Last night I was with a group of people praying for a very sad conflict within the church in Cambodia. One of those present prayed (in reference to John 17) “Lord Jesus, may we answer your prayer.” It reminded me of Matt 5:24. It would seem that one reason God doesn’t answer our prayers is because we fail to answer the prayer of Christ.
This seems similar to The Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” That is a scary prayer to pray. Honestly, I don’t want God to answer that prayer literally. I want him to forgive me my sins more quickly, more completely, and more deeply than I forgive those who sin against me. I rather hope this prayer is meant to be a reminder to me of 1 John 4:19-21, a reminder that
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Not that these verses do much to let me off the hook. I still had better love my brother, but I do so following God’s lead. For me personally it feels safer to be reflecting God’s love to others, than to have God reflect my forgiveness back to me.
I think scripture consistently makes the serious reader squirm. I don’t know if it is possible to pray the Lord’s Prayer earnestly without squirming at several points. I don’t want my desire to “understand scripture” be synonymous with a desire to explain away my need to squirm.
Both of these paragraphs remind me again of my utter dependence on the grace of God. I depend on God graciously enabling me to live right, to live a love bigger than myself; and I depend on God to graciously re-enfold me when I fall short.