Thus says the Lord: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:
‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test,
but save us from the evil one.
‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’
“If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”
I have a confession to make. Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed by my troubles and my trespasses that when I muster up the courage to ask God for help, the words fail me. What do I say? How do I say it? Am I even worthy to ask for what I need? For some, the words roll so beautifully off their tongues; for others, we are literally scraping the bottom of our dried-up prayer well. I think Jesus had foreseen this predicament when He gave us the Lord’s Prayer and a comforting reminder that “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”. What a relief! And the Lord’s Prayer is simple, straightforward and short, fitting for any believer, whether new to the faith or seasoned from the years. The themes are quite simple: starting with praise and glory to God, obedience to do His will, and as emphasized in today’s Gospel reading, forgiveness.
I am no expert in prayer, least of all the Lord’s Prayer, but I do believe in the spirit of prayer: do we mean what we pray and what is the condition of our heart when we pray it? What I mean is that it is no use saying we must pray for those who have injured us when, deep down, we are wishing them ill-will. When we store up resentment and revenge, we are in effect blocking the grace of God from coming into our hearts and restoring our souls. It can take a long time to forgive someone depending on the severity of the injury meted out against us; I speak from experience. Many a time I have asked myself how can I ask for what I need when I have yet to let go of the past and forgive this person? I found the answer one day when it hit me like a pebble on the head — I asked God to help me forgive when I couldn’t do it on my own.
Forgiveness, though, is a tricky double-edged thing. There is forgiveness to those who have injured you, but there is also forgiveness to yourself. A lot of us hold ourselves back because of something that we did that we cannot forgive ourselves. We feel that we ‘deserve’ not to be heard by God because we were wrong, or we ‘deserve’ to be miserable because of our past actions and deeds. We walk around dragging a lifetime’s worth of emotional baggage and guilt conscience, choosing not to live because we cannot forgive ourselves. My friend, God would not have wanted such a life for us. He has such wonderful plans for us, if only we would put down our baggage and look up from our stoop to see what He has laid out.
I feel that there is a connection between today’s Gospel reading and the first reading. In the first reading, God says that His Word shall not return to Him void, but shall do His will, achieving the end for which He sent it. What if God is waiting for us to ask Him to help us to forgive those who have trespassed against us and to forgive ourselves, so that we can set our spirit free? Free to love, free to praise God, free to do His will? God’s love is not a burden, it is light as a feather and makes our spirits soar on eagle’s wings. It is strong and joyous and uplifting. God is love, He is merciful. There is a lot more room in His heart than we will ever know, and He knows our hearts. Let us let go of our past and let Him in.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for the ability to forgive those who have hurt us, those on whom we dwell on in our thoughts. And as we forgive them, help us to forgive ourselves too. Help us to let go of the past and to recognize that it has no place in the future that You have for us, the future that has been redeemed for us through the blood of Christ Jesus.
Thanksgiving: Lord, we give you thanks for giving us a prayer that will see us through our troubles, a prayer that reminds us of your mercy, grace and unending love. Thank you for knowing what we need in our hearts, especially when our own words fail us.