The Transforming Power of Prayer (Part 4)
"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors ” (Matt.6:12). Prayer reminds you of God’s daily call to give the same grace to others as God has given to you. Prayer requires you to love others as you have been loved. Prayer makes no sense if it isn't rooted in recognition that God has placed his love on you even though you could never have earned, achieved, or deserved it. Prayer makes sense only when its rooted in the reality that you’ve been gifted every day with patient forgiveness and empowering grace. Prayer humbles you as it forces you to acknowledge that the most valuable thing in your existence, the love of God, is the thing that you had no capacity whatsoever to earn. And as prayer calls you to celebrate undeserved love, it requires you to commit yourself to love others in the same way. There is a direct connection between self-righteousness and an inability and unwillingness to love others.
It is a contradiction to seek God’s help yet be unwilling to help your neighbor. It is a contradiction to celebrate God’s love yet refuse to love others. It is a contradiction to be deeply aware of your moment-by-moment need of grace yet unwilling to give grace to the person you live near and say that you love. It is a contradiction to know that your only real hope in life is God’s forgiveness yet refuse to forgive that person who has sinned against you. It is a contradiction to know that God will only listen to your requests because he is patient and kind and then turn and respond to others in irritation and impatience.
It makes no sense to participate in an act that, by its very nature, recognizes that you’ve been blessed by divine love and grace, yet to have no practical commitment to love and grace in your relationships. It makes no sense to celebrate God’s forgiveness and then refuse to forgive others in those moments when forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration are so obviously and practically needed. As prayer calls you to celebrate vertical forgiveness, it requires you to offer horizontal forgiveness as well.
Prayer reminds you of God’s call to love. It reminds you that you’ve been designed to live a lifestyle of willing self-sacrifice for the good of another. Prayer reminds you that successful living is all about loving God above all else and loving your neighbor as yourself. Prayer reminds you that your relationships are always about the daily dynamics of a sinner living near a sinner, and because it is, there is no more important commitment in relationships than the commitment to forgive. Prayer reminds you that there is never a day when you aren’t called to give another grace that hasn’t been deserved or earned.
Here is the thing that happens to many of us. Pay attention to the cycle that I am about to describe. As we lose sight of our daily need for forgiveness, we quit being so willing to forgive others. As we quit forgiving others and putting away their offenses, we begin to keep a record of the others' wrongs. As we keep a daily record of wrongs, we're increasingly aware of how much we’re affected by the weakness and failure of others. As we carry this awareness with us, we become increasingly irritated, impatient, and intolerant with others. So we deal with our disappointment with others by protecting ourselves from them with distance and busyness; living in networks of terminally casual relationships.
A mutual commitment to give grace daily is the only hope for a relationship of a sinner to a sinner, which is the only kind of relationship there is. Prayer reminds us of God’s call to love and forgive, and it reminds us that this call is most needed when it is most undeserved.