I have been learning more about prayer lately. The things I am learning are coming a lot from our time as a congregation praying. We have set aside time on Tuesday mornings to gather and pray. It has been incredible.
Learning to pray is significant. So significant that the disciples actually asked Jesus to teach them. Prayer was a very important part of Jesus’ activity. There are moments in scripture that describe him going off to pray all night. In Matthew 6, Jesus gives instructions on how to pray:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day 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 evil.
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 6:5-15 ESV)
I have to admit that I struggle with that last part…. The part about my forgiveness for others influencing God’s forgiveness of me. One of the readings I came across during this Lent season described the connection between prayer and forgiveness in a very good way. It helped me so I wanted to share it with you.
If prayer is about heaven and earth coming together at one time, in one place, within the lump of clay we call ‘me’, then it’s going to change this person called ‘me’. In particular, it’s going to make me a forgiver. Jesus was quite clear about this. All of us have been hurt, wounded, slighted, annoyed by other people. How much more have we ourselves done that to God! Yet we want him to be with us, to hear us, and — yes! — to forgive us. How can we not be forgivers too?(N.T. Wright, Lent For Everyone,Day 7)
God is willing to forgive me. So why would I not forgive others? And how could I approach God without humility, knowing I am forgiven? And if I have been forgiven, then as I pray, I am changed and forgiving others is a natural response from time spent talking to the one who forgives me.