Summary: Last in mini-series on prayer, taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and dealing with the necessity of forgiving others.
Guidelines for Effective Prayer (Part 3)
May 29, 2005
We’ve spent the last few weeks looking at what Jesus had to say about prayer, as we’ve looked at his words in Matthew 6.
And from these words, we’ve found 8 principles or guidelines for effective prayer. In other words, what should we keep in mind if we wish to have God answer our prayers the way we would like.
But that’s not to say we can manipulate God into giving us what we want by following these guidelines. God will not be manipulated.
Remember, HE is the master, we are the servants. We come to him in humility, bringing our requests, knowing that he has the power to grant them, but that he is under no obligation to grant them.
So I hope you don’t feel that what I’ve talked about so far during these messages is how to make God do YOUR will. Because one of the purposes of prayer is to help us do GOD’S will.
The guidelines we’ve looked at so far are aimed at preparing US, not preparing God. Does that make sense?
Let’s very quickly review the guidelines we’ve looked at so far:
* Avoid praying for "looks."
* Don’t measure the prayer by the words.
* Trust that the Father knows your needs.
* Praise God’s name.
* Pray for God’s purposes.
* Pray for God’s provision.
* Pray for God’s pardon.
* Pray for God’s protection.
We find today’s guideline in verses 14-15 of Matthew 6. And I would like you to read this passage aloud with me.
"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
This is connected to the passage describing Jesus’ model prayer by that little word, "for." Jesus gives the model prayer and then says, "For if you forgive men..."
Here is today’s guideline for effective prayer: Forgive as God has forgiven you.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
I love the way The Message has part of this verse:
Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.
There’s a whole message right there. When you come to God for forgiveness, he forgives you instantly, and completely. And he expects us to do the same for others.
Withholding forgiveness from others is contrary to the way the Father acts toward us. And if we’re going to call ourselves followers of God, disciples of Jesus, then we need to demonstrate that forgiveness.
These two verses here in Matthew 6 are a reaffirmation of verse 12 of the model prayer, in which Jesus instructs us to pray,
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Before we get into the heart of the message, though, let’s look at two inescapable facts about forgiveness:
1. Forgiveness is not optional.
It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command. Refusal to forgive is a sin itself. Have you ever thought that way before? It’s true. God commands it. If we don’t obey, we are disobedient, and disobedience is sin.
2. Unforgiveness hinders answered prayer.
Why is that? Because we are in sin. And when we are in sin, we cannot expect God to answer our prayers. That’s pretty simple, right? Right.
Well, let’s move into the main points of the message, as we investigate just what forgiveness is and is not.
I think we might be a little more inclined to offer forgiveness if we know what it’s really all about, and in doing that I think we need to destroy a couple myths about forgiveness, so let’s start by looking first at...
What forgiveness is not:
This won’t be an exhaustive list, but there are two main things I want us to see about what forgiveness is not. And I hope that even this part of the message will be helpful, and maybe even freeing for you, if you have been holding onto these myths.
Here we go. First of all...
1. Forgiveness is not pretending it’s okay.
You know what? People hurt you, and it’s NOT okay. Whether it’s intentional or not, it’s not okay. You are hurt. And too often we think that forgiveness means pretending you’re not hurt or that it’s okay that you got hurt.
Well, that’s just not the case. You need to be honest about your hurt. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Now sometimes (and here’s the hard part of this) our hurts are due more to our over-sensitivity about something. And while we’re examining the fact that we’re hurt, we also need to examine ourselves to see if the hurt is legitimate or just the result of our sensitivity to something.