Prayer at home (4)



  Sorry for the delay in the next instalment of the Lord’s Prayer. I got diverted into thinking about the life of Julian of Norwich. How is the praying going?        

Our next phrase in the Lord’s Prayer (remember to read each phrase slowly and to roll it over in your mind and heart):

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors/Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us/Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
  I’ve given all three translations of this phrase to make us think. What does this phrase of the prayer mean?

Does it mean that Jesus won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive others? Well it can’t mean that or we really would be in trouble! Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is his free gift of grace to us, underserved and unearned. Forgiveness is not the easy tolerance of our age but the rich, hard, shocking, even reckless forgiveness which God gives us. We are forgiven even before we ask (which may sound shocking). Our problem is recognising it and even then accepting it.

   I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant from Matthew. It goes like this:

Matthew 18:21-35: 

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ 22 Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.23 ‘Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 ‘At this the servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.

28 ‘But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[c] He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.29 ‘His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.”30 ‘But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 ‘Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.35 ‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’”


   What do you make of that? Are we shocked, as Jesus’ first hearers would have been, at the writing off of the whole of the debt? Where would the economy be if we all did that? It’s a taste of the shock of the forgiveness that is held out to us in Jesus. The forgiven debtor though hasn’t recognised what has been done for him and doesn’t pass the gift on. Here we are praying that we may set our course always to work towards reconciliation, not just ‘forgive and forget’.

   Tom Wright says: “Forgiveness is more like the air in your lungs. There is only room for you to inhale the next lungful when you’ve just breathed out the previous one. If you insist on withholding it, refusing to give someone else the kiss of life they may desperately need, you won’t be able to take in more yourself, and you will suffocate very quickly.......If our heart is open, able and willing to forgive others, it will also be open to receive God’s love and forgiveness. But if it’s locked up to the one, it will be locked up to the other.”

  It’s challenging when we pray this phrase – that free undeserved gift of forgiveness that we all crave but it’s not just for ourselves it’s a gift to be passed on. God’s gift to us isn’t withheld when we don’t undertake the difficult work of forgiveness. However, it’s a sign, as with the unmerciful servant, that we haven’t understood what God gives us.

   Let’s pray today for our eyes to be open to the amazing promise of forgiveness that is ours in Jesus, the courage and humility to receive it and the help of the Holy Spirit to pass it on to those with whom we need reconciliation. Phew. What a prayer to pray!

More to follow.

If you’re struggling with this, then give me a call on 01530 270354 or Rick on 01530 481476.

Vivien Elphick May 10th 2020