Prayer For Accountability in Our Christian Life
8 Benefits of Prayer You Can’t Afford to Miss
“Let us come forward with boldness to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace for timely help.” – Heb. 4:16
How is your prayer life with the Lord? If you’ve been a believer for some time, you may have realized the difficulty of building up a prayer life… and possibly even given up. And that’s really a loss because the benefits of prayer are so tremendous.
Since it’s so easy to get discouraged and give up on prayer, it’s worth considering some of the awesome benefits of prayer that make pursuing a prayer life worthwhile.
So in this post, we’ll consider eight benefits of prayer that I hope will encourage you to build up a persevering prayer life.
1. Prayer enables you to set your mind on the things above.
Colossians 3:2 says,
“Set your mind on the things which are above, not on the things which are on the earth.”
How could we fulfill God’s word in this verse except by prayer?
Prayer is the way to have our mind set on the things above. That’s because proper prayer elevates our mind from our earthly concerns to God’s heavenly interests.
2. Prayer enables Christ to carry out His heavenly administration.
The Lord’s instruction in Matthew 6:9-13 is not just a prayer to recite, but a pattern of prayer that carries out God’s administration,
“Our Father who is in the heavens, Your name be sanctified; Your kingdom come; Your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth…”
When our minds are set on the things above, as we just mentioned, we’re able to respond to God’s heavenly interests and express them through our prayer.
During such times of prayer, we become a reflection of Christ’s ministry in the heavens (Rom. 8:34). What a benefit!
3. Prayer ushers you into the Holy of Holies to receive grace.
Another benefit of prayer is to touch the “throne of grace” to find grace for your timely help.
Hebrews 4:16 says,
“Let us therefore come forward with boldness to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace for timely help.”
What is grace? It is more than God’s unmerited favor.
Grace is “God in Christ as our supply and enjoyment, conveyed to us and realized through the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:19)”—Phil. 4:23, note 1 in the Recovery Version.
When we pray, we enter into the Holy of Holies and touch the throne of grace to enjoy the hidden Christ in our spirit.In fact, enjoying the flowing of God’s grace in our prayer is more important than having our prayers answered.
The primary thing is that grace a river flows from the throne and into our being. Here is a refreshing hymn that expresses this benefit. You may even want to sing or declare the lyrics as a part of your prayer.
4. Prayer charges your “spiritual battery” to live the Christian life.
The Christian life is a tool or toy with a battery. Without being regularly charged, our “spiritual battery” will lack the power needed to carry out its intended functions. Our prayer is our connection to the “charging station.”
When we pray, our “spiritual battery” is charged with the heavenly current. This heavenly current, this divine electricity, is the Triune God Himself as grace flowing from the throne—the “heavenly power plant”—into us.
Revelation 22:1 says,
“And He showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding the throne of God and of the Lamb…”
This divine, flowing river proceeding from God’s throne supplies the power to charge us whenever we pray.
5. Prayer brings you into fellowship with the Lord.
Prayer is the contact of our spirit with God’s spirit. John 4:24 says,
“God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit…”
It’s by such God-contacting prayer that we enter into fellowship with the Lord and become conscious of the fact that we are really one spirit with Him and that He is actually one spirit with us (1 Cor. 6:17). This also is a tremendous benefit!
Here is a post with practical points on how to pray to fellowship with the Lord and an enriching hymn to strengthen this point.
6. Prayer renews you for the new man.
Ephesians 4:23-24 says,
“And that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new man…”
This means that whenever we contact the Lord as the Spirit with our spirit through prayer, this spirit spreads into our mind for our renewing. In such a way we are being renewed for the new man.
This new man is Christ’s Body today and will become the New Jerusalem for eternity (Rev. 21:2). How wonderful that we can be renewed for the new man by our prayer. What a benefit!
7. Prayer lets the peace of Christ arbitrate in your heart.
Colossians 3:15 says,
“And let the peace of Christ arbitrate in your hearts, to which also you were called in one Body, and be thankful.”
This kind of peace isn’t just freedom from worry, but the peace between different peoples. How can we, as believers, let the peace of Christ arbitrate in all our relationships with people, especially other believers that are different from us. It’s only by our prayer.
When we pray, Christ will become the real umpire, ruler, and decider in everything. The main “call” our “Umpire” makes is “you’re wrong! Repent. Confess and say you’re sorry.”
Such prayer preserves the peace in our marriage life, family life, Christian life and church life. This arbitrating peace is a great benefit of prayer!
8. Prayer allows the word of Christ to dwell in you richly
Colossians 3:16 says,
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom…”
But how? One of the greatest discoveries of my Christian life was learning how to receive God’s word in the Bible by means of prayer, that is, pray-reading it.
By pray-reading, you not only gain some mental understanding from the Bible, but you’re nourished with life element in God’s Word. God’s words become “spirit and life” to you (John 6:63).
Don’t just take my word for it. Here are 12 tips on how to pray-read the Word of God to be spiritually nourished.
Try it! See if you don’t say with the prophet Jeremiah, “Your word became to me the gladness and joy of my heart” (Jer. 15:16). This is a most wonderful benefit of prayer!
In a following post, I’ll go on the consider some practical tips on how to build up such a persevering prayer life.
Have you been encouraged by these eight benefits of prayer? If so, please take a moment share the post, add a comment, or join the conversation on the Holding to Truth Page.
References and Further Reading:
Study 5 THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER – Words of Life Ministries
(Scripture Portion: Luke 11: 1-13; 18: 1-8)
To the born again soul, prayer is as essential as breathing, and to neglect it must result in weakness and defeat. It is not only important that Christians should pray, but it is of supreme importance.
This fact makes our present study one to which we should give special heed. Christians need instruction about prayer - its meaning, its promises, its method and its value - look up Luke 11:1.
How wonderful to be taught to pray by John; how much more wonderful to be taught by the Lord Jesus! - and look up Romans 8:26-27.
What is prayer? C. H. Spurgeon said that, “The heart of prayer is the prayer of the heart.” It does not consist simply of words, gestures, forms or eloquence.
“Prayer is the address of a poor creature on earth to a great Creator and loving Father in Heaven.
” Think about this simple definition; it reveals the supreme wonder of prayer that a poor sinful being can commune with the high and lofty One (Isaiah 57:15).
1. THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER IN THE LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN
- Prayer is of supreme importance in the life of the Christian because of the importance it is given in the Word of God. The Bible is full of the subject of prayer. Imagine what a mutilated book we should have if every reference to prayer were taken it.
The fact of the emphasis on this subject of prayer which is made in the Word of God indicates to us the supreme importance placed upon it by the Holy Spirit who is the Author of the book (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).
- Prayer is of supreme importance in the life of the Christian because of the teaching of our Lord.
Here again, imagine the four Gospels with every reference to prayer cut them. How mutilated the books would be! Over and over again our blessed Lord stressed the importance of prayer, gave wonderful promises in relation to prayer and encouraged His disciples (and us) to pray - look up Matthew 18:19, 21:22; Mark 11:24 and John 14:13-14.
He, in fact, is our great example in prayer - look up Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18 and 28; 11:1 and 22:41-42.
- Prayer is of supreme importance in the life of the Christian because it is the first instinct of the new life.
Just as the first instinct of a newly-born babe is to cry, and in so doing to use its lungs, so the first instinct of the newly-converted soul is to cry - look up Romans 8:15, and notice the illustration of this simple truth in Acts 9:11, where we read of Saul, immediately after his vision of the ascended Lord, praying.
- Prayer is of supreme importance in the life of the Christian because it is the Christian’s vital breath. The Christian life is a new life - His life, the life of the risen Lord Jesus implanted in us by the Holy Spirit - look up 1 John 5:13-14.
This new life can only be sustained by prayer, and only by prayer can we develop into robust, healthy Christians; without prayer we shall be anaemic, lifeless and ineffective. This means that we should pray privately (Matthew 6:6), frequently (Psalm 55:17), regularly (Daniel 6:10); in times of trouble (Psalm 50:15) - in fact, without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
- Prayer is of supreme importance in the life of the Christian because it is such a glorious privilege to pray.
The Christian life is full of privileges, but can you imagine any greater privilege than to enter into the holiest of all, into the throne room of the King, and to bow in humble worship at His feet, to speak with Him face to face and as friend with friend? How great is this privilege! - look up Hebrews 4:14-16 and 10:19-22.
- Prayer is of supreme importance in the life of the Christian because of all it can accomplish in supplying every need. It is perfectly true that “more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”, but think of the wonderful accounts of the power of prayer which have been recorded for us in the Word of God.
How many can you enumerate? In the light of these, is it not amazing that we do not pray more? For the believer, prayer is the divine method for supplying every need - look up Philippians 4:19; and the reason we do not have is because we do not ask - look up James 4:2. If only we would ask, we would receive - look up Luke 11:9-10. What is it you need? Money? A house? Food? Employment? The salvation of some loved one? Then ask!
- Prayer is of supreme importance in the life of the Christian because only through prayer can God’s will be accomplished. His working depends upon our asking – look up James 5:17. He waits to yield to our pleas - look up Ezekiel 36:37. This is how he has ordained it. The purpose of prayer is not to make God alter His will, but to provide Him with a channel through which He may accomplish His will.
2. THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH
It is only necessary to read the Book of Acts, which contains the inspired history of the early Church, to become convinced that the ministry of prayer was foremost in the life and the service of the Church.
The Church was born in a prayer meeting, as we discover by comparing Acts 1:13-14 and 2:1-4.
These early believers also attended the regular prayer meetings in the temple - look up Acts 3:1; moreover, in times of special testings they held special times of prayer - look up Acts 4:23-31; 12:1,5,12 and 17, and 16:25.
They believed that prayer was a priority matter - look up Acts 6:4, and they prayed when they longed that Matthew 9:38 should be fulfilled - look up Acts 13:1-4. Yes, and when they said farewell they prayed - look up Acts 20:36. Years ago, Dr Reuben Archer Torrey said,
- “Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God is, and all that God has, is at the disposal of the pray-er. But we must use the key. Prayer can do anything that God can do, and as God can do anything, prayer is omnipotent.”
May we prove it in our own lives and in the life of the Church.
Sermon: The Prayer Life of a Christian – Colossians 4
And every time we see Jesus praying He was praying with passion.
- In Luke 3:1 at His Baptism – while He was praying the heaven was opened. Passionate prayer opens Heaven.
- In Luke 6:12 before He called His disciples – He spent the whole night in prayer. Passionate prayer gives direction.
- In Luke 9:29 at His transfiguration – And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. Passionate prayer enables us to experience the glory of the Father.
- In John 17 in His high priestly prayer – Passionate prayer impacts the lives of others.
- In Matthew 26:39 in the Garden of Gethsemane – It is only through passionate prayer that we can pour out our hearts to God.
- In Luke 23:24 as He hung on the cross – a life that is lived in passionate prayer will enable us to maintain that spirit, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Jesus always prayed with passion, because He knew Who it was He was talking to and He knew that prayer to the Father is a powerful thing and not something to take lightly and glibly.
Prayer from the heart, that's what passionate prayer is, it is prayer from the heart not just from the head.
That is how He taught us to pray, not only through His example, but specifically through His teaching Look in Matthew 6:7, in the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus instructs on prayer. It is here that we find the Lord's prayer. But just before the Lord's prayer what does He say?
“When you pray, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do.”
(Jews around the world may now send prayers via fax to the Wailing Wall)What has happened to the Lord's Prayer? People repeat it as if it were some kind of magic mantra that will bless them or move God to hear them.
They are doing with it is exactly what He was instructing us not to do with it.
The gentiles, when they prayed tried, through their religious repetitions, with their chants and their mantras to call forth or impress their Gods. That is not what you do when you are in a relationship.
You don't tell your wife. “I love you, oh I really love you and I just wanted to tell you today that I love you, I'm so glad that I just have this time to just say I love you. Please feed the children, please clean the house and may all go well with you.” Amen
James 5:16 says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
III. Pray with thankfulness
Paul never fails to mention it.
- Ephesians 5:20 tells us that thanksgiving is the natural result of being filled with and walking under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
- Philippians 4:6 tells us to be anxious for nothing but in everything we should pray, giving thanks as we make our petitions known to God.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us that giving thanks at all times is God's will for us in Christ Jesus.
- Colossians 3:17 says that as believers everything we say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus as we give thanks to Him.
- 1 Timothy 4:4 – says that food and marriage are good things given to us by God and are to be received with thanksgiving and gratitude.
Expressing gratitude does several things:
- It articulates dependence
- It demonstrates relationship
- It communicates gratitude – proper attitudes
- It generates humility
IV. Pray, making intercession
Intercessory prayer is basically praying for others, it is praying for God's will to be done in the lives of other people.
Intercessory prayers characterized the prayer life of Jesus.
- In Isaiah 53:12 the Bible says, He Himself bore the sins of many and, interceded for the transgressors.”
- Luke 22:23 Jesus tells Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail;”
- Luke 23:34 on the cross, Jesus was praying for others when He said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
- John 14:15 Jesus interceded for us, asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit
- John 17:19 He prayed for us, the church, in His High Priestly prayer. Listen to the intercessory nature of this prayer, “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou has given Me . . . “
- Romans 8:34 tells us that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us.
- And Hebrews 7:25 says, “Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
Jesus prayed intercessory prayers, He was ever praying for others.
Understanding the power of Prayer, Paul wanted to be sure the Colossian Christians understood what it was they were to pray for. He wanted them to pray with a specific purpose. He wanted them to pray for him, asking God to open a door so that they could speak the gospel.
It was the gospel that Paul lived for, it was the preaching of the gospel that had landed Paul in prison, it was the preaching of the gospel that was ever on the forefront of Paul's mind. You see, Paul wanted God's kingdom to expand.
Jesus, he was concerned about others, about their souls, their salvation and their sanctification.
It is instructive to note that Paul is not asking them to pray for his legal situation or that he would be released from prison. He is asking them to pray that he will have the opportunity to lead someone to Christ.
Paul wanted their prayers to be in accordance with God's will not simply after the greedy desires of someone living for this world.
Paul was always concerned with doing the will of God.
How many of our prayers are directed at the expansion of His eternal kingdom rather than the expansion of our petty kingdoms? If you were able to chronicle your prayers, knowing how much time you spent praying for different things, how much of your time would be spent praying for your family, for their health, for the health and well being of your loved ones, compared to how much time you were praying for the lost who are headed to hell?
Intercessory prayer changes things.
Howard Hendricks, who for years taught at the Dallas Theological Seminary and pastored in the area shared this story. He said:Years ago in a church in Dallas we were having trouble finding a teacher for a junior high boys class. The list of prospects had only one name — and when they told me who it was I said, “You've got to be kidding.” But I couldn't have been more wrong about that young man. He took the class and revolutionized it.
I was so impressed I invited him to my home for lunch and asked him the secret of his success. He pulled out a little black book.
On each page he had a small picture of one of the boys, and under the boy's name were comments “having trouble in arithmetic,” or “comes to church against parents' wishes,” or “would to be a missionary some day, but doesn't think he has what it takes.”
“I pray over those pages every day,” he said, “and I can hardly wait to come to church each Sunday to see what God has been doing in their lives.”
You see, when you pray for others, when you pray for God's work to be done, for His will to be accomplished, He will begin to use you and grow you in ways that will astonish those around you.
Sometimes I think we do not become what God wants us to become, because we are too focused on ourselves and not on others.
It is when we pray for others that we will become more Jesus, and as we become more Jesus God will grow us more, show us more, and use us more.
We must pray for others.
Five things that happen when we pray:
1. Prayer internalizes the burden
It deepens our ownership of the burden and our partnership with God. As we pray we begin to become aware of how God might us to answer the prayer, how He might involve us in ways we had not theretofore foreseen.
2. Prayer forces us to wait
Part of prayer is always waiting for God. God has three answers to prayers: Yes, no and wait. Yes and no are no-brainers. But wait, that is tough.
John MacArthur says: “There is a tension between boldness and waiting on God's will. That tension is resolved by being persistent, yet accepting God's answer when it finally comes.
” Instead of getting frustrated that God is not on our schedule, prayer forces us to be on God's timetable.
3. Prayer opens our spiritual eyes
It enables us to get in touch with what God is doing and how He is doing it.
In II Kings 6 you may recall the story of when the Army of Israel was surrounded by their enemies and Elijah's servant got nervous. Verses 15-17 say
Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city.
And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the LORD opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Prayer opens our eyes, enabling us to see what God is doing, to see things we are blinded to without prayer. That's because prayer is communication. We speak to God, God answers us, speaking to us, showing us.
4. It aligns our heart with God's heart
Adjustment, alignment, setting our thoughts, emotions, actions.
5. Prayer enables us to move forward
Prayer engages God, enables God's people, and enlarges His kingdom. Jesus said, “without Me, you can do nothing.” Once we have prayed we are ready to do anything, until we have prayed we can do nothing, but once we have prayed we can accomplish anything.
What does your prayer life look this morning? Are you persistent in prayer? Are your prayers passionate or are they perfunctory? Are they filled with intensity and fervor or are they weak, timid and lacking faith? What about gratitude? How much time have you spent thanking God for all He has done for you? And who are you praying for? Is there anyone in your life that you are praying will get saved? Is there a burden on your heart to see God's kingdom expand, to see His will done?
The Power Of Prophetic Accountability
Are you seeking to grow your prophetic gift? Accountability is a vital key to develop a prophetic ministry with increasing accuracy, integrity, and wisdom.
Accountability is not popular in our independence-loving culture. And yet true, Biblical accountability is designed and ordained by God. Our Father’s intention is that we operate in our spiritual gifts and ministries in the context of community that includes leadership. (Eph 4, 1 Cor 12-14) Accountability is one aspect of relating to oversight.
What does Prophetic Accountability Mean?
Genuine accountability is not just by name only, to be effective it must include:
- Answerability: (Gal 2:1-2)We report to someone concerning our ministry, as well as revelation (prophetic insights) that we have received from God.
- Transparency: (Eph 4:25)We are not holding back information that is relevant to the process.
- Teachability: (Acts 18:26)We are willing to learn and change.
- Submission: (Heb 13:17)There are times when we obey directives when we do not feel it or necessarily agree with it. (Note: I am referring to leadership decisions, not issues contrary to Biblical, legal or moral principles) 
Accountability is not solely to oversight, it can also be outward—for example, to our team. It can be voluntary, (we seek it out) or a set part of our ministry role.
In Church life, accountability flows through the unique leadership structure of each local church and church movement. (Acts 20:28)
Signs that we are not accountable include:
- Operating in our gifts and ministries in isolation
- Not being open to correction or adjustment, or
- Believing we are only accountable directly to God (this is an Old Testament perspective). 
7 Reasons why Accountability is Beneficial in Prophetic Ministry
The themes of leadership and accountability run throughout the New Testament. Jesus demonstrated it in His discipleship process. The Apostle Paul wrote much concerning leadership. He also gave instruction concerning the practice of prophecy, which included accountability and guidelines. (1 Cor 14, 1 Thess 5)
We see a great example of how prophetic accountability functions in the life of Paul himself.
In a powerful open vision, God spoke to Paul about his future ministry to the Gentiles. However, he was only sent out from Antioch when the church leadership heard from God that it was time for him to be released into his Apostolic ministry. (Acts 13:1-3) Paul returned and reported back to his sending church. (Acts 14:26-28, 18:22)
When Paul received the revelation of the Gospel—God’s grace to the Gentiles—God led him to submit the revelation to the church oversight in Jerusalem, even though he received the revelation directly from God. (See Galatians 2:1-2)
2. It Sharpens our Prophetic Ministry
Prophetic ministry is not just about the revelation we receive. It also includes our interpretation of what the prophetic insight means, as well as where, when, how and to whom we communicate it. 
Weighing up prophetic insights is a Biblical mandate. (1 Cor 14:29, 1 Thess 5:20-21) Having an accountable relationship can help us to process our prophetic insights, gain wisdom, sharpen our prophetic gifts and increase our accuracy. As it has been said, ‘Feedback is the breakfast of champions.’ 
3. It Fosters Genuine Humility
‘Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.’ (Prov 13:10)
Being accountable and teachable in our prophetic ministry is a great antidote to pride and strengthens us in the area of humility. (1 Peter 5:5b)
4. The Power of God is Released through Authority
Spiritual authority and the power of God flows through the lines of appointed authority. (See remarkable examples of this in Acts 6:8; Acts 8:5) Jesus commended a Roman Centurion for understanding this principle. (Luke 7:7-9)
5. It Empowers the Church to act as a God Intends
God’s plan for the Church is for interdependence, not independence. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Cor 12:21)
Accountability is just one process that enables the Church community (body) to work together. Those who have prophetic gifts need to have alongside them, those with leadership gifts, as well as gifts of discernment and wisdom. (1 Cor 12)
6. Accountability Enables us to Grow in our Character
Eph 4:11-16, Proverbs 27:17 Prov 12:15
“As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
We all have ‘blind spots’. These may include character weaknesses, hurts, skewed perspectives, or judgments about others that we have made subconsciously. We will only grow and change when we allow someone outside of ourselves to have input. We also grow in character as we have a teachable attitude.
7. Accountability gives us Protection (Eccl 4:9-12)
Accountability acts as a safety net to protect us from pitfalls. One role of Christian leadership is to warn and admonish us when necessary. (1 Cor 4:14) We can also appeal to our oversight when we need authority or assistance in a given situation.
Accountability needs to be to the Right People
The appropriate person (or people) to be accountable to varies according to our situations and ministry. This may include someone who is a leader in our church or organisation, or a mentor. 
If our prophetic function is within the life of our local church, then we are accountable to our church leadership regarding the expression of our prophetic gift in the church. (1 Cor 14) 
If we are working for a Christian organisation, our ministry accountability may be outside of our local church. However, even if we are engaged in an itinerant ministry, our local church pastors and leaders can have valuable input into our lives. When we minister into our own or another local church, we are also accountable for that ministry to the oversight of that church.
Accountability also includes honouring prophetic guidelines and protocols when they have been put into place.
Notes:An example of submission in prophetic ministry is when our oversight instructs us not to share or act upon a prophetic insight we have received immediately, but to hold onto it and pray about it—and we carry out that request graciously.  For a helpful explanation of this see: Differences Between Old and New Testament Prophetic Ministry  See the article, Understand The Process of Prophecy  This quote is by Ken Blanchard  See the following articles on prophetic mentoring:
Prophetic Mentoring on a Personal Basis
8 Essentials of Healthy Prophetic Mentoring
Mentors should be in an accountability relationship themselves, spiritually healthy, and love and honour their church and leadership. Biblical leadership is not domineering or abusive, but strong ‘servant leadership’ as demonstrated by Jesus. (Matt 20:25-27, 1 Peter 5:3)
Do you have any questions or ideas on the topic of prophetic accountability? Leave a comment in the comments box. If the comments section is not visible, click on this link and scroll down.
© Helen Calder Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching
On team with David McCracken Ministries: Prophetic Ministry That Empowers The Church
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5 Reasons Why Christian Accountability Fails
The following is an excerpt from our free e-book, Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability.
In my previous article, I described the four key building blocks that give shape to our accountability relationships. These building blocks are James 5:16 and Hebrews 10:23-25: meeting together, confession of sin, prayer, and encouragement.
(This is structure of a healthy accountability relationship)
Accountability groups and partners are not magic pills. While accountability plays a crucial role in personal growth and holiness, there are many accountability pitfalls.
Here are five ways accountability often goes bad.
Problem #1: When Accountability Partners Are Absent
Accountability relationships need to be fostered through time together. It is hard to hold one another accountable when partners meet infrequently or sporadically (or not at all).
Often both parties are at fault. We might commit to “holding one another accountable,” but this is something vague, elusive, and undefined. Accountability partners need to have a very clear picture in their minds about what accountability really entails: face-to- face, voice-to-voice conversation.
When accountability partners do not meet in some fashion, the accountability relationship has no foundation. This means confession, prayer, and encouragement are erratic and shaky, at best.
Problem #2: When Accountability Groups Are Programmatic
When we read through the one-anothers of the New Testament, one cannot help but see the organic, family dynamic that is meant to exist in the church.
We are called to an earnest love for one another (1 Peter 1:22), brotherly affection (Romans 12:10), single-minded unity (Romans 15:5), eating together (1 Corinthians 11:33), bearing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and having the same care for each other (1 Corinthians 12:25).
But often our approach to accountability is programmatic. We simply don’t have the quality of friendships that are close and spiritually meaningful, so we search for it in forced and sometimes awkward settings.The church, of course, should offer support groups and discipleship models. “Program” is not a four-letter word. But these programs should aim toward something rich and natural.
If meeting together, prayer, confession, and encouragement are the building blocks of accountability, then many of the other one-anothers in the New Testament are the “atmosphere” of the relationship. This should not be an empty, austere structure, but filled with the air of Christian love and friendship. You may be “doing everything right” but it still feels empty and cold.
Problem #3: When Accountability Partners Are Sincerity-Centered
Confession is the central pillar of accountability, but there are a few ways this pillar can be constructed poorly.
The first way confession of sin can go wrong is when it becomes an end in and of itself. This is when we believe confession is the only point of accountability, something we do to put to rest our uneasy consciences and get something off our chests. These kinds of accountability relationships make “getting the secret out” the whole point.
As therapeutic as this might feel—and it is therapeutic—we need to be careful that in our confession of sin we don’t trivialize sin as something that resolves itself with mere sincerity.
Jonathan Dodson, pastor of Austin City Life church, says that one surefire way to ruin your accountability relationship is by making it “a circle of cheap confession by which you obtain cheap peace for your troubled conscience.”
Christians do not believe that pardon from sin comes from merely being honest about sin. Your sincerity wasn’t nailed to a Roman cross for your sins; Christ was. Peace with God comes only by leaning on what Christ has done for us (Romans 5:1). We often mistake the relief of unleashing our secrets with true peace.
Conversation must not stop at confession. The outermost pillars of the accountability relationship call us to prayer and encouragement. After humble confession, we should encourage one another with the assurance of forgiveness promised in the gospel, and we should approach God’s throne of grace in prayer together.
In this way we not only hold one another accountable for our behavior, but we also hold one another accountable for trusting in the gospel for our complete forgiveness.
Problem #4: When Accountability Partners Are Obedience-Centered
The first way the pillar of confession can be built poorly is when we aim at cheap peace. The second way the pillar of confession can be constructed poorly is when the focus is on moral performance.
Some Christian accountability groups are militant about sin—a healthy attitude in its own right. Members want to see others grow in holiness, so this becomes the focus of the group: questions and answers that deal with obedience.
The problem is, mere rule keeping does not itself get to the heart of sin. This is one of the great lessons Paul teaches again and again. Merely knowing the law only aggravates our lusts (Romans 7:7-12), and following rigid ascetic regulations—don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle—is “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23).What we need is a kind of accountability that corrects our natural tendency to focus on ourselves—own own performance or lack of performance—and instead focus on Christ and His obedience in our place.
Don’t turn the pillar of confession into a pedestal—a place where we can prop up the idol of our own obedience. Don’t turn accountability into a narcissistic program of self-improvement.
Accountability relationships this either center our thoughts on a few benchmarks of success that we might happen to be reaching, or force us into hiding because we don’t want to admit how much we are failing to hit the mark.
Problem #5: When Accountability Partners Forget the Gospel
Whether you slide toward being sincerity-centered or obedience-centered, both tendencies have ignored that the gospel is the capstone of accountability.
When we make our groups all about sincere confession with no expectation of change, we trivialize the very sins that were nailed to Jesus on the cross.
When we confess the same sins week after week, say a quick prayer, and go home, we merely highlight the cheap peace we feel from refreshing honesty, and we forget to comfort each other with a testimony of God’s grace of forgiveness.
We forget to challenge each other to fight sin in light of the motivations God provides in His Word.
When we make our groups all about obedience, we only reinforce our tendency to center our identity on our performance. This either drives us to rigid moralism or hiding the evil that lurks in us from others and ourselves.
Either way, these kinds of accountability relationships only reinforce legalism and self-absorption.
This robs us of the joy of building our identity on Christ’s obedience, and we lose an opportunity to speak about the grace of God that trains us to be godly.
This is why the gospel is the capstone of good accountability. Our confessions, prayers, and encouragement should all be done under the canopy of what the gospel promises God’s children.
- Confess your sins in light of the gospel. One aspect of repentance is agreeing with what God says about your sin, labeling your sin as truly sinful, as an affront to His holiness, something that cost Christ his life. Confess your sins to God and others knowing He is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).
- Pray together in light of the gospel. The gospel promises both grace to cover our sins (Romans 5:1-2) and grace to empower our obedience (Titus 2:11-14). Approach Christ together asking for this grace (Hebrews 4:16).
- Encourage one another in light of the gospel. Knowing that true internal change happens in our lives as we set our minds and affections on things above—the complete redemption that is coming to us (Colossians 3:1-4)—we should help one another do this. Mining the Scriptures together, we can teach and admonish one another in wisdom (v.16). We can strive together to have more of a foretaste of the holiness we are promised in the age to come.
We need responsive, gospel-driven accountability. As good accountability partners, we need to not only hear an account of our friends’ sins, but give an account of God’s grace—a grace that not only saves us from the guilt of sin, but also from the grip of sin.
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