‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’ (Hebrews 4:15-16).
According to the Christian calendar, we are now in the Lenten season – a time leading up to Easter each year when the Church is called to enter into spiritual introspection and (as Salvationists call it) self-denial. As we do this we may become acutely aware of ways in which we have wronged our neighbours and ways in which we have wronged God. We may also recognise that we have sometimes been insulted or treated unfairly ourselves. What do we do with this awareness? The Christian faith has answers.
‘Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times”’ (Matthew 18:21-22).
Even in the Church we can experience hurts we don’t deserve. It can be hard to forgive. It can feel as if it is not right to forgive the troublesome brother or sister one more time.
Pray that God will give you a generous and healing spirit, eager not simply to let the grievance go but to understand what is creating the repeated friction with this particular person.
‘How can we sing the Songs of the Lord…?’ (Psalm 137:4).
It’s horrific the way some people have been mistreated at the hands of abusers. The fact that these victims are still alive and have not been completely engulfed by despair or self-loathing is a miracle. In such circumstances we should not be surprised if they find it humanly impossible to face their abusers. For us to insist that they ought to forgive them and show mercy would be cruel.
Pray for the victims of abuse in all its forms; pray that they might find mercy.
‘Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift’ (Matthew 5:23-24).
Admit it: there are times when others get upset with you; maybe for a very good reason. It can be hard to ask for forgiveness. Jesus says that going to church instead of facing the person we’ve hurt will not do.
Pray for a sensitive, teachable and courageous spirit. Pray that your asking for forgiveness will make it easier for the ‘brother’ you have offended to be open to reconciliation.
‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin’ (Exodus 34:6-7 NRSV).
God is not petty or stingy or vindictive. The Bible reveals instead a God who delights in being merciful. God so greatly desires for people to know this about his character that, in Jesus, God subjected himself to the hurts and injustices people inflict on each other, and still said, ‘Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence’ (Hebrews 4:16).
Pray hallelujahs for God’s abounding mercy. Give thanks that God wants everyone to be saved.
O ocean of mercy, oft longing I’ve stood
On the brink of thy wonderful, life-giving flood!
Once more I have reachèd this soul-cleansing sea,
I will not go back till it rolls over me.
(William Booth, SASB 298 v 5)
The Monthly Prayer Focus is provided by the International Social Justice Commission