Thursday, June 18, 2009

If You Forgive Others Their Sins, Your Heavenly Father Will Forgive Yours.

Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
When you pray, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

"This is how you are to pray:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.'

"If you forgive others their sins,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your sins."

It is really a great pity that many Christians equate “praying” with “saying prayers.” When we do this, we ignore what Jesus told his disciples in this gospel:”When you pray, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” The very fact that the disciples had to ask Jesus to teach them to pray tells us that he had never given them any set prayers.

Have you ever noticed that in the Our Father, the prayer which Jesus gave the disciples in answer to their request, there is no mention of Jesus? This suggests that this was his own prayer, composed in words according to the ancient Hebrew tradition. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are not praying to Jesus, but joining with him in praying to the Father, according to all four of the motives of prayer: Adoration, Thanksgiving, Petition, and Contrition. Repeating the words by rote without thinking about what they mean is not praying, but babbling like the pagans do.

Consider carefully the last of the four motives of prayer, as expressed in the Our Father: Contrition. Jesus makes it abundantly clear in his comment on his own prayer: If we ask God to forgive our sins, but we are not willing to forgive those who, by their words or their actions, have offended us, we are, in fact, contradicting ourselves. Why should we expect God to forgive us, if we are not willing to forgive those who have sinned against us? Some commentators – not among my “sources” – consider that the last admonition of Jesus in this gospel “If you don’t forgive others for having offended you, neither will God forgive your offenses against Him – or against them” is “rhetorical exaggeration”. Perhaps it is. On the other hand, if it just might be true – why take the chance?

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