Learning to Pray the Jesus Way (A blog series on The Lord's Prayer) Part 5: A People Forgiven

Learning to Pray the Jesus Way Blog Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Learning to pray is a foundational discipline of the Christian faith.  In this blog post series on prayer, author Summer Lacy gives us insight into the practice of prayer using the model Jesus taught His own disciples--The Lord’s Prayer.  This simple, unassuming prayer Jesus gave us lays the foundation for a fulfilling life of prayer.  
9 Our Father in Heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts, 
as we also have forgiven our debtors...
 

As we move forward in this series on The Lord's Prayer, we come to what may well be one of the most daunting topics of all--forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a topic that lies at the very core of Christianity.  We believe that as sinful human beings we are unable to reconcile ourselves to a holy God.  But relentless in His pursuit of us, God sent us One who can reconcile us to Himself.  

Ephesians 1:7 explains how Jesus secured sinful humanity's forgiveness before a holy God.

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace..."

That verse makes a connection for us that we absolutely cannot miss.  It's the only way that this forgiveness thing is ever going to work out right.  Go back and read the verse again, this time more slowly.

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace..."

Because of Jesus God extends us forgiveness according to grace.

As this verse from Ephesians so clearly proclaims, from a Biblical perspective forgiveness is always a matter of grace.  

God's forgiveness of us is inextricably linked to His lavish grace, and as Christians, our forgiveness of others must be inextricably linked to grace as well.  

Grace is fundamental to the life of believers because our entire faith rests upon it completely.  Grace is where our journey with God begins, and as we travel this road with Him, it's the home we keep coming back to.  

Here are 3 Biblical truths about grace that will help us work our way through the importance of forgiveness:

1) We need grace.

2) God gives us grace.

3) Now we extend that grace to others.  

We need grace

Maybe you're the type of person who easily acknowledged your need for grace before the Lord.  But I certainly was not.  Before becoming a Christian, I fought with all my might to achieve for myself the salvation that Jesus came to offer me. 

I worked hard to live in a way that required very little grace from others. I didn't like messing up or being wrong or hurting others, so I tight-roped my way through life trying desperately to always get it right.  

It took some time, but I finally failed miserably.  

Years later, I can thank God for the failing that finally brought me to Him. The road has been fraught with heartache,  and I sure wish I had taken a different route.  The good news is once I understood my need for grace, I understood my need for Jesus.  And that's an essential part of the journey that we can't skip over.

So, here's the truth that each one of us has to acknowledge before we can accept the grace of God.

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  Romans 3:23

All.  That's you.  That's me.  We have all fallen short of the glory of God.  

Our sin creates a problem between us and a holy God.

Because we have fallen short, been unable to meet His righteous and holy standards, there stands between us and God an offense that has to be reconciled.  And that's where Jesus comes in.  

God gives grace.

Let's go a bit further in Romans 3 to find the solution to our sin problem.

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus..." Romans 3:23-24

Jesus stepped in to meet our need of reconciliation between us and God.  

1 John 2:2 tells us,

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Colossians 1:13-14 explains,

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus did something for us that we were absolutely unable to do for ourselves.

The only catch is we have to admit this.  We must recognize Jesus' work on our behalf.

If you can't acknowledge your failures, your shortcomings, your imperfections, your sin, and therefore your need for a savior, then Jesus has nothing to offer you.

Look at how simply John boils it down for us,

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  
If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:8-9

How stunning that in The Lord's Prayer Jesus tells his disciples to pray for the very forgiveness that He Himself would later secure for them at Calvary.  The disciples couldn't have foreseen the beauty of it at the time Jesus gave them this prayer, but I bet it sucked the breath clear out of them as all the pieces came together later.  

Pray then like this:    

Father in Heaven, forgive us our sins,

as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.

Now we extend that grace to others.

Jesus must have known that the second part of verse 12 was going to give us some pause because it's the only part of the prayer that He expands upon.

Immediately following The Lord's Prayer Jesus went on to say,

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.  Matthew 6:14-15

I don’t want to confuse such a foundational Biblical principal as forgiveness, so please hear this-–the only condition for salvation is a belief and confession of Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-13, Acts 16:31).  That verse in Matthew and others like it (see Luke 6:37, Mark 11:25)  point us not to a salvific forgiveness of our sins, but to a relational forgiveness that allows for a closer fellowship with the Father. 

In short, harboring unforgiveness stifles our worship and stunts our spiritual growth.  When we withhold forgiveness from others, it creates a relational rift between ourselves and God.  

Why? 

Because when it comes down to it, you cannot withhold forgiveness while knowing that you’ve been forgiven.  

There have only been a handful of things the Lord has called me to do to which I've replied, "God, I'm not sure I can do this."   Forgiving someone who hurt me has been one of those things.  I've walked the road imperfectly, I know.  And it hasn't been a once and done kind of thing.  It's something you must set your heart and mind to and then beg God to bring you into it.

But I trust Him.  I trust if He says, this is my way, walk in it, then it must be for my good and for His glory.  

And after all that He has done for me, how could I deny Him that?

Learning to Pray the Jesus Way Blog Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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Learning to pray is a foundational discipline of the Christian faith.  In this blog post series on prayer, author Summer Lacy gives us insight into the practice of prayer using the model Jesus taught His own disciples--The Lord’s Prayer.  This simple, unassuming prayer Jesus gave us lays the foundation for a fulfilling life of prayer.