Praying as a Forgiver [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

The second part of the words on forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer relates to the way we treat others. Notice that there is no exhortation here to pray that God would help us to forgive others. No, there is merely the recognition that those who are forgiven also appropriately extend forgiveness to others.

Once, when Jesus was in the midst of a meal at a religious leader’s house, a woman of questionable reputation came in to the house. She drew near to Jesus, wept over His feet, wiped them with her hair and then anointed His feet with precious ointment. In the midst of this socially tense situation, Jesus offers forgiveness to the woman and uses it as a teachable moment for the religious leader, named Simon.

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. (Luke 7:40-43)

Returning to the situation before Him, Jesus summarizes the teaching in this way: “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (7:47). The truth is that before God and through Christ all of us have been forgiven greatly. When we understand the depth of God’s grace toward us, the natural overflow is great love toward God and toward others, including forgiveness of their indebtedness to us.

Has someone wronged you at work this week? Has someone spoken ill of you in your apartment complex or neighborhood? Has a sharp word pierced your soul from a loved one in your own home? Let Jesus’ words speak to us: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

As we ask God for forgiveness, our hearts become contrite. When we receive forgiveness from God through Christ, our hearts grow soft with gratitude. This softness of heart should lead us outward with forgiveness toward others as well.

How many times should we forgive others? Let us hear these words of Jesus in response:

If a brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. (Luke 17:3-4).

Lord, I thank You for Your grace
in forgiving me of my sins.
Help me to extend that forgiveness
toward those who have wronged me.
I choose – by the Holy Spirit’s power in me –
to forgive as You have forgiven me.  

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Praying for Forgiveness [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“And forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12a)

The fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer centers upon our relationship with God and with others. Specifically, it is a request for forgiveness. This request forces us to recognize that often we are not the sort of people we would like to be, others would like us to be, or God would like us to be.

Unfortunately, we are often dishonest in our lives, and this dishonesty can sometimes creep into prayer. Dishonest prayer does not lead us anywhere helpful, but inadequately hides us from God like Adam and Eve sheltering behind fig leaves. Jesus’ teaching on prayer, however, confronts us with the bare reality of who we are and who we are not.

When David was confronted by the prophet Nathan after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, he turned from hiding his sin to uncovering it before God. Psalm 51 is the record of that uncovering within prayer, which we call confession.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2)

This psalm expresses the cry of a heart that knows its debts and calls out for mercy. John the Apostle offers words that respond meaningfully to our confession of our sinfulness: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So, let us run to Our Father, holy and merciful, uncovering our sinful indebtedness with boldness and humility in prayer.

Search through my soul, O God.
Reveal my hidden sin.
Cut through my self-deception,
and cleanse me from within.
Apart from You our souls are lost.
We’re blind to our wrong ways.
We trick ourselves to walk a path
that leads to our disgrace.
So lead me on the path of life,
and purify my soul.
I kneel before You;
I give myself to You.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Give Us Our Daily Bread [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

The first three petitions of the Lord’s prayer orient us with God at the center in prayer. With the next three petitions, however, the pronouns switch from ‘You’ and ‘Your’ to ‘us’ and ‘our.’ This switch reminds us that prayer is not only about God in heaven but also about us here on earth. We and our lives are of great interest to God.

The first of the requests related to humanity is an acknowledgement of our basic need before God. Every day we face the fact that our rumbling stomachs need sustenance. And so, we turn to God in dependence, requesting that He provide for us. In a world bent on acquisitiveness yet struggling with an imbalance of material goods it is an important reminder that this is not a prayer for our daily wants but for our daily needs.

Some who are reading this devotional today may be in deep places of need. Bring your deep needs to God and ask Him to provide. Others may be in a place of great abundance. If so, thank God for all He has given, for “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).

This request is also one we can lift up on behalf of others. We can pray for our family and friends that God will provide for their daily needs, whatever those needs may be. We can lift up those caught in the midst of conflicts, homelessness, oppression, and difficulty, that God would provide for their needs. The psalmist writes: “This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:8). Martin Luther, in his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, viewed this request also as a warning. Regarding “those who wantonly oppress the poor and deprive them of their daily bread,” he wrote, “let them take care that they do not lose the common intercession, and beware lest this petition in the Lord’s Prayer be against them.”[1]

Standing with our Father, we turn our eyes to the true needs of the world and our lives, presenting them to Him in order that He will provide for us. “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11).

Our Father,
give us our daily bread.
Provide for our true needs,
the seen and the unseen,
in ways that only You can
because of Your knowledge and grace.
We call out to You because You are good
and Your mercy endures forever.
Lord, I do not deserve to have You
  come under my roof,
but just say the word,
and I will be healed.


[1] Martin Luther, “The Lord’s Prayer,” in The Larger Catechism, http://bookofconcord.org/lc-5-ourfather.php.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Let Your Will Be Done [30 Days of Prayer]

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“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)

Following the first petition that God’s name be hallowed and the second that God’s kingdom would come, the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer asks that God’s will would be done upon the earth. This summarizes the first half of the Lord’s Prayer, which focuses upon God and His ways before turning to human beings and our ways. The primary focus – the first place of attention – in prayer is upon God and not upon ourselves.

Jesus makes this clear through His request that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Heaven is the sphere in which God lives and in which His rule and reign is perfectly done, but earth is the place touched by sin, evil and death in which God’s will is imperfectly done. That is true in us and in the world around us.

Jesus provides us not only teaching on this aspect of prayer, but a model for it as well. Approaching His Father in agonized prayer while in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus asks that the cup of suffering before Him might pass by, if there is any other way. Yet the summary statement of His desire in prayer is found in these words: “Yet not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). We see this same attitude in prayer modeled by Mary, the mother of Jesus, when the angel Gabriel approached her with the message that she would bear the Messiah in her womb miraculously. Her response was: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your words to me be fulfilled” (1:38).

This is holy submission to the will of God. If we did not know God as perfectly holy and truly our Father, then such submission might seem risky. Yet as we grow to know the One whom we approach in prayer, we learn again and again just how good it is to yield in our lives to the will of God. Such humble surrender to God in our own lives quickly leads us to intercede before God on behalf of the world that “His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2) may be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

So, the major preoccupation of children who come into their Father’s presence in prayer is not that we may receive what we need but that He may receive what He deserves – which is honor to His name, the spread of His kingdom, the doing of His will.[1]

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed by Your Name.
May Your kingdom come
and Your will be done
here on earth
as it is in heaven.
Shape and mold my life according to
Your good, pleasing and perfect will.
Even so, bring Your will to fruition
upon every square inch of this world
that You might receive the greatest glory
in the greatest number of lives
around the globe.


[1] John R. W. Stott, “Growth in the Prayer Life,” sermon given on August 20, 1989.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Let Your Kingdom Come [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“Your kingdom come…” (Matthew 6:10)

The second petition of the Lord’s Prayer focuses on God’s kingdom coming upon earth. A kingdom is the sphere of authority and rule of a king, and so, the kingdom of God is the domain of God’s rule and reign.

Throughout the Old Testament, God is referred to as the King: “The Lord is King for ever and ever” (Psalm 10:16). While the phrase kingdom of God never appears in the Old Testament, the concept of God’s kingdom appears again and again. The Temple in Jerusalem was viewed as the place where God is enthroned, the tangible representation of the reality that God in heaven rules over the earth with His power.

That reality comes into sharper focus with Jesus. As the new tabernacle of God upon earth (John 1:14), Jesus brings God’s kingdom close in a new way. In fact, Jesus’ first words in Mark’s Gospel are: “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15). He is telling all who hear that God’s kingdom – His rule and reign – are not far off but are breaking into every nook and cranny of the world in which we live.

When Jesus teaches His disciples to pray “Your kingdom come,” He is inviting them to both internalize God’s agenda personally and to participate in the work of the kingdom on earth. One the one hand, as we pray “Your kingdom come,” we are saying to God that we want Him to reign in us. We want our thoughts, emotions, dreams, desires, and goals – everything about us – to be shaped in line with God’s rule and reign.

On the other hand, when we pray “Your kingdom come,” we are asking God that His rule and reign be established everywhere on earth. Our prayer is that the message of good news in Christ reach every nation (Matthew 24:14), even as we pray that the righteousness and justice of God’s reign be established upon the whole earth (Psalm 89:14). We know that the fullness of God’s kingdom will not come until Christ’s return (Revelation 21:1-8) but still our prayers fervently express a longing for the fullness of that kingdom. This is the final cry of prayer in the Bible: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (22:20).

As disciples our preoccupation in prayer is that God’s kingdom – His rule and reign – be displayed and come to fruition both in us and in the world.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed by Your Name.
May Your kingdom come
in me in all its fullness:
in my thoughts and emotions,
in my pursuits and my dreams –
Your kingdom in and through me
in every way imaginable.
And may Your kingdom come
in every part of the earth:
in the readily seen and the hidden,
in the high places and low places,
in the urban, suburban and rural settings –
in all places, let Your kingdom come!   

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]