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Monday, September 21, 2015

Today’s Reading | Matthew 6:7–15

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (NRSV)

Today’s passage is one of the most well known and important from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. As I write this reflection, I am just back from New York City, having visited the 9/11 Museum and the Neue Galerie, the latter having gained public interest with the movie Woman in Gold. Both felt like stirring testaments to the human experience of injustice and forgiveness.

In this context of the Sermon on the Mount, I am struck by the extent to which the Lord’s Prayer is about forgiveness. I recall viscerally a service following 9/11 when congregations of Chicago Sinai, Holy Name, and Fourth Church prayed aloud at the same time the prayers of their faith—for us and for Holy Name, the Lord’s Prayer. Our collective earnestness and the presence of Spirit made the experience indelible.

Faced with injustice and daunting challenge, “what we want to do is to reclaim our potency and to show . . . our particular and perceived enemies that we can outdo anyone when it comes to unleashing the power of our outrage over what has been done to us,” John Boyle stated in one of his inimitable Prayers of the People. “Forgive us for even thinking that way, however understandable. . . It is because you do understand how we might think that way that we can tell you what you already know about us without fear of your retribution and with openness to your healing grace.” 

How Dr. Boyle transformed his experience in World War II became the basis of his ministry and teaching. “God knows what you need before you ask . . .”—this is the way Jesus introduces the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer of forgiveness. I now experience the Lord’s Prayer as a reminder to be open to redeeming, reconciling grace and serve steadfastly to further forgiveness. Living this prayer, I hope to be a proponent of God’s true will.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” Help me remember and be opened through your grace to further forgiveness and love in your world. Amen.

Written by Laura Sterkel, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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