“12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. 14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
When we look at the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11 we see Jesus disciples coming to Him and asking Him to teach them to pray. They saw Jesus not only communicating with God but communing with Him and they wanted what He had. They wanted to know how to pray so that God would listen to them like He did Jesus. They knew that there was power in prayer and they wanted to experience the same powerful prayer life that Jesus had. But when Jesus gave His disciples the words to the Lord’s Prayer He provided a pattern for prayer not a formula. Our problem is that we have turned the Lord’s Prayer into a formula for results when in reality it really provides a framework for relationship. The power is not in the words but in the One who hears them. Formulas can become fatal especially as they relate to relationship, because formulas can cause us to start manipulating and forcing God to get what we want. Instead of driving us deeper into relationship they reduce our conversation to a one-sided monologue where we direct God to a certain desired response. Now for many a formula may not look that different than a framework, but there is a definite difference. Where a prayer formula focuses on the words we say, a prayer framework focuses on the One we say them to. Where a formula for prayer focuses on what we do, a framework focuses on who God is. Instead of the focus being on our action it’s on the Almighty where His character becomes central not our effort. A formula fools us into acting as if it’s our actions that initiate God’s response, where a framework guides us to God’s already initiated love for us and provides a platform for us to receive His response. How do you know when you are treating the Lord’s Prayer like a formula, you start using it as a means to get something rather than get God. Getting something from God is not nearly as great as getting God. When we approach the Lord’s Prayer like a formula we will end up with a fuzzy focus and lose sight of the point of prayer, which is to grow in our relationship with God not to get. Today when it comes to the Lord’s Prayer we memorize it, sing songs about it and repeat it reverently but did Jesus intend for us to repeat His words in order to pray? No and He actually warned His disciples against “vain repetitions” when He said in Matthew 6:7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” Some believe that saying the same thing over and over again somehow helps their prayers become more holy and reverent. But it’s not about repetition it’s about real conversation. When it comes to repetition there is only one part of the prayer that is repeated, that of forgiveness. This one concept was so important that Christ not only mentioned it in the Lord’s prayer he went back to comment on it, using three time more words to define what he said then he used to say it. When we come to the forgiveness piece of prayer we need to understand that just like prayer forgiveness is not a formula it’s a process. So how do we forgive, especially if those we are forgiving are unrepentant? We look to the Lord and His example. In Luke 23:34 as Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary He prayed: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” Jesus forgave in the face of unrepentant hearts. Jesus understood why they were doing what they did and understanding why people do the things they do can help us as we take that big step towards forgiving them. The people that were bruising and abusing Jesus were broken, and just like us they suffering from the sickness of sin. When Jesus forgave His focus wasn’t on their faults it was on the Father. Instead of punishing people He prayed for and paid for them. How do we forgive, by focusing on the Father and His forgiveness. You see it’s when we seek His forgiveness and see the serious sickness of our own sin soaked hearts that we realize to withhold His forgiveness would be hypocritical. We forgive by and because of God’s grace. We may never forget and it might not be right to but over time the memories will, through forgiveness and the Fathers faithfulness lose their power over us. At first forgiveness may not seem to make sense, but we need to remember that it will make a difference. We have a choice, we can forgive or hold onto the hurt and harbor the hate, but when we refuse to forgive we need to remember that we also forgo the Fathers forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t easy but it’s not as hard as hating, because hating consumes the heart while forgiveness cures the heart. Are you going to put your energy into releasing or resenting? I have learned the hard way that when you have a hurt that needs to heal its best not to pick at it. Many of us carry more spiritual scars than we should because instead of prayer we turned to picking. Today the process our world presents us with for dealing with our disappointments and hurts revolves around revenge and retaliation. But hurting never brings healing, instead of bringing closure it brings chains. It not only adds fuel to the fire but pain to our prison. Seeking to right the wrongs with revenge is like trying to pacify the pain by drinking poison. What the world needs is the radical reconciling love of the Redeemer, and nothing represents our faith and points people to the Father as powerfully as forgiveness. The answer to the continual cultural conflict isn’t more money, education, or legislation it’s the Fathers forgiveness. We are a fallen people that first need to experience the Fathers forgiveness and then seek to extend it. 2000 years ago Jesus entered and ended the debate on which lives matter when he died for all. Our greatest witness to the world probably isn’t going to be our words but our walk of forgives. Today as you petition the Father for forgiveness who are the people you need to present with His forgiveness? Because the practice of forgiveness is the most powerful and precious present that we can present to the world.