How Should I Pray

This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:9-13

Jesus is teaching his disciples to pray. It is interesting to note that in Luke’s account of this teaching. He has the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray. The disciples saw Jesus do a lot of things. Open blinded eyes. Give hearing back to the deaf. Enable the lame to walk. Take five loaves and two fish and feed thousands. And yet they ask Jesus to teach them to pray.

Jesus starts his teaching with the acknowledgement of an essential element of God – He is our Father in heaven. His name reflects his essence. He is pure, holy, just, and he is loving. He deserves our worship and our complete devotion. The phrase that sticks out in my mind today is “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

Forgiveness is essential for life. It is so very difficult. Unforgiveness is our first response. To be honest it is sort of gratifying to withhold forgiveness and hold a grudge. We can justify it so easily. Or at least I can. The truth is unforgiveness can become an emotional cancer that embitters the soul from the inside out. Notice the next phrase in the prayer Jesus taught us, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” I wonder if Jesus is referring to the human proclivity to withhold forgiveness. He is saying don’t be tempted to hold on to things. To people. To hurt.

It seems to me that this temptation is so real to life. It is what I do. I hold on to things. I hold grudges. I mentally nurse hurts. I spend mental energy thinking of ways to get them back. You hurt me. You hurt someone I love. How dare you. I spend emotional time thinking of how right I am and wrong they are and that they need to pay. But then this verse calls me back to reality. It challenges me to let go. It calls for me to give the hurt to God. To tell him as my ultimate heavenly father that the hurt is his and not mine because it is so destructive to my soul. It is too much for me to carry.

The facts of forgiveness are quite striking. God has forgiven me through Christ Jesus. He forgave me of everything. All of it. When I look at Jesus and the forgiveness he offers, I read of him forgiving even the guys nailing him to the cross. If God is willing to forgive. Jesus provides and exemplifies that forgiveness; how then can I hold on to unforgiveness? I am doing something that even God choose not to do. There must be a reason forgiveness is so available and life changing. It is profound. And in truth it is empowering. If God offers forgiveness to those who sinned against him how can I do anything less? In Jesus name amen.