MATTHEW 6:12, 14-15
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
So far, we have seen that the power of prayer rests on your love relationship with the Father. The Father shows His love for you by giving you eternal life through His Son, by caring for your daily needs, and by giving you a new story to live in—His kingdom story. The life you were always meant to live is a life with God, and prayer is the path to living daily with the Father.
Prayer isn’t a duty. It’s a delight. Our joy in prayer is that we can experience the treasure of knowing the Father right here, right now. Prayer is a way to live in communion with God, our Greatest Treasure. Prayer isn’t just something you do with words. It’s a way to behold God in your everyday. Even in the seemingly mundane, humdrum of life, you can meet with the Father as Jesus did.1
Before your group meets, go before the Father in prayer. Ask Him to prepare your heart for your discussion and allow Him to reveal His truth to you.
MY PRAYERS THIS WEEK
What or who are you praying for this week?
How is God answering your prayers?
What is He revealing to you?
Truth in Life
Confession seeks forgiveness from God and the ability to forgive others.
The heart of the gospel is the forgiveness of sin. Jesus died to pay the penalty we deserve for our sin. In return, we are forgiven and made right before God. But that’s not all. The wonder of the gospel is that Jesus did more than just cancel the debt of sin. He brought us into the family of God. Now, we get to enjoy life with God as our Father. That changes the way we relate to God.
Gospel living is a life lived in light of forgiveness. The gospel reminds us of the depths of our sin but also the depths of God’s grace. How often is the gospel the driving force behind our thoughts and actions? If we’re honest, we can be gospel amnesiacs. We forget that we are, moment-by-moment, ever in need of God’s grace. Why? Because sin still dwells in us. And that sin hardens our hearts to hide sin and withhold forgiving others.
What are we to do? Jesus teaches us that confession is the cure for gospel amnesia. Confession reminds you that sin is your biggest problem and that Jesus is greatest your solution. Confession in prayer helps you see your sin and forgive others.
Q: Why is it so difficult to forgive sometimes?
Q: Why is it necessary to understand the depths of your sin in order to understand the depths of God’s grace?
LEARNING FROM THE MASTER
In teaching His disciples to pray, Jesus moves on to a fifth petition. This petition is two-fold: 1) for God to forgive your sin and 2) for God to give you the ability to forgive others. Jesus is teaching us to bring our sin into the light by confessing it to the Father. He isn’t teaching that you should daily pray for justification.2 That was already taken care of at the cross. Confession is your way to appropriate God’s grace into your daily life. It’s saying to God, “I still need help. Forgive me that I don’t walk as I should. Forgive me and grant me the grace to live for you, not sin.” Sin doesn’t break your relationship with the Father. You always have that. But sin can become a road block to your fellowship with God. Confession restores your fellowship with the Father that sin so often hinders.3
The second part of Jesus’ petition relates to forgiving others. In light of what God has done for us through Jesus, we should be eager to forgive others. Gospel living is a life filled with gratitude. Because we have been forgiven much, we forgive much. Jesus goes on to say that if we forgive others, God will forgive us. Jesus isn’t saying that we earn forgiveness by forgiving others. Rather, we give witness to our forgiveness by forgiving others. In other words, our forgiving others evidences how the gospel changes us.4
Q: What sins are blocking your fellowship with the Father currently?
Q: Describe what a life filled with gratitude looks like.
POWERFUL PRAYER PRINCIPLE
The fifth Powerful Prayer Principle is forgiveness. The truth is, sin will continue to be a problem in your life. That means you will always be in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. You are a grace work-in-progress, and the Apostle Paul promises us that He “who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). That means that you daily need to confess your sin and pray for a heart to forgive others as God continues to shape you more into the image of His Son.5
Q: How does it encourage you to know that you are a “grace work-in- project” that God is not finished with?
CHANGED BY PRAYER
The goal of sin is to keep you from the Father. Just as Adam and Eve hid from God in shame after they sinned, your natural inclination is to run from God (and not to Him) when you sin. That, or you downplay or try to ignore the sin you see. Unconfessed sin is a prayer blocker, because it turns you from God, not to him. The solution, then, is confession. It’s turning back towards God to acknowledge your sin, repent of it, and ask for forgiveness. Confession allows God to show His grace and bring you back to Him.
Another prayer blocker is an unforgiving heart. To truly believe the gospel is to see your sin for what it is (your greatest problem) and to see Jesus for who He is (your greatest solution). When you refuse to forgive those who have sinned against you, you diminish what Jesus has done for you. An unforgiving heart holds on and focuses on the wrong done. A grace-filled heart lets go and focuses on God’s love, which is most clearly seen at the cross.
Q: What’s one thing you can do this week to focus on God’s love and forgive rather than focus on the wrong done to you?
Q: What would it look like for you to be on God’s page more in your life?
Forgiveness is, Forgiveness is Not
It’s important to understand what forgiveness is and what it is not. Forgiveness is: 1) a choice, 2) an act that makes you look like Jesus, 3) a refusal to use the weapons of anger, vengeance, and retaliation, 4) giving up your right to get even, or 5) saying that you will not hurt someone for hurting you. Forgiveness is not: 1) minimizing the offense, 2) excusing what happened, 3) denying the hurt, or 4) subjecting yourself to continued abuse from others.
Q: Who is someone you need to forgive? Who is someone you need to seek forgiveness from?
Reflection & PRAYER
Take five minutes to complete the Reflection and Response section below.
HOW IS GOD SPEAKING TO...
What is He teaching you?
In what ways is He reshaping how you see Him? How you see yourself?
What is He calling you (or your group) to do?
Spend time in private prayer, asking God to see forgiveness as He sees it.
What is He revealing to you? Whom do you need to forgive?
Then, pray together as a group.
What one area of forgiveness can you pray for with others?
1.“While Jesus certainly prayed vocally both in private and public, these utterances did not encompass the fullness of His relationship with His Father. A fuller reading of the Gospels shows that Jesus lived in constant communion with the Father even when no words were used. This fuller understanding of prayer is often perplexing to those who have only known prayer as communication.” Skye Jethani, With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 113.
2. The concept of justification is forensic and “based on the work of Christ upon the cross, whereby a sinner is pronounced righteous by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.” James White, “Justification,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 970. When you are justified, you no longer stand condemned before God because of your sin (Rom. 8:1). Justification is given to those who exercise faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Rom. 3:21-31).
3. Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1832.
4. “The change of mind that characterizes our repentance towards God must be a change of mind that characterizes our attitude towards others— particularly those who need our forgiveness.” Charles Price, Matthew: Can Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth?, Focus on the Bible Commentary (Fearn, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1998), 108.
5. The purpose of the Christian life is to become more and more like Christ. God’s work in you is to use your life and relationships to shape you in Christlikeness (see Rom. 8:29).