Perhaps you remember a classmate in elementary school who bullied you. Or you might recall a family member who failed to keep a promise. Maybe you were treated unfairly by your employer or cheated when making a purchase. Most of us could easily make a lengthy list of the specific ways others have wronged us.
Our reading today begins with an exhortation against hypocrisy in prayer. Jesus instructs us not to be like people who stand “on the street corners to be seen by others” (v. 5). We are to pray in sincerity, with our intended audience being only God Himself. We also do not need to worry about formality or length in our prayers (v. 7). The purpose is to connect with God, to confess our sin, and to ask for His guidance.
Jesus gives His disciples an example of how they should pray. The Lord’s Prayer has been a blessing to believers, used in worship, and examined in sermons. It contains adoration for God, acknowledgment of His holiness and supremacy, confession for sins, and a plea for guidance and protection.
But with our focus on forgiveness this month, notice how Christ’s prayer emphasizes its necessity: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (v. 14). This is a promise. When we forgive others, releasing the account of their wrongdoing from our mental ledger, our hearts are open to experience God’s forgiveness.
The corollary to this spiritual principle warns of the consequence of a refusal to forgive others: “If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (v. 15). Our willingness to forgive reveals our relationship with the Lord.
What sins do you have difficulty forgiving? On our own, it is exceedingly difficult to forgive others for what they have done. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to offer the gift of forgiveness. Today, pray over the list of wrongs that you struggle to forgive, and ask God to help you forgive others as He has forgiven you.