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The Lord's Prayer (The Way Forward in Christ Part 224)

June 20, 2024

Today’s gospel:

Matthew 6:7-15


      Our personal prayer time is referred to as our quiet time. We are to remain quiet before God, and listen to Him. “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” (v.7). People think of prayer as saying a lot of words to God—in adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. While we do have our words to say, it is God’s word that is important.     

We do not need to babble on, especially with our needs, because as Jesus says, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (v.8b). But if God knows what we need, why do we need to pray, or why do we ask Him for things? Well, prayer is not to inform God of things, as indeed He knows them all, but to enter into an ever deeper relationship with Him. It is not for God, it is for us.       

Further, if we talk of needs, God knows best what we need. We often ask for a lot of things that we think we need, but God knows better. In fact, some of the things we ask for, seemingly good like more money, can turn out to be harmful to us. In turn, we don’t ask for things we don’t like, but which might be good for us. Such as being humbled by circumstances, being oppressed for doing good, embracing the cross.

 

        Now Jesus taught us how we are to pray. Notice some important things.       

One, we begin with acknowledging God our Father before we ask for things. Again it is about God and only secondarily about us. Or put another way, if our relationship with God is right, if we seek first His righteousness, then everything else falls into place, and we are provided for.       

Two, we pray “your will be done” (v.10b). We pray not to try to impose our will on God, but to seek and live out His will for us. Again, even with our needs, He knows best. Daily prayer sees us through our life journey, keeping us on the right path.       

Three, we ask for four things—feed us, forgive us, test us not, deliver us from evil (v.11-13). Notice that only one, the first one, is about the material realm. The other three are about the spiritual. What we need on the material realm is just our daily bread, the basic with which our life is sustained. Beyond that, what matters is our spiritual well-being. We are pilgrims just passing through this earth on our way to heaven. Material things in fact can weigh us down or even lead us astray.       

Four, this prayer asks God to do things for us, but only has one action on our part. It is to “forgive our debtors” (v.12b). As we go through life, there will be those who will disappoint us, hurt us, betray us, persecute us. These are in fact what we all do to God! But God shows mercy and grants forgiveness. We are to do the same. This is living out the second great commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves. We want to be forgiven, so we also forgive others. We become like God.

 

      God tells us to love our enemies and forgive those who trespass against us. This goes against the grain of human emotion. It seems unnatural, and certainly is very difficult. But this is because of our lack of understanding of authentic love and of forgiveness.     

While love is an emotion, authentic Christian love is of the will. When we love an enemy, we do not have to feel emotionally positive toward him. He may continue to repel us. But love is desiring the best for the other person, who is a child of God. We want him to be saved and to experience the love of God. We want him in heaven.       

As to forgiveness, we forgive because God has forgiven us. Someone’s sin against us can never be as grave as our sin against God. If we are to be like God, we are to forgive, without limit. But we should understand that forgiveness does not necessarily mean full acceptance and restoration of a relationship. If someone continues to sin against us, we can cut our interaction with him. We don’t have to welcome him into our home. We can report him to the police if he commits a crime. But in our heart, we must forgive, and desire the best that God wants for him.       

Because forgiving our enemies is so difficult, God wants us to reflect on how important this is to Him. And how this is the way by which our own lives would be transformed. Thus Jesus says, “if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (v.15). What to be forgiven by God? Then forgive others.

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