Reflections on Prayer - August
Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
By Lisa Espinoza
Last month we acknowledged our deep need for God’s forgiveness. This month we come face to face with the inconvenient truth at the end of verse 12. Jesus instructs us to accept the grace He’s poured out on us and extend it to those we least want to bless—those who have wronged us…our “debtors.” I don’t know about you, but it’s a bit irritating to me that Jesus would ask me to do such a thing. Why didn’t he at least make it optional?
Because Jesus knew that withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. The choice to forgive doesn’t mean forgiveness is deserved or that the wrong never occurred. It means we are making an effort to follow the example of Christ who looked at the very ones who hung him on a cross to die and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” It means we recognize that we are the ones who suffer most when we refuse to forgive. This month we ask God by His grace to help us do the hard work of forgiveness.
Often the last person we are willing to forgive is ourselves. In a sense, we are saying, “God, I know you’ve forgiven me, but I’m going to continue to beat myself up because I deserve it.” We redefine grace so that we can wrap our minds around it rather than letting it be the truly mysterious, amazing, freeing force that it is.
Read Colossians 2:13, 14. Draw a simple cross from top to bottom of your journal page. On that cross, write down every sin from the past that haunts you. As you write, imagine each sin being nailed to the cross of Christ. Begin every day this week with this prayer, “Thank you, God, for the grace to forgive myself as you’ve forgiven me.”
Each day this week, read the parable of the servant who was forgiven of his debts (Matthew 18:21-35). Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal something new about this story each time you read it.
Read Mark 11:25. Think back to last week’s daily reading about the unforgiving servant. Now close your eyes and put yourself in the story. From whom are you demanding payment for a debt that Christ is asking you to forgive? Write it down. It could be a person or a group of people, an organization or even a church. Whatever or whomever, pray for them each day this week, that God would bless them in whatever ways He sees fit.
Forgiveness for most of us is a process. We say, “I forgive,” but the thought or mention of that person who wronged us produces a knot in our stomach, and we experience all the feelings we felt before we said those two magic words. That’s because they’re not magic at all. The act that hurt us doesn’t cease to exist—an act that violated, humiliated, left us feeling irrelevant or cost us something precious.
Forgiveness is not a feeling or an excusing or forgetting of the wrong done to us. We choose to forgive precisely because we acknowledge the wrong and say, “No more. You will not have power over me any more.” We may have to pray many times over a period of years, “God, I choose to forgive ________ for ________.”
If you struggle with extending forgiveness, I encourage you to read Forgive and Forget—Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve by Lewis Smedes.