By Greg Swinney
A nervous group of university students stood outside the barbed wire fence and steel gates of the state prison on a windy fall afternoon. The group of about 20 students joined hands to pray before entering the prison to lead a worship service. Just before he bowed his head to pray, the volunteer chaplain said, “We are expecting God to do a mighty work today in the hearts of the inmates here. If any of you need to quietly confess any sins or shortcomings to the Lord, please do it now. Unconfessed sin hinders the work of the Holy Spirit, and we don’t want anything to get in the way of God using us to share his grace with others.”
Nervous laughter among the group turned to silence. As each one bowed his head, a deep sense of conviction spread from one to another as each person realized the price Jesus paid to “set the prisoners free.” After a lengthy time of quiet prayer, confession, and a renewed desire for purity and holiness, the group entered through the steel doors.
We find ourselves in a similar setting today. During this worship time, we desire the Lord to work in our hearts and in the hearts of those around us. We want nothing to hinder his work of transformation. As we approach the Lord’s table, we bring our faults and our failures, our sins and our shortcomings, and we lay them at his feet. We do this not only with a repentant desire for cleansing, but also as an invitation for him to work in us and through us, unhindered.
We enter into this sacred space sharing the feelings of Isaiah. “‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty’” (Isaiah 6:5). Only after Isaiah confessed his need for cleansing did he hear the Lord say, “Who will go for us?” Isaiah responded, “Here am I. Send me!” (v. 8).
The psalmist also reminds us of this truth. “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).
As we enter into a time of holiness and silence, let’s remember how the body and blood of Jesus set us free from the prison of sin and death. Let’s not forget how this supernatural encounter with Jesus prepares us to be used by him in mighty ways in the days ahead.
Greg Swinney works as the ministry facilitator for Crossroads International Student Ministries located in Kearney, Nebraska, and serves as the national representative for the Association of College Ministries.