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"Forgive Us", Pardon and Peace: Practicing Prayer (3)

. 2 min read


Notes, below:

So, we’ve been doing this sermon series this month on prayer.
The purpose of this series is to give you all some concrete prayer practices
that you can take home and put to use in your everyday lives. The basic prayer,
what Jesus said when asked “How should we pray?”, was the Lord’s Prayer. The
Lord’s prayer forms an outline for what goes into a proper prayer. Pastor JP
assigned the point of forgiveness for my part in this series.
One thing that sticks out to me in the forgiveness aspect of
the Lords Prayer is the importance that it puts on reciprocity. “Forgive us our
trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Your being forgiven
is directly tied to your ability to forgive others.
One reason why forgiveness is an integral part of prayer as
Jesus teaches us is that we do not always have it in our minds that we need it.
We are living in an inherently sinful world, for sure. But we sometimes see our
lives as being without sin. The world of sin, we see it outside our windows and
think that we’re not a part of it. We think about how good we are for going to
church on Sunday morning, and how every month the pastor says to the
congregation “In the name of Christ, you are forgiven”. We get so caught up in
our theology of universal forgiveness that our forgiveness is taken for
granted.

We start to think that, since forgiveness is available to
everybody, it’s ours. We already have it, so we don’t need to ask for it. And
when we stop thinking that we need to ask for forgiveness, when we stop asking
for forgiveness, we stop forgiving others.
It’s a dangerous line of thought. We don’t like to think of
ourselves as sinners, and yet we all are. That doesn’t mean that we can’t be
forgiven, just that we need to acknowledge it. This idea, that we are so
entrenched in sin that we don’t even notice it, is a tough spiritual challenge.
This semester, while studying the book of Romans in a prison in New Jersey, I
met a modern theologian from the inside named Will. The first time I met Will,
he shared with me his ideas on the topic of being so entrenched in sin that we
don’t notice it. He calls it “Sinstitutionalization”.  Willie told me that the doors of life are
opened to everyone who asks for forgiveness, but you have to ask for it. It’s
not a question of being stronger than your sin, it’s about being willing to
acknowledge it.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to our prayer
practice for this week. This practice is quiet meditative prayer. When Jesus
taught how to pray, I think he was talking about meditative prayer: Go into
your room, close the door. Get away from the constant demands the outside world
makes on your attention. In order to focus on your prayer you need to get away
from distractions from outside. So take ten to fifteen minutes when you can be
alone.