Prayer, Forgiveness and The Future

We've been going through N.T. Wright's wonderful book "Simply Christian" at our church. At last Wednesday night's gathering we were in chapter 12, discussing the subject of prayer, and how Jesus taught his followers to pray.

"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..."

Jesus taught us to pray "Father, bring your kingdom to earth!". And God has indeed promised to do exactly that. In fact, God's kingdom coming to our planet is really the underlying purpose of the whole Judeo-Christian story.

Jesus kicked off his kingdom back there in the first century. And that means heaven's here now - in tiny bits and pieces. It's here in the way the Spirit works in and through us, and it's here when the world is changed, bit by bit, by those who live and love like Jesus did.

But of course the main event is yet to come. That'll be a great day when Messiah Jesus returns, judges the planet and resurrects those who've followed him into new bodies that'll live forever. I absolutely LOVE talking about the kingdom to come!

"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors..."

We brought up the passage in Matthew 18:21-35, where Jesus strongly says that we will not be forgiven by God unless we forgive others.

Why is it that we absolutely must forgive others? Check it out...



This was really interesting conversation! It's one reason we love Wednesday nights so much.

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4 comments:

Meredith said...

Hey Mike,
Its Meredith Mueller, from the Big Picture at Camp Kivu, 4th term. So, Ive been really struggling with forgiving a family member of mine who made some big mistakes that really hurt our family as a whole. I am struggling with feelings of superiority in my own "righteosness" and judgin him for his sins. I pray for him all the time, and I recognize that only through the Holy Spirit's power can I find the strength to forgive Him. I am constantly finding myself relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit, and I know that He is faithful, but in my heart, I need to learn to forgive, and I really dont know how... How can i strengthen my prayer life or soften my heart towards him in the same way God did for me?

Mike said...

Hi Meredith - I hope school's going well for you this fall!

On forgiveness, we first need to define exactly what we mean by that term. You might check out our discussion from last Wednesday night (oh, I think from around 1:00:00 or so). That's where we dealt with the definition of forgiveness.

My position is that forgiveness means getting on with what God has created us to do, and not holding any debts against those who've trespassed against us.

But forgiveness is NOT just allowing someone to repeatedly trespass you. We must be smarter than that. If someone insists on repeatedly offending you, after you've made it clear that they're doing so - then it's time to find another place to be.

I say that because I believe it's our highest calling to do God's will for our lives. And I can tell you from long experience that the cycle of offense and unforgiveness PARALYZES people, and makes it impossible to move forward and actually do what God has for us to do.

That highlight clip I posted above outlines that a bit more.

Now then, you ask, "How can I strengthen my prayer life or soften my heart....". This may sound strange, but I don't think it's a matter of a stronger prayer life.

Rather, it's a conscious decision between remaining stuck in an emotional bind, or moving our thoughts toward the future that God has for us.

Once we see forgiveness in this way - then we can decide that actually completing God's will for our lives is much more important than allowing another person's misbehavior to rule our thoughts and affect our actions.

Does that make sense? Thanks, Meredith, for the question!

Meredith said...

Thanks so much, Mike. That is helpful. I know that my family member is on a path toward healing-there is no issue of the offense being repeated. I do recognize that God is calling me to love this person and aid them in healing by supporting them and encouraging them in the Lord, and through a long and painful process, I am learning to see God's work in my heart, in that I am beginning to forget the past and look forward to the future- God's coming kingdom here on Earth.

Mike said...

You're most welcome, Meredith! We talked quite a bit at our church meeting tonight about forgetting the past and looking intently at the future God has promised.

It sounds like you're doing your best to do just that. Bravo!