One of the habits of grace that Christians misunderstand every and then is prayer. We immediately assume that praying is asking something from God. What we don’t realize, according to God’s Word, is that there is actually more to it—prayer glorifies God, and it also comforts and unites believers. We spoke with Trevor Bates, author of Confess, to discuss the importance of prayer and what it truly means to confess.
Tell us about yourself and how you came to know Christ.
I am a husband, father to two girls, a Baptist pastor, and a theologian. I have been preaching for many years but I have been officially ordained in the SBC for a little under a year now. My family and I recently moved from Louisville, KY to Knifley, KY. Knifley is a small town between Campbellsvile and Liberty, where we moved for a ministry opportunity. I grew up in a Christian household, my father being a pastor for most of my boyhood years. Around 8 or 9 years old, I was in a VBS in a small church when the lady who led the VBS began to grab some of the children by the hand and tell them they needed to go up and get saved. Unfortunately, I believed that I was saved because of that work. But what I came to realize over the subsequent years was that salvation was not mine, that I was still dead in my sins.
So, it was around my Junior year of high school that I came to the text of 2 Corinthians 4. Though I attended a Christian high school and had Bible class and chapel, I just felt hopeless. The Lord used 2 Corinthians 4 to enlighten my eyes to the reality that we are all wasting away, all getting closer to Heaven or Hell with each breath. It was then that I knew I was saved. The Lord did a work in my life that I could never have done myself: He opened my eyes and caused me to repent (turn away from my sin) and believe in Him.
How important is prayer in a believer’s life?
Time and time again we see throughout the Bible that prayer is something upon which great emphasis is placed. Paul says in multiple epistles that we are to pray without ceasing. I think that the most important text regarding prayer is in Jesus’ Own sermon on the mount, when in Matthew 6:9-13 our Lord Jesus instructs us how to pray.
What strikes me about the Lord’s Prayer is not so much the how-to aspect but rather what Jesus says just before getting to this how-to aspect. He says, “When you pray…” There we have it: prayer is immensely important. The expectation of Christ is that we pray often and when we pray, we pray in such a way that honors and reveres God. Prayer trains us to trust in Him.
Now let’s talk about confession. Is there a difference between praying and confessing?
It really depends on which type of confession we are talking about. There is the sort of confession I aim to address toward the end of this book which deals more specifically with confessing our sins to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. That confession begins with speaking to brothers and sisters who care for us. This should lead us to prayer, but that initial act of confessing to brothers and sisters is not itself prayer.
On the other hand, confessing our sins to God is something we do through prayer. In Psalm 51, the psalmist says he acknowledges his sin to God. This sort of confessing, of admitting the sins that are in your life, is something you bring before God Who is “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).
In the Philippines, confession is often thought of as a Roman Catholic Church practice held in a confessional with a priest. What then is the actual, biblical definition of “confession”?
That is a great question. In fact, this was one of my concerns when I wrote the book, that such confession would be understood as a sort of sacrament or ordinance such as would be practiced in the Roman Catholic faith. Just to sort of clear away the ramble, let me define a bit for those who might read this what Roman Catholics practice in regards to confession.
A sin, or sins, would be committed, and the practice of the Catholics is to bring those sins before the father, or priest, to whom they would confess their sins. This act of confession is performed in hopes of receiving pardon from the priest. Either the priest pardons or the priest gives the confessor steps to receive pardon, such as Hail Mary’s. This act of confession treats the priest as a mediator, which concerns me given the fact that Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5 says that there is “one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.”
So, the sort of confession I am speaking of is this Biblical understanding of bringing our sins before the true Mediator, to Jesus Himself. Our sins are forgiven in Christ, not through our own works or the words of a fellow-man. God alone has the power to forgive sins (Mark 2:7), so to Him alone should we bring our sins. Now, when we get to discussing confessing our sins to one another, the confession does not end with that fellow-man. The end goal is to bring those confessions to the Lord.
But one might argue, “I have just prayed about my sins to God and I think that’s enough.” How would you respond to that?
The command of the Bible is to walk in the light (see 1 John). Walking in the light requires both a confession of the darkness in which you walked, and a turning away from that darkness to then walk in the light. Forgiveness from Christ comes also with the grace to walk in holiness.
Knowing this truth, how did this change you personally?
I was honestly convicted as I wrote this book. There are certain topics in the Bible about which I write or preach and I feel the conviction of the Lord at work. Thankfully, the Lord both convicts and comforts, and His conviction and comfort have led me to a closer walk with Him. I feel that I have been able to recognize and confess my sins better now because I trust that He is faithful and righteous to forgive.
You have this new book titled “Confess”. Can you tell the readers a bit about this book?
This book came about as a result of reading through 1 John again. 1 John gives us 10-12 commands to “walk in the light.” Walking in the light requires a work of God in us, and confessing our sins before Him is the conduit through which He works in us. He gives us forgiveness and the grace to then walk in that forgiveness. My burden is for others to see this glorious truth.
Can you tell us the process of writing “Confess”?
Much like my process of writing a sermon, I began with a text of Scripture. Each thought and chapter stemmed out from the Bible. I wrote, re-wrote, referred to sermons I had previously preached on the topic, referred to commentaries, and, most importantly, I prayed through it all.
I believe you as pastor, your first audience or reader is your congregation. So how did the church respond to your book?
Honestly, I do not market it too much to the church. I write with a pastoral tone, but keeping the flock of Christ from thinking of me as a celebrity or something of that nature, I believe, is helpful and humbling. For those who have read the book within our congregation have been helped by it, and thankfully so. Any time I hear of God’s grace at work in and through my weak and frail efforts, I am both humbled and honored.
Your book is so encouraging that makes me love my church more. You really connected prayer and fellow believers in this book.
Thank you! This is exactly what my prayer has been: that the church would be encouraged. To see Christ glorified and His people built up is my highest calling and prayer.
Any parting word for Christians out there who still struggle in this area of their Christian life.
Trust in the Lord. I am so encouraged by Proverbs 3, in which King Solomon, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes to us that we should not lean on our own understanding but should trust in the Lord with all our heart. If confessing is something with which you find yourself struggling, remember that we can trust in the Lord Who calls us to come to Him for rest (Matt. 11:28-30). In Christ alone can we find rest for our weary and troubled soul.
An invitation to read “Confess”
I would just like to invite folks to get the book. It can be found on Amazon, along with my others books. I have written Of Postmodern Effects, dealing with postmodernism in our culture; A Theology of Thanksgiving: How the Psalms Shape our View & Worship of God, based on the history and meaning of Thanksgiving; Confess: How Confessing Your Secret Sins Produces Comfort & Unity, the book we are currently discussing; and, most recently, Expository Preaching: A Treatise on Biblical Homiletics, addressing the recovery of the gospel as the center of the pulpit ministry.
With each of my books, my goal is not to make money or get known. My goal is the same as with my preaching: to see Christ glorified and His people sanctified. Similarly, to see the dead given life in Christ is a burden of mine. I pray that this book, Confess, will serve you well.
Getting in touch with Trevor Bates
I can be contacted via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or folks can leave a review on Amazon to connect with me that way. There is also a Facebook page for the book, which can be found by searching for Confess in the search bar. I also invite folks to check out Bleeding Bibline on YouTube, where I post sermons, teaching sessions, book reviews, and book trailers.
(Click here to read sample quotes from Trevor Bates book, Confess)