Praying Forgiveness for Spiritual Health

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around 10The world is full of angry and unforgiving people. It seems people don’t get along anymore. It’s noticeable in politics, but even in our culture no one can find common ground. Call me a cynic, but I am only characterizing the world the way the Bible does.

Why should people forgive if they’ve never known God’s forgiveness? That’s what makes Christians different. Every believer in Jesus experienced God’s forgiveness for their sins against him and others.

Even after we become children of God, it is not hard for us to offend one another. There are several provisions in the B.3ible for Christians. Paul calls us to live at peace with one another (Romans 12:18).

Jesus leaves a provision for unforgiveness that separates us from God (Matthew 5:23-24). And we know there were personality issues and other problems between Christians and the early church (Acts 15:37-40, see also Acts 13:13-14; Acts 6:1-2; Galatians 2:11-14).

As hard as it is for us to admit, problems can arise even between us. So part of the Lord’s Prayer has to do with forgiveness and not allowing sin and offense to separate us for very long. The next line of the Lord’s Prayer after asking him for our daily needs spiritual and physical asks him about forgiveness.

Jesus places importance on both physical and spiritual needs. We pray for our daily bread. “Bread” refers both to physical and spiritual needs. But the spiritual health of God’s children and Jesus’ body concerns him.

Praying for forgiveness is a two-way street. That is how we became believers in Jesus by asking God to forgive us of the sins we committed against him. Even if we did not commit sins against others, before we met Jesus, we carried out hostility against God (Ephesians 2:12-14).

These final lines of the Lord’s Prayer address sin in our lives. First, he speaks of forgiveness that covers over offenses between us. And then he deals with temptation and evil in the world (Matthew 6:13).

Sin stands against spiritual well-being for all people. But unlike unbelievers, Jesus freed everyone who follows him from sin (Romans 6:1-4; Ephesians 2:1-4). Jesus provides us the opportunity to live in freedom he won on the cross  (Galatians 5:1-2).

To take advantage of that enormous weight off of our chests, we must make sure we do not live in offense from someone else or offend others. Offense, when we let it linger can fester and grow in our hearts.

Unforgiveness becomes poisonous bile that gradually separates us from one another. It becomes the great sin that remains unaddressed among us. Then like a bomb with a long fuse it blows up in our faces.

Unforgiveness comes out in anger, passive/aggressive behavior, gossip, character assassinations, and a host of other ways we try to let people know they’ve offended us. WhenJune 20 we don’t forgive, it hurts us more than them. We are the ones who sulk and separate ourselves. We are the ones who bear the burden.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross or forgive us of our sins so we can put ourselves back in prison. Jesus is our example of forgiveness. Just like he taught us unconditional love,, he also taught us how to forgive.

Several times people have come to me and said, “I forgive you,” my first thought was, “Of what?” It’s not that I’m oblivious but your offender rarely knows they have offended you unless you inform them. We’re more comfortable sulking in the background and complaining about our offender.

That’s one reason Jesus presented an approach to deal with differences among us in the church (Matthew 18:15-19). This three-step process ensures that when we follow it, we deal with every offense in the body of Christ.

First, we personally approach the offender one on one. Address the situation and see if forgiveness results. If the offender refuses to deal with the issue, you take one or two people, with you, usually church leadership. If the offender still refuses to ask forgiveness, you take it to the entire church. But it should never get to that point.

In all my years of ministry so far, I haven’t seen it go past the second stage. I’ve read examples of the third stage, but not in my ministry. Christians that don’t deal with their sin when it is addressed by multiple people callously ignore loving guidance.

But Jesus teaches us to make forgiveness our priority and first response. He keeps us from becoming callous to him and others. Our hearts must remain soft and malleable in his presence. And so forgiveness is one of his top priorities in the prayer he models for us.

Forgiveness means “to let go,” “ to send away.” We open our hands and let God take that thing we’ve been holding so tight. We may feel self-righteous and above our offender, but it endangers communication with God and the body of Christ.

The next word in the prayer may be different in your Bible version. It can be “debts,” “trespasses,” or even “guilt.” Most translate it “trespasses.” This Old Testament word surrounded the law of Moses.

A trespass is to cross over a line. It is a sin because it involves a law that we crossed. And so we are indebted to God and others when we cross over his rules. It causes a deep-seated guilt in us because we know we wronged God or someone else.

We need the forgiveness of others, for them to let go or send away this guilt within us. They must forgive us for crossing over their line. If they refuse to forgive us, we must turn to God for his forgiveness. And if God forgives us, that is enough for us.

Do whatever it takes not to offend others. If you are the offender, build the bridge of forgiveness. Deal with it immediately to restore relationship in Christ’s body.

Jesus places such a premium on forgiveness that right after the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 5:14-15, he teaches the spiritual forgiveness principle. God treats us the same way we treat others in forgiveness. Our Father forgives us when we forgive others, but if we don’t forgive them, he won’t forgive us.

I believe God takes forgiveness this seriously because it cost him his son’s life to forgive us. Because the cost was so high, when we don’t forgive others, we don’t demonstrate his love. It’s not the way he taught us.

Forgiveness brings wholeness and wellness to the body of Christ. Even if we are not dealing with sin in our lives, our attitudes, intentions, motives, and everything else under the surface nobody else can see may not please the Lord.

Don’t neglect the spiritual needs in prayer. We must address them with the Lord so we don’t travel a dangerous path. We can address physical needs in prayer but live in spiritual bankruptcy until we ask for forgiveness.

Each of us needs forgiveness from God’s one another. Forgiveness is a tool to keep us from spiritual darkness. It brings us the freedom and light of Jesus. We rely on him to bring his justice and vengeance to any of our offenders. And even if they don’t forgive us, we forgive them because God forgave us..

Jesus wants you to walk in spiritual wellness. He doesn’t want his body to suffer from unforgiveness and bitterness. Leave a comment and tell me why you think it is important for us to forgive and why it is in the Lord’s Prayer.

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