What’s up, everybody! My name is Conor Doyle. I’m one of the pastors here at Whitewater. I’m honored to hang out with you today. We are in our series on prayer. Some of us have been praying for years. Some of us have never prayed before in our life. Wherever you are in your faith journey, we believe prayer can change your life.
I want to mention upfront that we have a Prayer Experience coming up next Sunday, September 12th. It’s open to everyone, it’s family-friendly and I promise, you won’t want to miss it. Check out our website for more details.
Jesus’ disciples or his followers asked Him how they should pray. Jesus responded and gave them a model for how to pray. It’s also a model for how we should pray. It’s been popularly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. I’d love to say the Lord’s Prayer together as a family. Wherever you are sitting, driving, or listening, let’s say this together. Some of you might know different versions. I’d like to all be on the same page and read from a more understandable version. It will be on the screens. Y’all ready? Here we go. From Matthew chapter 6:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
In the first week of this series, we talked about “Our Father in heaven." God is our Father who loves us and wants us to come home. Period! He’s a good Father. Then, we talked about the phrase, “hallowed be your name." God is the most powerful, awesome, and glorious being in the universe. He is worthy of our praise and worship. That’s why we can say, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done.” This is really hard because we're saying, “Okay God, your way, not mine. I surrender to you. Whatever you want to do, let’s do it.” Last week, Jon (one of our pastors) talked about God as our provider. Man! I needed to be reminded of that. “Give us today our daily bread."
And as Jesus is teaching us how to pray (or talk with God), he then shifts gears a bit and says, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us."
When I was in middle school, the house where my family lived was in a neighborhood and we had neighbors on both sides of the house. One of our neighbors was extremely particular about his yard and landscaping. Like, green grass was his spiritual gift, his purpose in life! It wouldn’t surprise me to see him with scissors cutting individual blades of grass in his yard. Anybody like that? See me after service, I need help. One summer, our neighbor and his wife decided to take a trip for about a week. His grass started to get a little longer than normal. My mom loved to mow the grass and while she was mowing our grass, she saw the neighbor’s yard getting longer. So my sweet little southern momma mowed our yard and our neighbor's yard as well that day.
We didn’t think anything of it until a few days later. That summer was one of the hottest summers in recorded history in Louisville and because of the heat, our neighbor's grass started to change color. Not a greener color but more and more of a sorry yellow or brown color. It got so bad that his entire yard of grass was completely dead.
A few days had gone by and my mom anxiously waited for them to return to apologize for her hurtful generosity. Our neighbors finally got home. We were out to dinner and when we drove home, we pulled onto our street and saw our neighbor there... standing in his front yard, full of emotions… wanting to cry and kick a puppy at the same time. We awkwardly pulled into our driveway right next to theirs. As my mom got out of the car to walk over to apologize to him, the rest of my family stayed in the car and watched in absolute fulfillment. So much so that my dad rolled down the windows, turned up the music playing the song “Apologize” by Timbaland.
Of all the things Jesus could have included in his prayer, why would He talk about forgiveness? Why would Jesus feel forgiveness is so important? Because Jesus knew we desperately need forgiveness and our lives will be much better if we forgive people.
Maybe you have asked questions like, “Can I REALLY be forgiven?” Or on the other side of that... “Do I really NEED to be forgiven? I’m basically a good person." Or “How could I forgive the person who hurt me? Why should I forgive them… they don’t deserve it?” In the Lord’s Prayer, he tells us to pray a line that is significant, life-changing, challenging to the nth degree! He told us to pray this to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
My hope is over the next few minutes together, this conversation on forgiveness and prayer will inspire and encourage us to receive forgiveness and give forgiveness.
What does it mean to forgive? To forgive means “to send away, or to let go, or to release."
And Jesus is saying we need to ask God to forgive us. To release our debt.
The original word Jesus uses for debts (translations use words like sins or transgressions, same idea) but in the Lord’s Prayer, the word “debt” is only used two times in the Bible. There is another word for debt in the original language and it’s like a debt that can be paid. Like a mortgage on a house or a car loan or student loan or a credit card.
But the word Jesus uses here is different. It’s a debt that can’t possibly be paid. It’s a debt that, even if you worked and worked and worked, for 10 lifetimes, making a ton of money, you still wouldn’t be able to pay it off. And this is the word Jesus uses for our debt, our sin, our stuff.
I want to pause right here and not assume anything… and ask the question, “Do you realize you and I are sinners?” We are guilty! And what’s owed is more than we could ever repay?
Don’t believe me? Here is what the Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
I’ve thrown words around like sin or debt. What does that mean? What is sin? Sin is knowing right and choosing wrong. Knowing wrong and doing it anyway. And we are all in that boat. We are all broken and see the world through tinted lenses. Our very perspective is tainted. You and me.
I run into people all the time and through conversation hear that they think they have it all figured out, aren’t perfect but haven’t sinned. And why would you ask for forgiveness if you don’t think you need it. Like not going to a doctor because you don’t think you are sick.
Let me put it to you this way, there is a worldwide disease that spreads rapidly and it’s worse than COVID. It’s called sin and we are all infected. And there are people who genuinely believe the cure for the disease of sin is to be a good enough person. There is a word for this. It’s called moralism and it’s not of God and is nowhere in the Bible. Sin is much deeper than “doing bad." It's turning from God.
Dang Conor… bearer of bad news today. Yes, but if you don't understand the reality of your bad news then you will never experience the goodness of God’s good news. Here is the good news.
The gospel: we need help. Jesus paid it all.
There was a man named Paul. He was a significant character in the Bible. He was writing about the good news or the gospel, and here is what he wrote. Ephesians chapter 2 says, “But God, (talk about a big but… I love this big, beautiful “but God”) being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
So when we pray, we ask God to forgive us of our sins.
I know so many people who are going through something so complex right now that it is crippling. And they say things like, “What I’ve done is unforgivable and I’m not worthy of grace” OR “I’ll never be able to forgive myself." Please hear me. Our sin debt is so big we could never repay it. But our God is bigger. His grace is greater than our disgrace. How dare we think anything we could do, good or bad, could overpower our God! So can God forgive you? YES!!! He Can! Do you and I need forgiveness? Yes!! We do!
It’s also worth clarifying that once we say “YES” to Jesus, He makes us new and forgives us of our sins. But we pray regularly right? So how does that work? Why is Jesus saying we need to ask for forgiveness regularly?
Think of it this way… I love my son so much. But he is a little toddler stinker! And sometimes he doesn’t listen or throws a fit or whatever. I’ve already forgiven him and there is nothing he can do that would make me love him any less or any more. But there is something beautiful when I sit down with him and say, “Son, you hurt dada, but I love you and I forgive you. Can you give me a hug?” That’s his little way of saying sorry.
There is beautiful health to regularly apologizing in a relationship. And for those who have a relationship with God, it’s healthy for us to ask God for forgiveness, too.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He goes on in His model prayer and tells us to pray, “Forgive our debtors.”
Question: What do we do when someone hurts us or causes us pain?
Growing up, I played a lot of golf. I was fortunate enough to make the varsity team at a very early age (humble brag...) and a lot of that was a credit to whom I will call “Coach." Coach was my variety coach and he was a very godly man. He would stop full practices and read Bible verses to the team. He would pull us off to the side and pray for us. I remember he would write on index cards, put it in each team member’s golf bag and the card had a prayer on it of him praying for the team during a tournament.
After I graduated high school, I came to the Cincinnati area to go to college. I didn’t hear from Coach for a little while until I got a phone call one day from one of my old teammates. He called me and said, “Dude, have you heard the news about Coach?” And I said, “No, what are you talking about?!” And my teammate said, “Well apparently Coach completely walked out on his family, didn’t leave any notice and they can’t find him. What’s worse is when the family started going through his stuff to try to figure out what happened, what they discovered was awful and so hurtful to all involved. They discovered a significant log of pornography and it had been going on for a long time. Just a really complicated mess.” As you can imagine, at that moment, I was hurt/confused/angry. This was Coach! Someone I looked up to as one of my greatest spiritual mentors. And he hurt me. He was a picture of someone I wanted to be like when I grew up and this illusion had been shattered.
Once we got off the phone, I tried calling Coach but he never answered. Years went by. I would try calling him about once every other month or so. About my senior year in college, I got a call from my dad and he was pretty emotional. My dad said, “Son, I’ve got some bad news. They found Coach in his apartment and he’s dead.” We cried together over the phone and to this day, I have no idea what really happened.
Let me ask the question again, “What do we do when someone hurts us?”
How in the world are we supposed to move forward and what does that look like? Do we go get a big ol’ baseball bat and do what needs to be done… in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit??? Do we post nasty comments on social media? Do we play the dreaded IGNORING game? Do we forgive and forget?
I believe this is one of the hardest but most needed conversations we should be having in our culture today.
Jesus was teaching His disciples one time and He was trying to help them understand forgiveness. Here is what happened in Matthew 18, "Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” [In that day, the Old Rabbinic, which was a collection of rules, said to forgive three times but not to forgive on the 4th wrong. Peter was trying to impress Jesus by saying seven times. So Peter multiplies by two plus one and thinks he has nailed it!] Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made." [His servant owed 10,000 talents. The best way to think of this amount is in time. Which is 200,000 years of wages!!!! Of course, the servant couldn’t pay the debt… way too big!!! Kind of like our debt to God.] So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything." And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt." [To the disciple’s surprise, the master forgives this huge amount of debt!!!] "But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, "Pay what you owe." So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you."
[So two servants. The first servant owed the king 200,000 years of labor and here is what’s interesting about the second servant: the amount of the debt was significantly smaller than the first servant's debt. The second servant owed one hundred denarii which was about three months of labor. Three months vs 200,000 years worth of labor. And check out what the first servant did.]
"He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt." [To the disciple’s surprise, the first servant refused mercy to the second servant forcing him in prison.]
"When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, "You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger, his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Here is Jesus’ point of the story. Our debt is too big for us to pay! But our Master, Jesus, paid it for us. Because our debt has been paid or forgiven, now we are to forgive others. We are to release others' debts or wrongdoings against us. In comparison, our sin debt to God compared to people’s sin debt to us… is like the servant's in the story. We have been forgiven of SO much!!!! To think we wouldn’t forgive others is hypocritical and insulting to God. It’s missing the point of the whole gospel. He who has been forgiven much loves much. Being forgiven by God is the cause and one of the effects IS that we forgive people.
As a matter of fact, right after Jesus is teaching his disciples how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, look at what Jesus said next, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
What do we do when someone hurts us?
We do two things:
Pray for them. Even if it starts out small… like “God, help them to breathe today.” OR “Thanks for this person” OR “Help them today." But the more you pray for them, it might not be the person who is changed. I promise you what will change is you, your heart. And if you pray for the person or people who wronged you, I’d bet your prayers would eventually be something like, “God, you love this person so much. Please help them to know they are loved and forgiven by you. Thank you for this person and for the ability to forgive them.”
So pray for them. And secondly, forgive them.
Some of us have held onto resentment and bitterness for years! And please hear me, I’m not trying to minimize the pain that person or persons caused you. I know some of the hurts that a lot of us are going through.
Some of you served over in Afghanistan. And hearing the news, seeing the pictures… It’s heartbreaking.
Some of you were left behind by a spouse who walked out on you.
Some of you were abused by your uncle and you can’t stand to look at him.
Some of you were taken advantage of by a coworker or a friend and you boil with anger… forgive them.
The extent to which you give forgiveness is the extent to which you receive forgiveness.
Meaning, the more you are able to forgive, the more you have received forgiveness in your heart.
Maybe you are like me… pretty laid back, tend to not hold any grudges. But when I asked God if I needed to forgive anything, I had no idea the amount of resentment and pain that was deep down in my heart. I dare you to ask God who you need to forgive. If you don’t name it, then you can’t move past it. Think of the one person you need to forgive.
Another thing that happened to me that I didn’t expect as I asked God about forgiveness is that I realized I needed to ask for forgiveness from people I had hurt. Maybe you need to ask for forgiveness from someone you wronged.
God put two people in my heart. One I needed to call and forgive. The other, I needed to call and ask for forgiveness. It was unbelievably hard but it was so freeing. And I pray the same feeling of freedom happens for you as you pray and forgive.
Before we end our conversation on forgiveness, I want all of us to say a prayer out loud together. And then we will worship and pray a song together. I want you to spend some time thinking about how much you have been forgiven. And who the person is who you need to forgive. Would you stand with me? Let’s pray this together, “Father, forgive me of my sins. Thank you for your grace. Help me to forgive those who have sinned against me. In Jesus' name. Amen.”
Our song is called Make Room. It’s our prayer that we make room for God to forgive us and to help us to forgive people. We will sing things like “Your way is better” / ”Do whatever you want to” / ”This is my surrender." Let those words bleed into your heart as you process forgiveness.