Sunday School teacher: Children, the Bible says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” —Romans 3: 23*. “Now, Johnny, would you please open our class with prayer?” Johnny: “Please Lord, forgive our falling shorts,” the class erupting with laughter.
GIVE US THIS DAY, OUR DAILY BREAD.
Father, often we have trouble trusting you. We worry about the future, as we are bothered by the past. Your Word says you provide, even for the ravens and the lilies of the field, and all good gifts come from the Father of lights, in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning (James 1: 17). “Great is your faithfulness, Oh God our Father; morning and evening new mercies we see.” So teach us how to trust you, and to pray with gratitude, that we might better realize that our very lives, our breath, and bread itself comes from you, and that “The Lord God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33: 27).
AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS, AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS.
Lord, this is a real tough one. Oh, it’s easy enough to pray the first half of this, but to forgive our debtors, people who owe us much? Oh God, we’re often like children with our feelings, and we get stuck on the bad things that others have done, like an abuse that we suffered in childhood, or a mother or spouse who abandoned us or a father who was often drunk or cruel. Maybe it’s someone who took away our freedom, or our innocence, and made it difficult to trust others and to trust and obey you. Maybe it’s someone who started us off on a path of addictions and wrongdoing. Maybe it’s someone who abandoned us for someone else. Maybe it’s a parent who simply failed to love us as we felt we deserved, or sent us money when we needed their presence and guidance as we were growing up. We feel they owe us so much, Lord! Yet you say forgive?
Nonetheless we see that this is one big way we let your kingdom come, your will be done, in our lives. Because this is what you are like; this is what you, Lord Jesus, have done for us. You could have said to us, “You owe me, big time—you blew it, you always blow it.” Instead, you see us stumble under the load of sin and guilt, and you say, “Here, let me carry that for you.” And you did, all the way to Calvary. So heal us of our bad memories, as you healed Peter, in John 21, restoring him to your service.
Lord, by ourselves we cannot love, we cannot forgive, like that. We can also dwell on our own sins and failures. Help us to accept the reality of what has happened, along with all of our and others’ imperfections, bringing it all to Calvary, where heaven met, suffered and then conquered hell. Let all the darkness in our lives, from our sins and others’, be swallowed by the shadow of your cross. Let all our pains be merged with yours, so we can experience the peace that comes when we forgive, and hear you say to us, “I forgive you, go and sin no more; your resentments too are sin, let them go.”
So through the Holy Spirit help us to borrow the forgiveness you proffered on the cross when you said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and your words, ”It is finished.” Help us to apply these to the enemy out there who hurt us so badly, and help us to love and forgive even the enemy inside us, too.
AND DO NOT PUT US TO THE TEST, (“Lead us not into temptation”) BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE.
Sometimes it seems, Lord, that life is mostly one big test, with here and there some momentary relief. We have been tested enough, it seems, and we have failed often. So, Lord, we ask that you do not add to the testing that life already has given us, lest we be led into temptation, and tried beyond our ability to withstand. No, Lord, we ask that you deliver us from the evil one, the one who tries to take our tests and turn them into evil. Yet we know, Lord, that you have promised that there will always be a way of escape, and that even the enemy of our souls has been defanged through your death and resurrection. We also know that all the evils that come our way you can work together for good for those who love you, and are called to your purposes. (Ro. 8: 28)
FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM, AND THE POWER AND THE GLORY, FOREVER, AMEN.
Yes, to you be all the glory, for you shall reign forever and ever. So reign in us, reign in me, Lord Jesus Christ, for it is in your name we offer these prayers. Amen.
*Postscript: the next verse in the Romans 3 passage is important to remember when we try to pray: “We all are justified by God’s free grace alone, through his act of liberation in the person of Christ Jesus. For God designed him to be the means of expiating sin by his sacrificial death, effective through faith.” We need to remember that even our fervent prayers may have sin in them, but that sin, like our whole lives, is washed clean by the blood of Christ (see 1 John 1: 7). Our brains, and our lives, will work much better when we do, and be healthier!