Fresh – The Prayer for Screw Ups

Fresh – The Prayer for Screw Ups

Happy new year everyone!  This first weekend, like every other first weekend of every year, so many of us have a sense of a fresh start, or at the very least, having had a few days off, we have the hopes of being refreshed in whatever areas we have the need to be refreshed in.  Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but the fact remains that whatever we were facing at the end of 2023 is still the same thing we will face in 2024.  So if our circumstances are pretty much the same, and the details of our life haven’t shifted much, what more can we do?  

Maybe you’ve been dealing with the same issues year after year and you’ve moved cities, you’ve changed jobs, you’ve changed partners, and the same habits and patterns and bad decisions keep following you. What else is left to change?!

It’s simple, the thing we can change and seek to change is us.  The difference between that sort of mindset in the culture and that mindset in a faith community comes down to one simple point: In Christ the old is gone, and the new is here 

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  

II Corinthians 5:16-17

So in the spirit of being new and our 21 days of prayer that begins today, we wanted all of us to start off a fresh year with a fresh perspective on prayer, and submitting ourselves to the process of being made new.

To embody this posture, I’m asking one of our beloved community members, Alliance Samuragwa, to the stage.  He has been with us for years now, and even joined our staff a few years ago.  He found us through “feed the community”, and he has made such an impact in our church and our community.  Alliance will still be part of our church family, but he is now transitioned to step out in faith to continue the work he’s begun with the refugee community in Austin by starting “More Than Welcome”.  I’m proud, as Senior Pastor of Gateway, to announce that as you support Life by Life, you are supporting a true partner we have with people like Alliance.  

“Alliance, as we challenge our faith community in their posture towards this next year, I want you to know how proud we are of you, so excited for you, and wanting you to know that we are in your corner.”  We have a few people from our staff who will also be praying over him. (I Timothy 5)  The laying on of hands is encourages as a way to ordain people towards their god-given call, and you, Alliance, are definitely stepping out into your call.  Let’s pray together!


I don’t know about you but sometimes I crave for a simpler time.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the conveniences of modern times. I like that we have options, and boy do we have options.  We used to make fun of The Cheesecake Factory for its expansive options, and pages and pages of unhealthy but delicious food, only to order the same thing every single time.  But now we buy cell phones that cost $1000 only to use the same exact apps, call the same people and distract us from the life we are meant to live.  

Even our most basic needs have become complicated.  We all need water, and now, in the US alone, we have 80 brands of water, and worldwide there are 4000 mineral water brands.  What happened to just drinking water from a hose outside the house because your mom locked you out until lunchtime?  I know there are mineral issues in our water like lead, arsenic and mercury, and that we need other minerals in our water like calcium, fluoride and potassium (to name a few).  But at the end of the day, we need water because it is a source of life for the human body.  I can try to convince myself that my soda has water, that my fruits and vegetables have water, but there is no comparison to an unadulterated glass of water that brings refreshing and health to my body.


The same things can be said for the act of prayer.  A quick search on prayer books and resources pulled up 272 MILLION results.  Book on prayer, devotionals on prayer, teaching on prayer, group resources on prayer, podcasts on prayer, prayer retreats, prayer journals, conferences on prayer…at some point it can all be so overwhelming.  So we then convince ourselves that praying for our food at dinner, or saying “Jesus help me” in a rough patch is somehow equal to unadulterated time with God.  The truth is that prayer can be as simple as you want to make it, or as complicated as some have made it.  And the deeper truth is less about how you go about it, and more that you and I actually engage in IT. 

“The whole reason why we pray is to be united into the vision and contemplation of God to whom we pray.” – Julian of Norwich

So, let’s all, across all of our campuses and online, ask ourselves the question, “What keeps me from engaging in prayer with God?”

The answers I’m sure vary from I do engage with God in prayer to, I just don’t want to engage with a God that I’m not even sure exists.  Then there’s the nuance of our honesty in-between:  I just get busy, God knows my heart and my situation, I don’t know where to start, I don’t know what to say, and for this week’s focus, and one that I’m sure most of face, “I feel like a fraud (a failure) when I try to engage God in prayer.” 

So this week we’ve titled this message, “The Prayer for Screw-Ups”


Some of us may not like that title, some of us may even be offended by that title, and yet ALL of us have had moments where that is exactly how we feel.  Here’s the good news, God has anticipated the reaction from us from the very beginning.  

If we’re going to do this right, then we have to go back to the very first screw up:

Here’s the context:

Adam and Eve, the first humans that were created, screw up the goodness of the Garden of Eden by doing the ONE thing they are not supposed to, and instead of engaging God, they cover themselves and hide from God.  This has been our human condition even since. 

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 

Genesis 3:7-8

And yet, that is God’s expectation from us and yet his response is the opposite of what we expect:

He pursues them, has a conversation with them and then provides for their needs through clothing them. That is God’s nature to move toward us in our sin, not away.

When we fail, we are invited to run to God, not run from God.

Psychological questions can follow us in regards to our response to failure in general.  For example, Atychiphobia is an intense fear of failure.  Many factors come into play for those who suffer from this internal intensity (family of origin, trauma, moments of humiliation that scarred us).  This fear can plague people for their entire lives.

Many of us have this same type of overwhelming response when it comes to the idea, the notion, that the God who created the universe wants time with us.  We immediately see where we fall short, we point the reasons why we are unloveable, we self sabotage our souls.

BUT, do we fully understand that a life of prayer starts with understanding who we are and who God is.  It is understanding that we are broken and sinful. There is a disease within us called sin and we can do nothing to fix it. It is only by coming to God with our shattered lives that we understand how messed up we are, and how perfect He is.

This is where Adam and Eve missed it.  God was trying to have them enjoy the garden of Eden and time with Him, that’s it!  Once they engage in a practice that was not for them, they now have a deeper understanding of their own limitations and get to “see” because their eyes are now opened.  They didn’t have a family of origin to blame, they didn’t have a trauma from their upbringing, no, they found out the hard way that we as people are not good, we are flawed and fall short in so many ways.  Yet, God does not reject them from himself, instead, God seeks them out and draws them back to himself.


So what does this mean for you and I?  What is the prayer for screw ups?  

Confession is the prayer for screw-ups

With that kind of heart posture, prayer is then entrusting our lives to the one who created us, the one who is Holy (set apart; in a class of His own), and the one who offers us grace.

King David for all of his goodness and all of his accomplishments, was jacked up just like the rest of us. And sometimes because of the nature of the sins he commits in this story we separate ourselves and go “I would never do that!” But here’s what you and I need to understand: each and every one of us is capable of doing the things we said we would never do. Think of the worst hurt you can cause yourself or someone else- you are capable of doing that. And that’s important to note, because if we never see the capacity for darkness in ourselves, then we will never truly understand the power and grace available to us through Jesus.

So as we go through this story don’t distance yourself from it. Lean in and learn:

David is being confronted for his sins, and they’re the big ones.  He’s been lazy and not doing what he’s supposed to be doing as ruler of a nation.  In that time period he laid eyes on a woman (Bathsheba) that was married to another man. In his lust, he sought her out, seduced her, laid with her, and before you know it, she’s found to be with child.  He then calls for her faithful husband (Uriah) to come back from battle, in order that he may lay with her to cover up the pregnancy, when the man says he will not because his soldiers on the field are not allowed to be home, David sets him up in the worst part of the battle, and he is killed.  David then moves his widowed wife into his palace to have his son.

Nathan, the prophet, confronts David in a wise and unassuming way by telling him a story of injustice that has been playing out.  When David heard of this injustice, scripture says that his “anger was aroused.”  He wanted to find the guilty party, and that is when Nathan informed him that the villain in the story was David himself.  

So imagine that your heart has been hardened to the point that you can do this to another man, then you are told of an injustice that someone else has done, and your heart wants to do the right thing for another person.  David vacillates in his emotions which tells us that his soul just might be in turmoil. John Cassian, a Christian monk from the 4th century says this about prayer and the state of our soul.

“There are as many forms of prayer as there are states of soul. A person prays in a certain manner when cheerful and in another when weighed down by sadness or a sense of hopelessness. When one is flourishing spiritually, prayer is different from when one is oppressed by the extent of one’s struggles.”

– John Cassian

So now follow along with me as you read David’s prayer of confession:

  • Psalm 51 and 1 Samuel 11 – 1 Samuel 12:1-13 Back story

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

2  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

4   Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

5  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6  Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9  Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13  Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.

14  Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.

16  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

  1. We confess to God for forgiveness

David confesses to God realizing He has first and foremost hurt the heart of God. (verses 4-5)

This Sin (missing the mark) separates us from God, but when we come into confession we no longer let shame, condemnation, or pride have the final say

1 John 1:8-9-  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

  1. We confess to each other for healing

Sharing with others keeps us from controlling the narrative, which in turn keeps us humble. David doesn’t get power hungry when he’s confronted by Nathan, he doesn’t use his position/authority to silence the prophet.  Instead he confesses to him, and in that confession his sin (where he missed the mark) comes to light, and it then loses its power.

James 5:16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Many of us are stuck in cyclical patterns, addictions, and unhealthy ways because we don’t press into confessional community.

OR we tell people bits and pieces of the truth because we are deathly afraid of being fully known and vulnerable

Confession to others (running partners, spouse, therapist, pastor) is what brings healing and accountability

  1. Prayers of confession and repentance should be a daily part of our lives.
  • Verses 10-12

That should be our prayer everyday “Create in me a pure heart.”  

Psalm 139:23-24 – Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Confession keeps us humble before God and softens our hearts to the brokenness in others

  • Life change happens when we know how much we’ve been forgiven

David was not called “A man after God’s own heart” because he was perfect- far from it. He was called that because he was honest before God. He consistently brought his brokenness before God.

He recognized his wins were really God’s victories, and his losses he could entrust into the hands of a loving God

Psalm 51:15-17

Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is  a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Your heart and soul are forever changed when you and I fully engage this cycle of confession, contrition and God’s mercy to forgive our transgressions.  God came for the screw ups of the world, because we are all, in some shape or form, prone to be one.  The crazy, unimaginable fact is that when we embrace that label, it’s one that God will not turn away.

Pray for those who are wanting to turn to God, or return to God.

Confessional Prayer Resource – Digging Deeper

Confession Prayer based on Psalm 51

The beauty of the Psalms is they show us how to pray in every situation- through every emotion, through good and bad times. So, let David’s words be a guide to us in how to pray through our screw ups. There is not one person in this room who is exempt from screw ups, who has no ounce of guilt or shame cowering in a dark corner of our hearts. So, right now, wherever you are and whatever you’re hiding, let’s make David’s confession our own. 

Confession prayer: 

  1. First, like David does, let’s acknowledge who God is– He is gracious, loving and merciful, and stands ready and eager to forgive
    1. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
      according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
  2. Now, name your sin– Sin wants to stay hidden in the dark, God can’t heal what you don’t bring to the light.
    1. Ask the Spirit to examine your heart. What in your thoughts or actions that you have hidden would you be horrified to have displayed before this room? Confess what you’ve been hiding and name it as sin. 
    2. Psalm 51:4   Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
  3. Ask God to forgive you, heal and cleanse you.
    1. Psalm 51:2  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

  1. Receive God’s forgiveness through Jesus.
    1. Jesus has already dealt with this sin on the cross, purchasing your forgiveness and right relationship with God. 
    2. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Cor. 5:21
    3. Thank Him for His forgiveness and freely receive this gift. 
  2. End where you began- the character of God. We can trust Him to forgive, cleanse us and restore us to Himself. It is His joy to do so!
    1. Absolution- this is where you speak God’s forgiveness over the congregation  
    2. We are promisedIf we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:8-9
    3. God loves you and He forgives you!

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About John and Kathy Burke

After ministry in Santa Barbara, the former Soviet Union, and Chicago, in one of the […]


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