The Purpose of Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer is the one of the most commonly recited passages of the Bible and arguably the least practiced. I’ve played a lot of basketball in my lifetime. Every middle school, high school and college game was preceded by this prayer in the huddle. As well, it was a ritual before every contest that I coached during my ten-year career. In fact, millions of athletes on all levels murmur these words robotically like ABC’s:
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.Thy kingdom come.Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Matthew 6:9-13 KJV
I’d say that somewhere around my eighth year as a high school varsity girls’ basketball coach, something occurred to me that was deeply saddening. No one in that huddle was consistently practicing the teachings in those verses, including me. Although I did not feel comfortable crossing the boundary lines of religion in a public school setting, I desperately wanted to help my players understand what they were saying.
To this day, I’m not sure if they even realized that we were actually praying to God for grace and mercy, not chanting for the mere sake of saying we prayed before each game, or were we? Besides, wasn’t the team in the other locker room sending up the same prayer? And what does that particular prayer have to do with winning ball games?
The one line that we struggle to adhere to is “And forgive us our trespasses (debts), as we forgive those who trespass against us (our debtors).” Matthew 6:12
In other words, Forgive us our sins Lord, as we forgive fellow man who has sinned against us.
Someone recently told me that even after a very difficult, life altering situation (it’s not blog-ready yet, but do stay tuned!), I seem so happy. I explained that I am happy because I have already forgiven the parties who offended me. I haven’t forgotten the hurt, but I know that failure to forgive is a breeding ground for bitterness and resentment.
The same holds true for the bullies I encountered as a child, the friends who let me down through the years, the men who broke my heart, and the people who launched an attack on my character. I even had to learn to forgive the Almighty Himself, for the untimely death of my mother. Allow me to say this: Everything that happens to us ain’t the devil! Man does have free will, and we ultimately decide to hurt each other. Those who are truly remorseful will apologize and repent, while others may attribute the offense to something you did or said to cause them to hurt you.
To continue to be blessed, you must loosen the shackles of hate within your heart. Forgiveness is not for the other person. It is for you! Only God can forgive sin. “Who can forgive us but God, alone?” Mark 2:7. However, we are charged to forgive one another. Col 3:13. Failure to do so results in a hardened heart for the one who withholds forgiveness from others.
Holding grudges, harboring hatred, keeping score, and guilt-tripping another human being, takes a massive amount of energy. Odds are, that the person for whom you may hold such contempt knows that their sins are covered by the grace of God, and in spite of your hard feelings, can move ahead with or without your forgiveness. We cannot make our earthly brothers and sisters forgive us. God will always do so when we confess our sins to Him, and repent. That is something that no man on earth has the power to do.
If you find that someone has done something to you that you find simply unforgivable, ask yourself this question: “What if God found that I was not worthy of forgiveness and turned me away from Heaven because of it?” I suppose that there would be no need to move forward in life trying to do better. There would be no incentive to continue to pursue happiness on this earth, because after all, that sin you committed, no matter how much you prayed and confessed to God, would forever damn you to hell.
Beyond the law, do we have the power to condemn one another in this earthly realm? One may have to the power to do that to me, only if I give them the power to do so. No one will be granted that luxury, nor do I want to have that kind of power over another human being.
Because I can forgive, I move forward with increase. My heart no longer agonizes over things or people I cannot control. For those who cannot forgive others, I am certain that they are likely more miserable than the offender.
I will leave you with a few things to ponder.
If we do not forgive our brothers and sisters on earth, how can we possibly look to God to forgive us in Heaven? Who are we to judge, emotionally and mentally imprisoning one another, when the ultimate power to judge man belongs solely to God above? Do you realize that “giving it all to Him” frees you up to continue to flourish in life?
This is one dilemma often faced where we all need to learn to “Let go, and let God.” When we can do that, may our hearts be filled with love. Besides, that’s essentially what God is: L-O-V-E.
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For Further Reading
Thomas Watson explains at http://www.gracegems.org/Watson/lords_prayer.htm
Matthew Henry does the same at http://www.lords-prayer-words.com/commentary/forgive_us_our_trespasses.html#Henry