The Lord’s Prayer has been our focus this past week. In our quest for learning more about prayer and drawing closer to God, we have covered several areas: praise, acknowledging God as king, and laying our requests at His feet.
Today we will focus on Matthew 6: 12, 14-15 “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
When you go to God in prayer, it is best to have a clear conscience. (Not always easy because we have all fallen and fall short of the glory of God!), but we need to be right with God. We need to seek His forgiveness for the wrongs we have committed, or the rights we have not.
Before we can go any further in prayer, after asking God’s forgiveness we need to examine our hearts to determine we need to forgive anyone.
Sometimes, it is hard to let go of hurts. Sometimes it is painful. Sometimes we believe certain infractions are too difficult to forgive- I know.
But forgive we must, if we expect God to forgive.
So, how do we get from point A (deeply hurt) to point B (freely forgiving)?
Prayer. (Not to sound redundant! But seriously, who do you know who can suffer at the hands or mouths of others, and yet freely forgive without help from God?) God loves us when we are unlovable, we can pray for grace to love others when they are not easy to love.
I often remember the man talking with Jesus, asking Jesus to help him overcome his disbelief. When we need to forgive someone and find it difficult, if not near impossible on our own (!), we need to ask God to help us forgive them. God can provide that grace. We need to ask him to use us as a vessel, and let His grace flow through us toward the offender.
It is not easy. But, it is not impossible. (One side note: forgiving someone is necessary, but leaving yourself open to being hurt again is not what forgiving someone is about. You might forgive someone for assaulting you, but you do not need to walk down a darkened alley with him again.)
In a devotional I once read, Corrie ten Boom wrote about her public speaking experience after World War II. Her topic: forgiveness. One engagement in particular stood out in her mind. As she was speaking, one man in the audience looked very familiar to her. Near the end of her speech, she realized who he was: a guard from her concentration camp.
After her speech, this man made his way up to her. She wrote that it was all she could do to meet his gaze and shake his hand. His tear-filled eyes met hers and he said “I am sorry.”
She wrote that it was easier to forgive him after the apology, but not easy. We do not all receive some semblance of satisfaction, knowing the offender realized his wrongs, because we do not all receive an apology. Sometimes, the offender even lies about his mistakes. Yet, God has sufficient grace to cover that too.
Our goal is to do what we can to live peaceably with others. What someone else does is his concern, and he will be held accountable for it. We must focus on our part in the equation, and trust God to give us the grace to do what we are called to do.
Reflection: Is there anyone I need to forgive? How can I better pray for God’s help in this matter?