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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

AS HE HAS FORGIVEN US

Certainly the most disturbing words in the Lord's Prayer are found in verse 12.
"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
We sometimes flit like a butterfly over these words without letting them shock us to the core of our relationship with God. Jesus calls us to surrender all of our resentments, all unforgiveness, as we ask for His forgiveness.
As with all of the Lord's Prayer, these words can be expanded. You understand calling on God as Father better when you tell Him all that calling Him Father means to you. Your praise will be more exhilarating when you take time to hallow His name in every way you can think of. And you will receive a far greater blessing from this prayer when you let its seriousness wash over you, struggling to forgive people who are hard to forgive.  
Let me show you two steps of spiritual growth that this part of The Lord's Prayer helps us take. By spending time praying this facet of the model prayer (1)we come to accept the mindset of forgiveness and (2)we surrender our hearts to God in the struggle of forgiveness.
In Matthew 18 beginning with verse 23 Jesus taught something crucial to the kingdom of heaven. He told the story of a king who decided to settle his accounts. He was reminded that one of his servants owed him ten thousand talents. A talent represented a fortune in those days. Ten thousand talents would be like a billion dollars today. It would have been impossible for a servant ever to repay such a sum. So the king arranged to sell the servant along with his wife and children and simply call the debt lost. But the servant came before him and pleaded for time to pay the impossible debt. The king showed him compassion and forgave the entire amount. The servant went away with great relief. But a fellow servant owed him a hundred denari. He went to him and demanded payment. When the other man pleaded with him for more time he grabbed him by the throat and began to choke him. He had him thrown into prison until he paid the full amount. The other servants were upset and told their master. The king summoned his servant and rebuked him. "You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you?" In anger the king commanded that he be turned over to the tormentors until he paid all his debt. Jesus then concluded, "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
Does that mean God will resend your salvation if you will not forgive someone? I do not believe it does. In John 10:28 Jesus clearly said about those who are His sheep, "No one will snatch them out of my hand." But this parable, The Lord's Prayer and other passages like Ephesians 4:32, teach that God's forgiveness is inextricably connected to our forgiving others. Forgiving others should be the natural and supernatural overflow of a forgiven heart. When we pour ourselves into this prayer we immerse ourselves in the mindset of forgiveness. I will be honest there are times that I have had to ask God to forgive someone, still confessing that I was not yet forgiving from my heart. And I had to ask God to do the painful work in my inner being that would bring me to forgive as He so painfully purchased my forgiveness on the cross.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

PRAYING FOR NEEDS

Jesus told us to ask the Father for our daily bread. We are tempted to devote prayer to the chocolate donuts of luxury and comfort. But none of these pleasures are good, if our real needs are not met. Two truths emerge from the wording of this prayer. Needs are immediate. And needs are ultimate.
We have a tendency to pray for God to provide our needs far into the future. These seem to be prayers for God to provide so we will not have to trust him ever again. I have terminal cancer. God has not chosen to remove my cancer. But I have lived and often been basically healthy years longer than my doctors told me I would. Not long ago a friend introduced me as a cancer survivor. I told him later that I couldn't say that. He said, "Every day you are alive, you are a survivor." I told one of my doctors I was doing better than he thought I would because people were praying for me. He was silent for a moment and then said, "That's right."
Our needs are also ultimate. You will die if you do not have food to eat. You have other ultimate needs. Some are physical like the need for bread. Others are emotional, intellectual or spiritual. From an ultimate perspective our greatest needs are spiritual. Life is ultimately meaningless without a sense of wonder, truth, purpose, righteousness and security. These only come from God. They are the fruit of the gospel in our lives. Jesus died that we might have life truly, fully and eternally. Are you focusing on the greatest needs that face us? Or are your prayers distracted by lesser things. My cancer brings an urgency to my life. I don't want to devote most of my energy to praying for a better parking place at the donut shop.

Next week we will look at praying for forgiveness.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

PRAYING FOR GOD'S WILL

In this foundational prayer Jesus told us to pray for God's will to be done. Our sin and the subsequent fall has spun our world and our hearts out of the will of God. Only God can restore us to the way things ought to be. This is one of the most powerful aspects of prayer. But there is much more to praying for God's will than simply mouthing these words in a rote prayer. Let me suggest two critical factors of consistently praying in obedience to this directive from Jesus, Discernment of His will and Desire for His will.
To pray for God's will, I must learn learn to discern God's will in various situations. That begins in exposing myself to God's word. God powerfully and personally reveals Himself to us in the Bible. As we apply ourselves to learning Scripture, the Holy Spirit speaks to us.
A more important facet of discerning God's will is the transformation of your mind, indeed your entire character. Romans 12:2 says, "Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God." God makes us more and more like Him. The verse just before calls us to present our bodies to Him as a living sacrifice. Transformation is a process that takes a lifetime. But every day of His work, often painful to our pride and self-centeredess, produces character, confidence and spiritual maturity. God shapes us in His image, in the likeness of Jesus, so we can know and understand His will. Through this process we come to desire His will. We learn in practice what we usually know superficially, that the best thing that can ever happen is what God desires whether it is what we want or not. Our joy increases exponentially as we come to delight in his will.
I need to note one other blessing that comes as we learn pray for God's will. He gives powerful assurance. 1 John 5:14-15 reads, "This is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him."


http://daveswatch.com/

Monday, October 5, 2015

PRAYING FOR THE KINGDOM

We pray for so many things. I saw two prayer requests this week for sick and suffering dogs. I think that is legitimate. Those who lifted the requests loved their animals. Our prayers should reflect the concerns and passions of our hearts. But it is crucial for us to have right priorities of desire and concerns. Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God. Are you praying for the kingdom?
The day will come when the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. In 2 Peter 3:11-12 we find these words.
"Since all these things are to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening, the coming of the day of God."
We are to wait for and hasten that day. Now let me ask you what we could do to hasten the culmination of history?
It is legitimate to pray as John prayed at the end of The Revelation. "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" But there is more that we can do and pray in this regard. In Matthew 24 Jesus gave us signs of the end times. And in verse 14 He said, "This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all people groups, and then the end will come."

Are you praying for the spread of the gospel, the spread of the Kingdom?  Do you have lists of missionaries that you pray for every day? Are you praying for the gospel to be brought to unreached and unengaged people groups? www.operationworld.org/ is great place to begin. They have the definitive prayer guide for people groups around the world. You can also find information on praying for the spread of the gospel at www.imb.org/ or on the websites of other mission agencies. We can pray for His kingdom to come.
Next week we will look at praying for God's will.

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