The prayer to produce repentance is a key prayer in spiritual growth and fruitfulness. While it is a key prayer, it should not be a regular, common prayer in the life of an individual. Constant prayer for repentance is a clear sign of unsuccessful prayer for repentance.
Like all other prayer types we need to know the results we are working to produce and the steps to produce them. We need to know if this is a prayer where God gives us the results, or if it is a prayer where God gives us the means to produce the results. If we just throw out what we call a prayer to produce what we call repentance we are unlikely to produce real repentance.
What is repentance? Repentance is most commonly thought of as being sorry for committing sin. It is usually results in a confession of sorrow and a prayer asking to be forgiven. It may include a request for help to not repeat the sin - i.e. a prayer for God to give the results of repentance. This common idea of repentance misses what repentance is - it fails to see that it is a prayer where God gives us the means to produce the results - so it fails to see the steps required. Taking the wrong steps while trying to produce the wrong result results in failure to produce repentance and this results in constant repetition. In the worst case the person accepts failure to repent as inevitable and quits trying to repent.
The idea of repentance working to not repeat sin is correct, but it isn’t complete enough to produce true repentance. Repentance is a reversal of direction, specifically a reversal in direction with respect to the sin committed. We need to fill out our understanding of what sin is and how it works if we are to be successful in reversing direction.
Sinning is bearing corrupt fruit. Successful repentance ends the corrupt fruit bearing and works to bring forth good fruit.
That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. (Mark 7:20-23)
If we are working to repent of pride, or theft, or covetousness, or deceit; we need to understand that those things are coming forth from our heart. To repent we need to stop the things in our heart from producing them: the seed being sown into our heart to produce it and the seed already sown that is producing it. Attempting to suppress the fruit won’t work: seed conceived will bring forth the fruit.
To do that we must
stop the flow of seed that is bringing forth corrupt fruit
remove the current plants bringing forth corrupt fruit
sow the word of God to produce good fruit
When Jesus taught us about the word of God being sown into our hearts to produce good fruit, he also taught us that corrupt seed entered into our hearts to choke the word and cause it to become unfruitful. (Mark 4:19) The fruit of this corrupt seed - the cares of this world, the lust of other things, the pleasures of this life, and the trust in false riches - is the fruit that comes forth from the heart and defiles us. In James 1:14-15 we are told that when the seed of wrong desire conceives in our heart it brings forth sin. This is the fruit we are trying to repent from producing and this is how it is produced in us.
The first step in repentance is identifying the source of the seed. We have to turn away from and separate ourselves from physical sources of seed we hear with our ears or see with our eyes.
Some of these sources may be friends and family. We may try limiting our contact with them until we build up strength to cast down the corrupt seed they spread. If that isn’t sufficient to stop the flow of corrupt seed into our heart, then more complete separation may be necessary. This is one to really seek God’s guidance on.
We have to be alert to and cast down seed from spiritual sources. The armor of God is required to overcome the flow of seed bringing forth corrupt fruit.
Stopping the flow of new seed is just the first step in working to stop bearing corrupt fruit. If you are bringing forth corrupt fruit, there is already a thriving plant in your heart producing that fruit. Fortunately, Jesus told us how to deal with this.
And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell. And if your right hand offend you, cut it off, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)
It isn’t our right eye, left eye, or any other member of our body that is bringing forth fruit that defiles us: it is wrong desire or wrong belief in our heart. Jesus tells us that, if we believe, we can speak to the tree of wrong desire or belief and command it to be plucked up by the roots and cast into the sea and it will obey us. No more plant, no more corrupt fruit.
Seeds and plants that produce corrupt fruit have a common root: what I want. What I want to have, what I want to consume, what I want to do, what I want to see or hear, what I want to believe, what I want to be, what I want others to think I am. Successful repentance puts the ax to the root of the tree: casts out what I want and replaces it with what God wants. Repentance reverses course from bearing the fruit of what I want to bearing the fruit of being submitted to, content with, and thankful for what God wants for us.
The final step in repentance is sowing God’s word into our hearts so that it brings forth fruit that strengthens us to resist corrupt seed and works in us to refuse wrong desires and beliefs. This is helped tremendously by asking God to send his Spirit of truth to guide you and lead you into all the truth.
Prayer to produce repentance works for reversing things that are not sin. Any wrong desire or belief can and should be removed through repentance.
Guard your heart more than anything that is guarded; for out of it are the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23)