More Ways of Praying
We have seen that the word 'prayer' has many meanings.
It is talking to God and trusting him, being loved and found by him, and being
still before him. It is also surrendering to him and asking for his help for
ourselves and for others. But that is not the whole story. Jesus said many other
things about prayer.
'This, then, is how you should pray....... Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others
have done to us.' (Matthew 6:12 GNB)
In other words, prayer means forgiving and receiving God's forgiveness.
We live in a fallen world where people hurt one another. Sometimes they wound others without meaning to. Sometimes they are deliberately unkind or even cruel. This means that, no matter where we live, there will be times when we feel angry or upset.
At such times, it seems natural to become bitter or bad-tempered. We might even find ourselves planning to punish the person who has hurt or offended us. After all, the oldest law in the world says:
'If there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.' (Exodus 21:23)
But, no, says Jesus. Don't think like that. Instead, pray. And when you pray, forgive the person or the people who have offended you.
This word ' forgive' really means to 'let go', to 'drop', to 'set free'. So Jesus is implying that when we pray the prayer of forgiveness, we must let go of any bitterness or hatred in our hearts. We must also drop any plans we have of punishing our enemy. Instead, we must set them free by loving them and praying for them.
Because this is a very hard thing to do, it sometimes has to happen in stages: step by step.
People sometimes suggest that to forgive means to forget. This is not true. The first step towards forgiveness is to remember, as vividly as we can, the event which has distressed us.
I think of an African lady who came to see me on one occasion. She told me that her husband had been beating her and that she was frightened to go back ot him. She wanted to forgive him but she didn't know how to do it.
Forgiveness, for her, started by remembering as vividly as she could, the time when her husband treated her so cruelly. The second step is to remember that oldest law in the world: 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth': to recognize that when someone hurts us, there is a sense in which it is our right to punish that person. So this African lady could have discussed with me ways in which she could punish her husband.
But the third step is to recognize that, as Christians, the challenge to forgive faces us with a choice: to punish or to imitate Jesus. When we sin against Jesus, he chooses to let go of his right to punish. If we are to live like him, we need to come to the place where we are prepared to drop all the accusations we have against the person who has injured us and, instead, to let God's love flow through us to them in the form of practical help!
That is the way this lady chose. When she left me, she had thought of many ways of showing her husband that she still loved him. So true forgiveness is costly and humiliating. I wonder whether this was the reason why Peter once asked Jesus:
'"Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?" 'No, not seven times,' answered Jesus, 'but seventy times seven.'" (Matthew 18:21 GNB)
In other words, we must go on and on forgiving others.
Copy Right: Afghan Christians Web Page 2001
Last Update: Feb 2001