in such things, but superstitions remain part of the lives of many Christians. For example, some believers think praying the same prayer every day will guarantee a certain result. Take care to cast all superstitions from your life and trust in the Lord’s sovereign will that is working for your good.

I do pray for the same things each day. I go through the prayer request list of ichthys.com. Does that make me superstitious?


Response #11:

Here is what I read in scripture:

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
Luke 18:1 NIV

Pray without ceasing.
1st Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV

See the link: Prayer: the Persistence, Purpose and Power of.

Our Lord gave us "the Lord's prayer" to be repeated daily, and that is a good example to consider. If we are repeating it only through rote and giving no attention to what it means, that would be clearly less valuable than if we are understanding the words and their implications and appreciating them as we say it, recognizing that we are in a conversation with our dear Lord when we pray it (see the link: The Lord's Prayer).

So I wouldn't worry about what famous dead preachers who didn't think things through had to say when it comes to matters that are this important.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

I was fine for months and now I feel tired. How do I keep at it without relying on being in a good mood? Especially when sickness comes or someone starts drama in the family? I end up going back to sin for comfort.

On prayer. Is the peace given to us a blank clear mind so we can fill it with good thoughts? Thanksgiving and confession clears my mind so I can read the bible and think about God, but what about prayer requests? Like for patience or strength? It's not a feeling he gives you so how do you pray for that? What's the point of prayer requests if I'm not doing it right?

Response #12:

As to peace, God has called us to peace. Admittedly, that can be difficult for anyone to achieve if he/she is not living alone. But it can be done. One thing every believer discovers early on is that sin never brings comfort only more turmoil and lack of peace. Mastering the process of "faith rest" is the stuff of spiritual maturity, and that is a "hill" which must be constantly defended. Just as the Israelites were winning as long as Moses held up his staff (Ex.17:11-12) – but started losing as soon as he let his arms down – so also we have to aggressively embrace the truth we know, reaching out for the help of the Holy Spirit. He is all-powerful, but we have to say "Yes!" to Him and "No!" to sin, temptation and all things negative and unprofitable.

For more on fighting the fight, please see the newly released BB 6A: Peripateology (there is a good deal in there about peace as well).

It's hard to do prayer "wrong", but it is possible. As long as we are honestly putting petitions before the Lord, thanking Him, conversing with Him, and doing so without hypocrisy or under false pretenses (like the Pharisees) or without first confessing our sins, we are told that even if we do not know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit will take care of that for us (Rom.8:26).

And a word about "feelings". It's very important for all Christians to understand that while we all have moods and feelings, these are often very poor guides to action or indicators of true spiritual realities. Emotions are like little children who cry for the wrong reasons and who can be giddily happy when it is inappropriate from the adult perspective. The "adult" is our spirit cooperating with the Holy Spirit to dictate to our heart what the truth is regardless of how we may feel. With little children, if we lead them and teach them, they will follow and learn (eventually); the same is true of our emotions. Far too much of contemporary Christianity puts emotion in the driver's seat and pays little attention to the truth. That is exactly the opposite of the way to gain spiritual maturity, walk a good walk for Jesus, passing the tests that come, and eventually helping others do likewise (much about this in the post linked above as well).

Keeping you in my prayers daily,

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:


Response #13:

Thanks for your encouraging comments, my friend. And I have every confidence in you that you will continue to fight a good fight and run a good race. As I always do, let me again recall that this is a one day at a time race and a one day at a time fight. Neither a good race yesterday or a bad fight yesterday has anything to do with today – except to the extent that we focus on yesterday and let the good make us complacent or the bad make us despondent; neither emotion is helpful. That is why I embrace what Paul says: "I'm heading straight for the finish line" (1Cor.9:26), not looking back but straining for the tape. This also means that "once and for all solutions", while they sound great, are mostly to be avoided.

The Lord tells us not to make vows, even though that was a big issue in the Law. Why not? For one thing, we are flesh and are likely to fail in the vow, especially if it is a difficult one. Better just to keep running, keep fighting, and trust the Lord to take care of the rest.

Question #14:

When I was a teenager, I promised God I would never drink coffee. I have broken that promise many times since then. Should I still keep that? I did make the promise and I read in the Bible that we need to keep oaths we keep to God. Then again, I have already broken it.

Response #14:

God is merciful and forgiving, and He knows that we are but flesh. That is precisely why we should stay away from vowing:

"But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one."
Matthew 5:34-37 NKJV

But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.
James 5:12 NKJV

It's not really possible to "vow" according to the Law today in any case inasmuch as the Law of Moses is now defunct (e.g., Heb.7:12), and there are no priests or temple messengers or sacrifices or even a temple to go to make a true vow.

Question #15:

If we confess sin, but miss some because we forget or don't realize, is that held against us?

Response #15:

It says at 1st John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (NKJV). N.B., I take "forgive us our sins" to mean just that – not "some of our sins" or "the ones we mentioned". Obviously, if we know about some sin and deliberately fail to mention it, that will not work (Ps.66:18; cf. Ps.32:3-5; Job 31:33). And I take "all our unrighteousness" to mean "all". So the only exception to full forgiveness for everything upon confession would be a knowing, deliberate concealment of some sin – which then is no confession worthy of the name.

Question #16:

On the sin, it is because I have an overactive conscious. I am sure you are familiar with the stereotype of Christians families saying (usually only to the women) makeup is sinful! showing ankle is sinful! speaking out of turn is sinful! existing is sinful! you not being completely lowly when you said that was sinful!), and so it is a bit frustrating to feel always guilty and be constantly thinking 'I don't know if that was wrong, I should confess just in case'. I guess I will just have to tell God 'if it is blatantly sinful I will try to confess, but the more vague, if I were to go with that, I would spend a huge chunk of my waking hours confessing.

Response #16:

There is nothing wrong with a daily general confession (in addition to immediate confession whenever one is aware of having erred; see the links: in BB 3B: "The Believer's Dealing with Sin" and "Relative Accountability for Sin"). General confession is part of the Lord's prayer which we are supposed to say every day: "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors". A goodly portion of the sacrifices in the Law were for "sins of ignorance". Believers who are advancing spiritually have, after gaining a measure of spiritual maturity, fewer problems in this regard because they begin to get control of areas which are clearly sinful on the one hand and stop worrying about the other stuff (things they don't know about) on the other. After all, we are not here to "stop sinning" (although sinning is bad of course and becoming more sanctified over time is both essential and also a normal development in growing believers); rather, we are here to grow, to progress in our walk with Christ, and then produce a good crop for Him. Being over-focused on the negative makes the Christian life seem and feel negative . . . when it is actually of course the exact opposite.

Question #17:

Hello Dr. Luginbill

Especially in this social and political climate, I feel temptations I never felt before. It is very easy to get the focus off the Lord and onto other things. I hate some of the desires it generates. Just that on the vague 'is it-a-sin?'s, I get a bit frustrated because it generates constant guilt feelings. I do think I would feel better if I set aside specific time, though, because that would demonstrate I do want to confess I think, even if I miss some sins.

May the Lord come back soon. I can't wait to be free of this sin nature, and not be able to sin anymore,

Response #17:

Honest and humble people recognize that they sin. Self-righteous and legalistic people try to cover things up. As I said, James says that a person who could completely control his/her tongue would be "perfect person" – and no one is that; and it's unquestionably harder to control one's thoughts. So none of us is ever going to be perfect this side of the resurrection. We fight the fight day by day, we try to get better with each step along the way, but we are kidding ourselves if we try to say we've "arrived" and no longer need to confess – kidding ourselves, but NOT the Lord.

If in doubt, I see no harm in confessing. But if one is sure that a sin was not committed, it's a mistake to allow emotions of doubt, fear and guilt stampede us into confessing when there is nothing to confess. Gaining confidence in our walk with the Lord reduces this problem until it fades into nothingness.

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend!

And amen! Marana Tha – "Oh our Lord, return!"

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Dear sir

How have you been, Sir?

It is false that we cannot quit sinning, is it not? I mean, when a Christian has a particular sinful habit and is in full cognizance of its sinfulness, they CAN stop it, can they not? I began to think last year that Romans 6:1-4 meant that it is possible to live sinlessly in this world but after I began reading you, I decided that that was wrong. But that can seem the only effective defence against a very difficult-to-break sinful pattern. I agree completely that we cannot be totally free of sin in this life. I believe that we can't because there is plenty that is sin that we don't even recognize as such. But how do we deal with sins that are obvious to us and which we know that we have a responsibility to keep away from?

Yours in our priceless Lord Jesus Chris

Response #18:

I think you have this one just right. We definitely should not sin and we definitely can stop sinning like we did when we were spiritually younger. There is a whole lot of ground between "no change" and "perfection" but many people who expound on this issue seem to miss that very important point. I don't know if you are familiar with baseball, but to put it those terms, there is a very big difference between a beginning little league player who can't ever seem to even get his mitt on a baseball and a major league shortstop who has one the golden glove award – they both miss baseballs, but the former is an object of pity while the latter is an object of admiration. Serious, mature Christians are not to engage in repetitive sinful behavior, and certainly nothing gross or dishonorable. There is a big difference between occasionally getting angry in one's heart but then controlling it and repenting and being an alcoholic – just for example. Both persons are sinners, but in the former case it is a question of a mature believer who is ever ratcheting down the sin nature and its expressions whereas the latter individual is lost in the grip of sin. The fact that mature, advancing believers sometimes sin does not mean that they have not made great progress in the fight against sin. Assuming that there is no difference between this person who is walking close to the Lord and someone who is subject to all manner of sin at all times is absurd, but that is how some would-be theologians seem to see it.

As teachers, we teach both things that the Bible teaches because both things are true: 1) absolute intolerance of any sin whatsoever; 2) absolute forgiveness upon confession for sins inevitably committed. The fact that we have sin natures means that sooner or later a baseball is going to trickle past us into the outfield. A professional ball player knows this and even though he may be upset with himself for the error is not going to quit or go into despair because of one or two errors. These things happen. Understand, it is still an error. Understand, it is still a sin. God is intolerant of sin and so must we be, in ourselves and in the way we present the issue to others. But God also understands better than we do that we are but flesh and that we cannot possibly fight an absolutely perfect fight no matter how dedicated we may be. That is why Christ died for all sins; that is why we have been given the blessing of forgiveness after salvation through confession. That is grace, writ large indeed. We do not abuse grace (so as to fail to pursue sanctification in earnest); but we do not teach that God denies grace to us when we sin – that is a horrible lie. Legalism is uncomfortable with the idea of forgiveness for sin and seeks to exalt the intolerance God has for sin into a false doctrine of the possibility of absolute sinlessness. That is an affront to Christ – because it suggests that there can be victory over sin without the blood of Christ; and it is also a very damaging lie because it will make those who believe it either 1) assume that what they cannot stop doing is actually not sin (denying the sinfulness of sin is the first step to apostasy); or 2) become terribly depressed over their failures and become hors de combat in the spiritual warfare in which they should be engaging. The correct position, the biblical position is simple enough: "Don't sin!" . . . "and when you do, recognize your mistake, turn away from it, confess and get back into the fight". Any other point of view, either tolerant of sin or refusing to recognize the spiritual truths of our circumstances in this evil world, only leads downward and backward.

Here are some links which speak about the "how" of the first part of the proposition above:

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

Sin, Fear and Forgiveness

Guilt, Sin and Victory through Spiritual Growth

Dealing with Sin and Guilt

Sin, Guilt, and Salvation

Sin, Guilt, and Salvation II

Salvation and Sin

Sin according to the Bible: Hamartiology I

Sin according to the Bible: Hamartiology II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

Fighting the Fight II: Struggling with Sin, Doubt, and Severe Testing

Fighting the Fight I: Accountability, Faith, Sin, Forgiveness, and Reward

Doubting Salvation and Questions of Sin

Sin and Salvation, Confession and Forgiveness

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hi Bob,

I just want to say from the outset that I am forever grateful for your prayers and those who prayed for me at your website. I can CLEARLY see my prayers being answered and coming to pass. There is no avoiding it because I believe that nothing can stop God from accomplishing His divine will.

"Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday."
(Psalm 37:4-6)

I believe that this passage is telling us that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, then our desires of our hearts will be God centered. Is this the correct interpretation?

Whenever I ask a fellow brother in Christ about how long they can go without sinning, it's always something negative. 99.9% of professing Christians reply by saying, NO...that's not possible! I read a poem from an unknown author about a little girl who asked her father if someone can go a week without sinning, and the father said no. She then asked if someone can go a day without sinning, and her father said no. She then said, "then I want to live my life moment by moment to the Lord.

This is a tough question for me, but I believe that a believer who loves God with all their heart can go a day without sinning. I need help here as I am not completely sure if a Christian can go a day without sinning. I am leaning towards Yes, we can go a day without sinning (Phil. 4:13. What are your thoughts on this?

God Bless,

Response #19:

For very good reason, scripture never puts things this way – as if not sinning might be something equivalent to dieting or training for a race. We are NOT to sin . . . period. But we do sin, and when we do, we are to confess our sins.

No one will sin less by "trying not to sin today"; such a thing will probably only lead to more sin. That is addressing things by means of the flesh, not by the Spirit, and Paul's description in Romans chapter seven tells us that this approach is futile. On the other hand, if we are walking in the Spirit, we will not be carrying out the deeds of the flesh (Gal.5:16ff.).

I am sure that it is possible to go a day and not commit an act of porneia, e.g. Indeed, any Christian who is walking in Christ is accomplishing that every day (one hopes). And it may be possible to go a day and not commit a sin of action (if one stays home with the phone off of the hook and the shades drawn) – but doubtful if a person has to commute in traffic. James tells us that controlling the tongue is impossible (cf. Ps.39:1-6); it might be possible to go a day without uttering a single careless word and only words that are edifying (Col.4:6), but just as with action, there are things that we should do as well as those we should not do. Can we perfectly navigate a day and say everything we should while avoiding everything we should not say? I have my doubts. Most of our sins are sins of ignorance – which is why most of the sacrifices of the Law were for sins of ignorance (execution was the standard for sins of arrogance – but if it has been rigorously carried out the population would have soon disappeared). So it might be possible to go a day without doing or saying (or failing to do or say) anything by the commission or omission of which was sinful . . . AS FAR AS THE SINNER KNEW. But that is significantly different from ACTUALLY not sinning in action and word in the opinion of God who knows all. And that is why in the Lord's prayer we are directed to ask for forgiveness every single time we pray it: "And forgive us what we owe you just as we also forgive those who owe us."

When it comes to sins of the heart, that is a whole different subject. The heart is "desperately wicked" and incapable of even being comprehended (Jer.17:9). The sin catalogs in the New Testament are "sins of the heart" heavy, and it was covetousness, the one mental sin in the ten commandments, that doomed the apostle Paul in Romans chapter seven. Can we really go a day without a prideful thought? Without a jealous thought? Without getting upset, frustrated, angry? Without expressing the slightest doubt or fear or anxiety? One could go on at great length. And even if we THOUGHT we had done so, in truth no doubt we would only be expressing arrogance in respect to the sins of ignorance we had committed. Can a person go a day without a mental sin? Maybe if in a coma.

In any case, this is the WRONG way entirely to think about things and to go about things. This is like playing chess by trying not to lose pieces, or like fighting a war but never going on the offense and expecting to win. The Christian way of life is both defensive and offensive; they complement each other, but the purpose of defense is not to be perfect (which is impossible) but to make it possible to gain momentum in spiritual growth, progress and production – something which being embroiled in sinful behavior (especially sinful actions which are arrogant rather than ignorant) makes impossible. The latter is the first place Christians need to clean up their act and press forward with sanctification in all other areas too. But this life is a fight to the end, and we have sin natures which make being perfect impossible. War is messy. So is our warfare . . . unless and until we get our priorities straight.

What is our attitude toward sin? Don't do it. What if we do? Confess it. What if we are not sure? There is prayer for confession in the Lord's prayer we pray daily or more often . . . and that ought to tell you something.

Is this Christian life about sin? Not at all. It is about responding to the forgiveness of sin we have through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior on Calvary's cross.

What does that mean? Doing what Jesus wants us to do. What does Jesus want us to do? He wants us to grow, progress and produce. He doesn't want us to sin – obviously – but His purpose for is to glorify Him through earning eternal rewards; putting sin aside is a necessary part of reaching that goal but it is not the objective itself, and if a person focuses on that as the objective, he/she will fail in the mission.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:

1. I became interested in "worldly solutions" to justice instead of spiritual growth. It became so bad that at one point I started flaming others over social justice issues on a Christian forum. ("There are seven things the Lord hates... a person who stirs up conflict in the community." Proverbs 6:19)

2. I started to esteem worldly wisdom...although not to the point of accepting evolution or higher criticism of the scriptures. I need to repent of this.

3. I am having my faith attacked. There are people who are telling me that the gospels are entirely legendary and even though I have reasons, the fact that they keep such a bold face in the front of those reasons is extremely discouraging.

4. Worst of all, I am afraid God will not grant me the repentance I need in order to receive salvation.

I pledged my undying loyalty to Christ...and look at how far I've fallen! I am alive, so I cannot collapse into despair. Every day that I am alive is a good day.

Response #20:

Every day we're still here is a great opportunity . . . to learn about our Lord and grow through His truth, to walk with Him in rejection of the world, and to help others do so too through the ministry opportunities He gives us. We are stocking our treasuries in heaven which no mortal man can touch or disturb, and we will enjoy what we've put in them through the power and grace of God forever.

The Lord forgives us when we confess (Ps.32:5; 1Jn.1:9); our job is to keep punching forward, not looking backward.

Yours in the dear Lord Jesus Christ our Savior who saved us by giving Himself over to be judged in full for every single one of our sins.

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi, thank you for your ministry.

Please pray for my two sons to be saved. I haven’t been a very good example of a Christian for them. With most of the churches taken over by political beliefs and financial gain instead of Christ, I can’t recommend them to attend. I try to explain that the views from our religious leaders today are not Christian at all.

I thank God for you and your site most everyday. Christ is coming very soon. I can feel it.

Thank you

Response #21:

I'm happy to hear back from you, my friend.

I will be praying for you and for your two boys. I've also put a prayer request up on the Ichthys list.

Your comments on the "church-visible" in our day of Laodicea are very familiar – it's what almost all Christians who are really serious about following Jesus Christ through the truth find out.

Thanks so much for your kind comments – they're greatly appreciated (Ps.115:1).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.


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