What is the best prayer that you can pray today… and tomorrow… and the day after that?
It probably relates to the thing that causes us the most mental stress – other people! We are relational beings and so much of what ends up consuming our thought life (and knocking on to the rest of our health) is the grievances, hurts, strains and at times out right conflicts we have with other people. So what should we pray… assuming that we’d rather live at peace with others and with ourselves?
It is little co-incidence that when Jesus taught his disciples to pray it included the line ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’ It bumps up right against a line about God giving us our daily bread… this is meant to be a prayer that we pray, meditate on, live out, on a daily basis!
Forgiveness is hard work… both the need to extend it to others, and to receive it from people we have hurt… but there is no other short cut to living well. Either we allow the mercy we have received from God to shape us into forgiving people, or we can choose to stay in the place of hurt and bitterness. It is said that forgiveness is as much for ourselves as for those we set free.
At this stage my temptation is to give 327 caveats about forgiveness… What about really serious hurts… What about those who have hurt us who are unrepentant… What about the people we feel deserved what we did to them… These are all good questions – but we are ultimately going to orient our lives in one of two directions. Either we go on the forgiveness journey, or we travel in another, more angry, more bitter, more alienated direction.
I am struck by Jesus on the cross. His fellow citizens have called for his death, his closest friends have largely turned their back on him, his message of mercy seems to have fallen on death ears. And then as a final act he says one more thing; ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’ It is powerful right? Maybe because we know deep down we will never be as compassionate as our saviour. But what a saviour to follow, what a saviour to be shaped by, what a saviour to lead us in our daily prayer!