Debt Forgiveness

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Today we’re taking our prayer request to a new level—one that is probing and deeply personal. We ask for forgiveness, for ourselves, for the ones we’re praying about, for those involved in the pain that has brought us to our knees.

I’d rather pray for bread.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Debts. I have debts. Plural. I owe my friend $5 when I was short for the lunch tab. I owe a reciprocal dinner. I owe others for acts of kindness too many to count and too thoughtful to match. I owe visits and emails, words of gratitude and patient listening, encouragement and caring about your story. And that’s just on this plane.

I owe God my life. I am straddled with a debt of forgiveness I can’t pay—a life I cannot purify enough to make worthy, thoughts that dwell on unhappiness more than on Him, service I’m not selfless enough to give, praise that forgets my faltering ego and exalts Him, trust that usurps my fears, worship that is not minimized by mood.

So, I inadequately come to the One who paid all these debts and more, and offer nothing as I ask Him to forgive me—again. I receive sweet mercy and astounding grace. And then I remember the qualifier—forgive as I have forgiven my debtors.

Is there someone I’m holding accountable to me? Does my attitude say you owe me? Am I waiting for reparation?

My forgiveness for others will never be as free and full as what I receive from my Father, but I can make my heart right by releasing my offenders from their debt, like I’ve been released from mine. And then I make forgiveness choices—to not rehearse the offense, to not repay the evil, to bless the offender, to live at peace, to refuse to take the offense that’s been given.

How does this apply to the situations we’ve been praying according to the Lord’s prayer?

Lord, my loved one may not be asking, but I’m asking, please forgive his (or her) sins. Bring him to the place where he will marvel over the magnitude of your forgiving grace. Cut away roots of bitterness that want to take hold. I release from debt, those who have hurt him, who have hurt me. Bring a miracle of healing that only forgiveness can release.

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Give. Us. Daily. Bread.

Wheat.During the past weeks we’ve prayed about a specific situation according to the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. We asked God’s name to be honored, His rulership to reign above our desires, and His will to be done. The focus of these first three requests has been on God’s greatness: His holiness (hallowed be), sovereignty (kingdom come), and wisdom (your will be done). The next three focus on our smallness. As we bring our request to Him today, let us ask,

“Give us today our daily bread.”

This seemingly simple request is actually heavy with meaning.

Give us. These words recognize two things—the Giver and the need. In the self-sufficient place I live, I need reminders of both. I drive to one of 35 grocery stores within fifteen minutes of my home where I find a dazzling array of selections and pay for them with cash, check or credit. I empty my bags (always plural and more than I expected), pushing my purchases into already full cabinets. I confess, “Give us today our daily bread” never passed my lips.

Our request for daily bread is not determined by need but by acknowledgement. It is not our jobs, our ingenuity, our labors that supply our needs—it’s all from God, the One who gave us work, talents and strength. It’s all grace and deserves daily appreciation.

It is different when we pray for something outside our ability to provide (such as the request we’ve been praying through the Lord’s Prayer). Then it is easy to feel our need because we are powerless to change the situation. Our cry, “Give us today our daily bread” is honest. The need hurts and only God can supply the remedy.

Today. What we presently need—we’ll be back again tomorrow.

Did you ever notice God is more about process than speed? I want this burden to be gone today but God gives me grace today. I need to subdue the desire to cover it all, to solve the problem and be finished with it, and ask only for what’s needed today.

Our. Not my needs alone, ours. I own your need and share your hardship. We are in this together.

Daily. I want to be confident in God’s provision—it is always enough for the day, like manna in the wilderness.

Bread. I don’t ask for the desserts of life but for what is needful to live well. “Lord, give me what nourishes and sustains me. Satisfy me with your gifts of perfect, timely provision.”

The significance of praying for our daily bread explodes when we consider a conversation Jesus had in John 6. He said, “I am the bread of life.” I believe Living Bread is encompassed in the request for daily bread since no other petition in this prayer pattern includes spiritual or emotional needs. Both “breads” are needful daily and are supplied by a gracious Father.

Let our prayers intentionally focus on the Giver, our daily need and His daily supply.

Lord, you know what’s necessary for my loved one. You understand his (or her) needs better than I do, so I ask you to give him what he needs for today and help me to not worry about his future. And, Lord, it’s not only for his bread I pray, but for all the lives who touch his and are affected by him. Work in me, that I may care as passionately for others as I do for me and mine. Give us today our daily bread.

Lord, satisfy me today with Yourself. Let me—no—let us eat of the Bread that fills our longing souls. Give us today our daily Bread.

Your Kingdom, Your Will

kingdomCome1I hope you’re discovering sweet release as you apply each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer to a specific prayer request. Today, the answer you seek has the potential to enter the “more than we ask or imagine” realm when you bring your burden before our Father and pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

God’s kingdom is the place—the only place—where His will is perfectly performed. There is no hindrance, no interference, no objection. His will is embraced and trusted. It’s not like earth where so much gets in the way, like us, and even our prayers.

Do you sometimes sound like me?

“Lord, here is my loved one and this is the dilemma. Would you please…?” Even when I don’t verbalize my wishes, I have them, both acknowledged and in my subconscious. I am not short on suggestions for ways God could fix this—but my proposals are inferior to His ways.

Are my prayers limiting or do they release answers that are above what I ask or imagine? A Kingdom of God mentality will align my prayers with God’s will.

“Lord, I want your kingdom to rise in this situation—for righteousness to reign and sin to flee. Father, shine your light on this mess and let your glory glow. I want your will to be done, even if I don’t understand it, like it or agree with it.

And as I pray, Lord, may your kingdom reign in my heart without resistance. Spirit, keep this truth before me: your ways and thoughts are always higher than mine and everything you do is initiated by astounding love and fathomless faithfulness.

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth—in this situation—as it is in heaven. Amen.”

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory … for ever and ever! Amen. Eph 3:20-21

Hallowed be your Name

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What concern did you choose to pray through the Lord’s Prayer pattern? As you bring that request to God, can you place His honor above your desires and say, “Hallowed be your name”?

Hallowed is not a common word. My only recall of its use is “hallowed halls” of a university, which implies respect or a revered tradition one wouldn’t think of changing. Both thoughts are applicable to today’s prayer. Synonyms for hallowed are holy, blessed, sacred, revered.

We do not ask God to make His already-holy name hallowed, but that His name—who He is, His glory—takes precedence over the answers we seek. My mind has considered many wonderful ways God could answer my prayer, but now it is still, acknowledging what is important—the glory of His name.

Lord, be sanctified in my heart. In the pain I carry, in the circumstances that need your intervention, in the life of my loved one—above all, above the solution I long for, may your name be hallowed.

This means my child’s struggle, my husband’s issue, my friend’s restoration, my personal disappointment—whatever tearful burden I’m bringing—is secondary to His name being revered. Nothing is more important.

As the first of six requests, “hallowed be your name” is rightly positioned, dictating the priority of our desires. Asking that His name be honored is a request that God Himself, with all the attributes of His divine nature, be held in highest esteem—His power, wisdom, sovereignty, authority, omniscience and all He is.

When you cry out to God with your burden, may your greatest longing be for God’s will, purposes, and plans to be revered more than your personal wishes and desired solutions.

Lord, may your name be hallowed above the desires of my heart.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:9-10)

…Who is in Heaven

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Did you find peace in bringing your prayer concern to “Our Father” last week? Today, let’s take that same concern and give it to our Father “who is in Heaven.” The phrase is my update on “who art in heaven” from the King James, but I love these words too much to omit them as the modern translations do.

“Our Father who“ tells us that father is more than a role, a statement of paternity, or a genealogical designation. It reminds us that our Father is a who—a person—with feelings, thoughts, emotions, hopes, plans, disappointments. At first glance it hardly seems necessary to mention but when we focus on the person-hood of God, we realize that the burdens we bring Him are met with empathy and love. Being made in His image gives us some understanding of His emotional investment in us. The depth of feeling that brought us to prayer is more than matched by our Father who hears that prayer.

This wonderful Person, God the Father, feels our pain, aches with sorrow, receives us with love, listens with patience, and cares more than we imagine. He is more than the God who created this wonderful world for us to inhabit and more than the King in Heaven who will one day welcome us home. The God of our past and future is also the God of our present.

Our Father who is. At times I stop right there and savor the fact that He is. He’s here, He’s real, He’s God. “Lord,” my heart cries, “You are!” I am overwhelmingly grateful. Someone bigger than me sees and cares about this weight in my heart, this confusion in my mind! God is with me—and He is in heaven.

It’s sweet to know there is a place from where He rules over the affairs of earth with unchallenged authority. It’s His home. It’s my home. When I contemplate that, my perspective changes. The concerns that brought me to my knees are quieted in the recognition of heaven’s reality.

Today, let’s be especially grateful for our Father who is in heaven, knowing that He embraces the concerns we bring, He is present in our troubles, and He reigns unopposed from His home in heaven.

The Best Known Prayer

The Lords prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is familiar even to those who don’t know “our Father in heaven.” For many, it is a prayer to recite during a religious service, funeral, or moment of piety. But Jesus did not give us this prayer as a formal recitation.

The prayer can be viewed it as a menu of topics about which to pray, but it’s  more than that. It’s a pattern.

Jesus gave us a pattern for personal conversation with God and provides us with an outline for each concern we bring to Him. When I apply it, every aspect of the need I’m presenting is covered, even those I hadn’t considered.

As we talk about the parts of the Lord’s Prayer in upcoming posts, I invite you to choose one personal prayer concern and apply Jesus’ pattern to your specific request. I believe you will experience sweet peace.

Our Father

Sometimes I get no further than simply saying, “Our Father.” When my heart is heavy with concern for a loved one, I utter those words and peace invades. It’s not an attempt to convince my Father to listen and intervene, but a confession of faith. He is our Father—mine and the one I am praying for. When I speak those words, I’m acknowledging that God cares more than I do because He is their Father and I’m releasing the one I love to the One who loves greater.

Suddenly the complications that bewildered me, come to rest. My heart stills because my Father, our Father, has it covered. Those two words remind me that He’s in the picture, He’s present, He’s omnipresent.

Our Father is everything we could want an earthly father to be and more. He loves perfectly, provides lavishly, listens patiently. He shows mercy, kindness and grace without reservation. He understands our weaknesses and knows what’s needed to strengthen us.

His Father’s heart responds to me, His child, talking to Him about the needs of another beloved child.

Today, let the words “Our Father” bring peace to your heart as you speak them on behalf of your loved one, your troubling situation, your concerns.

Beneath the Snow

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This morning I made a decision. As I looked out at yet another snowfall blanketing the earth, I decided to look beyond what I saw. I did not conjecture about how many days it will take the snow to melt. I did not grumble that the calendar says spring and even my hoodie isn’t keeping me warm. I did not calculate how many snow (and sick) days this winter held. It’s not that those thoughts didn’t hover, I simply chose to replace them.

  • The sun is shining and the pavement is already clear—a wonderful contrast to yesterday’s gray.
  • Sap is flowing through the bare trees—soon they will sprout green buds with the promise of leafy cover.
  • Beneath the snow crocuses and daffodils are pushing upward—their purple and yellow heads ready to break through and dot the earth with color.
  • The dormant grass appears dead, but it’s rousing and will again grow green and lush.
  • Though they now look like bushes of brown sticks, buds are forming and in weeks cascading azaleas will shower yellow flowers.
  • As spring stubbornly presses forward, sweaters, scarves and socks will be traded for shorts, shirts and sandals.
  • Gentle rains and warm breezes will assuredly replace driving snow and frigid gusts.

My choice of thoughts paid off. I feel refreshed, happy. Sweetness replaced my sour mood. Anticipation traded places with lethargy. I highly recommend thought-replacement therapy!

“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Prov. 17:22)

Lord, I always have a choice. When my hopes and dreams are buried beneath blankets of disappointment, remind me that your purposes prevail. Seasons are temporary but you are undaunted. Though I may not see it, you are active beneath the snow.

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