One Puritan prayer calls sin “the dark guest.” In this prayer, the author is brutally honest with himself, admitting, “I am not yet weaned from all created glory, honour, wisdom, and esteem of others, for I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do.” He prays for “a discovered sinfulness, to know that though my sins are crucified they are never wholly mortified [or, put to death].” He confesses Christ has paid for the sins that hunger for approval and applause and that though they are forgiven, they continue to rise in his heart. He finishes the prayer with an appeal for grace to combat the sin which threatens to rear its ugly head in his life.

Rarely are prayers as self-aware or as humble, freely admitting not only fault but the struggle with sin. Many of our prayers are filled with petitions for good health and requests for strength, peace, or material blessings. We pepper them liberally with first-person pronouns like “I” and “my”—thus revealing the self-centered nature of our communication with God. We may call upon God for help in defeating our sins, but it seems that this petition usually comes last and only after admitting that we sin “occasionally” or “from time to time,” as if sin is more a rarity than a regularity.

It takes a concerted effort on the part of the believer to look deep inside to discover our faults. We are more than adept at finding them in others, but how easily do we see them in ourselves? Further, how often are we more than happy to pretend they don’t exist rather than face the hard truth that we aren’t nearly as perfect as we’d like to be?

Sin is a universal problem for humanity. We will struggle with it from now until our last breath on earth. We have to be willing to admit whenever the dark guest has taken up residence in our souls and evict it with extreme prejudice.