Forgiving Others

“But I tell you: Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you”
(Matthew 5:44)

 Reflection:
Jesus instruction for us to love our enemies is a great challenge. Our normal reaction is to do anything but that. However, His words and life leave us in no doubt.

There are three very good reasons for us to hear what Christ teaches us. Firstly, we were once ourselves “God’s enemies” and He reached out to us in forgiveness and love, so that we could be reconciled to Him and enjoy the blessings of His eternal love. Secondly, God loves the people who might fall into the category of enemy to us and would want us to love them for His sake and out of our love for Him – even if we are offended by their actions.  And thirdly, for as long as we do not forgive the anger and pain live like an open sore within us, eating away at our life and peace and relationship with the Lord. Forgiveness can be a great healing for us as well and sets us free from the influence of the perpetrators.

There will be many who have been terribly hurt or harmed through the violent or careless actions of others. For them forgiving and loving their enemies may be a longer and more difficult road to walk. The most important thing is then to openly acknowledge our emotions and reactions to the Lord. Ask for His healing and strength within to enable us to begin responding more fully to His command. As we do so our own inner healing will begin to be liberated. On this journey of forgiveness it will help if, every time our emotions rebel at the memory, we say deliberately and even out loud “In Jesus Name I forgive ….”

Never think for a moment that in this God is implying that our pain does not matter. It matters to Him very much but He does not want it to cripple and destroy our lives and relationship with Him. When we forgive we are placing the matter back in God’s hands for Him to deal with – which He will.

The best response that we can all make towards our enemies is, as Jesus taught, to pray for them. It is what He did – even from the cross. To pray that God will bless them with love, and healing and truth. Then we need to pray for ourselves, that we will decide to forgive them and, with God’s help, not stoke the fires of hurt and anger within us. We also need the love and healing of our Father – and can ask for it.

Response:
Don’t hold on to hurt. Pray it out. Speak to a counsellor if necessary.

Prayer:

Father You have forgiven me so much, and never stopped loving me. Please help me to be more prepared to forgive and to love others – for the sake of Jesus who died for us all. Amen.

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The Complete Prayer

The Lord's Prayer

Reflection:
The Lord’s Prayer, taught by Jesus to His disciples, is not the only prayer that we can pray to God. Jesus Himself prayed in different ways and with different words on occasion. We can see this in His great prayer recorded in John 17, as well as in His heartfelt prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His arrest, trial and crucifixion.

However, in its pattern and content it is the most complete prayer possible, and helps us to keep our focus and balance. It prevents us from becoming totally self–centred and crisis pray-ers. It is addressed to the Father and the first three requests focus on Him – His honour, His kingdom and His will and purpose. Only then do we turn to the specifics of our own situations and our general and particular needs.

Being the prayer that Jesus gave us it is therefore, unquestionably, a prayer that God would want to hear and to answer. It is also a prayer to use when in doubt about what to ask of God, and it can be adapted to any situation and circumstance. For example, when praying for a person (including yourself) it can be used as follows:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name – in Joe
Your Kingdom come, – in Joe
your will be done, – in Joe
on earth as in heaven
Give (Joe) today (his) daily bread.
Forgive (Joe his) sins,
as (Joe) forgives those who sin against (him).
Lead (Joe) not into temptation,
but deliver (Joe) from evil.
For the kingdom,
the power and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever.
Amen

 

  It is a wonderful prayer for parents to use for their children, and god-parents for their god-children. It can be used for people, churches, institutions, cities and countries. In its unadapted form it should be the prayer of every church and every Christian believer both morning and evening –at least.

Response:
Pray it meaningfully – focussing intentionally on a different request every day, to deepen your awareness and understanding. Savour it and enjoy it’s completeness.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to live Your prayer. Amen.

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Yours is the Glory

“For yours is the kingdom, the power
and the glory, forever.
Amen.”

Reflection:
This ending appears to have been added to the Lord’s Prayer at a later stage. It is such a glorious acknowledgement of God that it has remained.

It summarises the great words of praise attributed to King David.

“David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honour come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.”
(1 Chronicles 29:10-13)

Above everything else we are reminded that

  • The Lord God Almighty is the one and only supreme ruler – there is no other
  • All power belongs to God. No one and nothing can stand in the way of His will
  • To God alone belongs all and any honour and glory – it is so great and overwhelming that all must bow before Him in awe and worship.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:1-8)

We must never forget the glory and holiness of  our Lord God, the Almighty and Everlasting One.

Response:
Worship God by word and life for the wonder and glory that is His.

Prayer:

Heavenly God, Creator and Sustainer, Redeemer and Saviour, Father and Friend, open my eyes to more of the Truth that is You – and draw me deeper and deeper into Your love and service. Amen.

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Deliver us!

“Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
 (Matthew 6:13)

Reflection:
There is an acknowledgement in this prayer, given to us by Jesus, that evil is a reality – and that it stems from the ‘evil one’ himself. Fallen humankind has become very open to temptation whilst the way of the Lord is to resist it because we have a different and higher vision. On the road of Life along which the Lord will lead us we will encounter many trials and temptations. He does not cause them – in fact many will be of our own making – but can use them to strengthen and teach us as well as show us more of His love, power and faithfulness. The prayer commences with an acknowledgement of our weakness in asking that He leads us along paths where the temptations will not be too great for us in our present state of life and faith.

 Jesus experienced for Himself the reality of the devil’s attacks in the temptations that He underwent in the desert at the beginning of His ministry. He also faced them during His ministry as they came through others and as He prayed and suffered in Gethsemane. He confronted their reality too in people from whom He cast out evil spirits.

 Scripture gives us one of the reasons for Jesus coming to earth,

 “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8)

 The early church warned believers to be aware of the devil.

  •  “Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11)
  • “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)

 The Christian is drawn into the conflict that exists as the devil tries to inflict harm on God by attacking His people and leading them astray – not only into obvious sins but also into doubt and confusion.

 As believers we are equipped with the Bible – the Word of God – which we should know so well that we will immediately recognise what is counterfeit or contrary to its teachings and revelation. We have been blessed with the Holy Spirit of God Who lives within us. We believe in the Messiah Who has defeated the enemy and will come again to finally destroy him. We are thus enabled to Recognise that the devil is at work in the world, to Refuse to accept the thoughts that he gives us, and to Resist his efforts to draw us off the Way of God.

 In our own power we are not up to it. But in the faith and power of God we can stand firm. If and when we do fall we must remember that Jesus stoops beside us – not to belittle us as we lie face down in the mud but, even at that very moment, to deliver us from evil, to encourage us, and help us to stand again and ‘have another go at Life!’

 Praise be to our glorious, loving and gracious Saviour!

Response:
 Never give up believing and trusting in Jesus our Saviour.

Prayer:

Father, deliver me from evil – today, tomorrow and every day – when I stand and when I fall; for Jesus sake. Amen.

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Forgive me

“Forgive us our sins”
(Matthew 6:12)

Reflection:
The problem that men and women have faced from the Fall has been that of sin. Sin came into the world through the action of the first humans and has not left. The consequence of sin, both that of Adam and Eve and that of each one of us, is that it separates us from God – as well as causing us to fall short of who we could be with Him! There is nothing that we can do to erase it or to bridge the divide that it causes. All sin is essentially sin against God and only He can do anything about it.

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4)

 It was because of sin that Jesus came into the world,

  • “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,” (Luke 1:76-77)
  • “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
  • “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
  • “He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47)

 When Jesus died upon the cross he took our sins, our guilt and our punishment upon Himself. He died in our place. However, He did not die only for the sins of the past, He died for the sins of the present and of the future – for everyone who had lived, was living and was still to be born. Without His death there would have been no forgiveness, no liberation, and we would all have nothing to look ahead to except the final judgement and eternal separation from God, whatever that might mean.

 When Jesus teaches us to pray for the forgiveness of our sins He is recognising that, no matter how committed to Him we might be, we will still sin today, tomorrow and the next day. In fact no day will go by in which we will not sin again and again. Having died for these sins He has opened the way for us to ask God for direct and immediate forgiveness and absolution.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”  (1 John 1:7-2:2)

 That does not mean that we can be casual about sin, and treat it as mere naughtiness. Sin is a horror and a rejection of God. Only in Jesus is there the forgiveness of sins and the gift of new life – today and every day. It is however vital that we understand that sin does not cast the true believer – who has entered into a new relationship with God through belief in Jesus and who has received the Holy Spirit – back into the outer darkness of separation from God. Although it may bring great grief and shame, cloud our relationship with God, and still cause us to fall short of our true potential, it no longer has the power to separate us from Him. Once we have received the adoption as His sons and daughters, then nothing

“in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)

 Every day should see us approach the Father Almighty in honest acknowledgement of our sin, and in humble appreciation of His great love and grace.

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)

Response:
Acknowledge sin as a reality – examine your life and conscience regularly.

Prayer:

Father, thank You so much for Your great and wonderful love and salvation. Please forgive us our sins in Jesus name and help us to trust You and accept it. Amen.

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Food please

“Give us today our daily bread”
(Matthew 6:11)

 

Reflection:
The focus of the Lord’s Prayer now changes from God to us, and in a very practical way. Having acknowledged as of prime importance the reality, glory and power of God we ask Him to provide for us – His dependent creation. Note that the prayer is not for ‘me’ but for ‘us’.  As a member of the Body of Christ – the family of believers – our prayer includes other believers, especially those who will also pray this prayer. We ask for them as well as for ourselves, not wishing that any one of them be left out.

Our prayer for food has a couple of levels to it. Firstly we ask for the food that we need to keep us alive and strengthen us for the day that lies ahead. Note that the prayer is for bread and not for cake. We pray that God will ensure that we have what we need – although this does not imply that God will not be generous. Anything further is an additional blessing through which we may also be able to help others. And because God has made it possible for us to produce food or to earn the wages with which to buy what we need the implication is that God will help us to do just that. Those who are unable to do so will pray that God will still look after and provide for them as He did the Israelites during the forty years in the desert – but this time through the care and generosity of others.

 Secondly we remember that Jesus said ‘man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ We have other daily needs as well – mental, spiritual and emotional. Every day we will be faced with challenges, responsibilities, relationships and dangers that need a response from us – and one that is different and healthier than the ways of the world around us. We need God to teach us, prepare us, strengthen and guide us. So the prayer is also a petition to our Father to supply us with everything that we need to enable us to live, work and minister in His name at all times and in all that we do. From encouragement to wisdom, strength to relationships, love to rest, and in many other areas as well, we have great needs and only the Lord can supply them all and to the extent that is required.

 We should remind ourselves that this request is a part of the prayer that Jesus taught us. That means it is a valid and needed prayer, and one which the Father will want to answer for His children.

Response:
Feed yourself on healthy food, daily Scripture, daily prayer, and daily relationships. Give encouragement, love and support to others whenever you can.

Prayer:

Father – give us today our daily bread; and through us give to others as well. Amen.

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Your Will

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
(Matthew 6:10)

Reflection:
God has a plan and a purpose for the world, and God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us.

  • “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:10)
  • “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

From His commission to Adam and Eve, to Noah, in Jesus teaching, in the Great Commission to the disciples and all who follow Jesus, and as picked up by Paul, comes the message that God is working towards a definite end which He will accomplish. Our privilege is to be a part of that purpose and to be those through whom He works to achieve His end.

The will of God and the glory of God are connected. He is best glorified by His people when He is obeyed. It is an indication that we acknowledge and submit to His sovereign power and authority, and that we trust His love for us – the extent of which is revealed in the life, death and resurrection of His Son.

Jesus also submitted Himself completely to the will of His Father.

  • “the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” (John 14:31)
  • “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:41-44)

 The alternative to God’s will being done on earth is that the will of fallen man will be done instead. We can see around us the fruit of that option – which should make us pray even more fervently for God’s will – His good, pleasing and perfect will – to be done instead and starting in us. And, of course, if I pray the prayer then I must seek to find out more about the will of God and allow the Holy Spirit to mould my life to it in thought, word and deed.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:2)

And His will for us above all is this – to really and fully live our belief in the Lord Jesus.

“Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

Response:

I believe – Lord help my unbelief.

Prayer:

Father – Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven – starting in me. Amen.

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