THE SCARIEST REQUEST IN THE LORD’S PRAYER

Four Ways To Guard Against the Threat of Unforgiveness

Relationship difficulties

It’s no contest. Of the six petitions in Jesus’ model prayer (Matt. 6:9-13), the most frightening is the fifth: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Why? The appendix in v. 14-15: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Martyn-Lloyd Jones explains:

The proof that you and I are forgiven is that we forgive others. If we think that our sins are forgiven by God and we refuse to forgive somebody else, we are making a mistake; we have never been forgiven. The man who knows he has been forgiven, only in and through the blood of Christ, is a man who must forgive others. He cannot help himself. If we really know Christ as our Saviour our hearts are broken and cannot be hard, and we cannot refuse forgiveness. If you are refusing forgiveness to anybody I suggest that you have never been forgiven.

John Piper adds:

God’s forgiveness is underneath ours and creates it and supports it. So that if we don’t give it to others—if we go on in an unforgiving spirit—what we show is that God is not there in our lives. We are not trusting him. And not trusting him will keep us out of heaven. And cause us to be handed over to the tormentors.

According to Jesus, the right way to pray takes into account the eternity-hangs-in-the-balance importance of a forgiving nature toward others.

Helps for Guarding Against Unforgiveness

One, remember God’s forgiveness. Focus often on just how much God has forgiven you. Beware of taking for granted God’s mercy to you while withholding it from others. Others’ sins against us are not more serious than our sins against God (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:12-13).

Two, practice the virtue of overlooking. Prov. 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” The more we practice #1 above the more likely we are to forgive unilaterally. Of course, that is not always possible. In that case . . .

Three, distinguish between the two stages of forgiveness. Ideally forgiveness is granted to a confession and repentance for an offense (Luke 17:3-4). But that doesn’t always happen right away and sometimes never happens in this lifetime. While you wait, rely on God’s strength to practice a disposition of forgiveness. This is an attitude that stands ready to transact forgiveness upon repentance with a Jesus’ like on the cross “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” kind of grace and mercy (Luke 23:34).

Four, claim Romans 8:28—God working for your good. Even the wrongs others do to us have a plan in God’s sovereignty. Ken Sande, from whom I’ve largely drawn these helps in his book The Peacemaker, writes:

When you perceive that the person who has wronged you is being used as an instrument in God’s hand to help you mature, serve others, and glorify him, it may be easier for you to move ahead with forgiveness.

We followers of Jesus are the most forgiven people in the world. We should therefore be the most forgiving people in the world through Christ and the hope of His glorious gospel.

There is no right praying without that.

Question: What has helped you cultivate a forgiving spirit?

BREAD, BATH, & BEYOND

How Prayer Meets Our Needs in Navigating Peacemaking Challenges

Hospital building sign closeup, with sky reflecting in the glass.

At the beginning and end of each day, Jan and I pause for spiritual reflection with the help of C. H. Spurgeon’s classic devotional Morning and Evening.

Commenting on Matthew 7:7— “Ask, and it shall be given you.” —every believer’s grand privilege to pray, he writes:

We know of a place in England still existing, where a dole of bread is served to every passerby who chooses to ask for it. Whoever the traveller may be, he has but to knock at the door of St. Cross Hospital, and there is the dole of bread for him. Jesus Christ so loveth sinners that he has built a St. Cross Hospital, so that whenever a sinner is hungry, he has but to knock and have his wants supplied. Nay, he has done better; he has attached to this Hospital of the Cross a bath; and whenever a soul is . . . filthy, it has but to go there and be washed. . . . As if this were not enough, there is attached to this Hospital of the Cross a wardrobe, and a sinner making application simply as a sinner, may be clothed from head to foot; and if he wishes to be a soldier, he may not merely have a garment for ordinary wear, but armour which shall cover him from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. If he asks for a sword, he shall have that given to him, and a shield too. Nothing that is good for him shall be denied him.

Allow me to add one more “beyond” from the preceding context to Matthew 7:7.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you (Matt. 7:1-6).

Please don’t miss the connection between paragraphs.

Matthew follows a classic peacemaking passage about judgments and conflicts with a classic spiritual life passage about prayers and intercession.

Do you need insight and wisdom for navigating some interpersonal conflict?

Ask, seek, and knock at St. Cross Hospital and you will receive, find, and have the door opened to you!

Question: What other provisions are promised in God’s word for meeting our needs through prayer?

 

THE ABCs OF ROBOJAW SURGERY PRAYING

Three days and counting.

Sunday after church Nan and I will drive to Miami where we’ll stage for my surgery on Monday morning. What a terrific encouragement to have so many folks praying for me and the ordeal next week holds!

Some have asked in specific just how they can pray, so I shot the following video to share my ABCs of prayer for “Operation Robojaw:”

 

 

Question: What strategies have you used to get through major surgery, if you’ve ever had to hit the table for any length of time? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

A Birthday Prayer

birthday prayer
Among the gifts I enjoy as a now 63 year old man is friendship with an extraordinary pastor from Jacksonville. He specializes in praying for folks using the content of the Psalms. For my birthday last week he sent me this adaptation from Psalm 16.

Preserve Curt for another year, O God. On this birthday remind Curt of your faithful preserving his days this past year and cause him to take refuge in your careful shepherding in the year to come. You are indeed his Lord and he has no good apart from you. You, O LORD are his chosen portion and his cup; you hold his every moment and every day. Convince Curt that the lines of his life have fallen for him in pleasant places, indeed, he has been given a beautiful inheritance, in Christ. Thank you, Lord, for blessing and giving Curt counsel this past year. Even in the darkness of night you have been faithful to instruct him and comfort him. Grant your grace this coming year, O Lord, that he might set you often before his face and cause your right hand to so sustain him that he will surely not be shaken. Gladden his heart. Cause his whole being to rejoice as his flesh dwells secure. Make known to him your path of life this coming year for in your presence there is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. I ask, Lord, show Curt your paths, your fullness of joy and your pleasures this year ahead. And cause him to rest in Christ as one in whom the Father takes great delight. Amen & Amen.

Few gifts mean more than being prayed for. Thanks, pastor. You make me want to be a better pastor.

May we all follow his example in praying for others using the Psalms as an inspired template.

A New Year’s Prayer

new year prayer

Here is the Puritan prayer from the Valley of Vision which I quoted at the top of the message this morning:

O Lord,
I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with Thee, O Father as my harbour,
Thee, O Son, at my helm,
Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to Thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.

 Give me Thy grace to sanctify me,
Thy comforts to cheer,
Thy wisdom to teach,
Thy right hand to guide,
Thy counsel to instruct,
Thy law to judge,
Thy presence to stabilize.

May Thy fear be my awe,
Thy triumphs my joy.

Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in Thy presence,
in Thy service,
to Thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from Thee,
but may rely on Thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire to show forth Thy praise;
testify Thy love,
and advance Thy kingdom.

Why Pray for the Persecuted?

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This Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. We will join forces with believers around the globe in interceding for the some 200 million of our kind suffering for their faith in Jesus. This begs the question why pray for these brothers and sisters? I see at least three reasons in the Scriptures.

One, it’s a matter of loving obedience. In Hebrews 13, v. 1 leads off a list of rapid fire exhortations with, “Let the love of the brethren continue.” One such manifestation of that love in v. 3 involves the following: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Remember is a present tense command. We must keep on remembering. What better, more tangible way to do that, than in intercessory prayer?

Two, it’s a matter of mystical ownership. I say “mystical” in the sense of that which inspires a sense of spiritual mystery and awe. Paul speaks of this in 1 Cor. 12:26 when he writes, “If one member suffers, all suffer together. If one member is honored, all rejoice together.” There is simply no separating ourselves from our fellow saints in chains even if they do reside in restricted countries halfway around the globe from us. Prayer marks us as owning this one-body reality in a substantive way.

Three, it’s a matter of supernatural opposition. I love Acts 12:5. “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church (emphasis mine).” Luke tells the rest of the story that saw the apostle miraculously delivered from his cell. Why? Because the church opposed Herod’s threat by wielding its powerful weaponry of prayer. So many tales are told by persecuted saints of miraculous intervention tied directly to the prayers of saints in faraway places. Eternity alone will reveal just how much harm was prevented as well as good done because the church prayed as it should.

Join me this Sunday evening at 6 PM for our monthly conference of prayer with special emphasis on the persecuted church. One of our missionaries will share about her experiences in a restricted country and bring unique perspective to our prayer time as a result.

Why pray? Obedience, ownership, and opposition. That’s why.

Terrific Prayer to Start the Day

Began my day with this from A Way to Pray:

Inspire us to work the works of him that sent us while it is day, since the night comes when no man will be able to work. Whatever good our hands find to do, let us do it with all our might. For there is no work in the grave where we A Way to Prayare going (emphasis mine). Let us never be slothful in any good business of yours. Enable us to be fervent in spirit as we serve you, our Lord. Train us to be fixed in purpose, undeterred, always abounding in the work of the Lord, since we can be confident that our labour will never be in vain in the Lord. John 9:4; Eccles. 9:10; Rom. 12:11; 1 Cor. 15:58.

Lord, let us be zealous for every good work. Whatever we do, let us do it wholeheartedly, for we are not serving men, but the Lord Christ. Enable us to do the work of every day in its day, just as the duty of the day requires. Help us make full use of every opportunity, since we live in an evil age. When our Lord returns, let him find us busily doing the work he has commissioned us to do. Gal. 4:18; Col. 3:23; Ezra 3:4; Eph. 5:16; Luke 12:43.

Amen and amen.