The Lord's Prayer
Forgive Us Our Sins
Our Father, which is in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done in Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses.
Oh, man! We sure need Him to forgive us of falling short of His righteousness! As the Bible says in Psalms 130:3, "If you, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" Thank God it says in the next verse, "But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared."
Even after having repented of our sins and turning to Yeshua to receive Him as our Saviour, time and time again we find ourselves stumbling because, though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. I can relate to the Apostle Paul, who lamented about what a wretch he was because he wasn't living up to what he wanted to do, and the things he didn't want to do, were the things he found himself doing.
Speaking snappishly instead of being patient, eating food that tastes good, but has no nutrition in it, eating more than we need to sometimes, lollygagging about when there are things that need to get done, fuming over an offense, instead of forgiving it right away and getting on with life, feeling a twinge of satisfaction when hearing that someone who was mean to us got some payback, not praying as much as we feel we ought to, … these are areas where many of us come up short.
Yes, a lot of us feel like we are in Paul's boat, but if we aren't making any headway at all towards developing the fruit of the Spirit, or if we are, but are lagging behind where we should be, then we need to do some heart–searching. If we are involved in sins that it is really obvious that Christians should have nothing to do with, maybe we need to consider the possibility that we really aren't saved. We are commanded to bring forth fruits that give evidence that we have truly repented of our sins.
Going to church is not necessarily a fruit of the Spirit. Lots of people go to church for reasons that have nothing to do with being righteous. They might go to church because it gives them a social life, or rounds out their social life. They see some of their friends there, maybe go out for lunch, catch up on some gossip. Going to church for some is an opportunity to show off their wardrobe, or their cute figure or nice build. That does not mean to say that everyone in church who dresses nice or has a good figure is there for that motive, but for some, it is a big part of it of why they bother to go when their hearts are not hungry for God.
Church can also be a chance to make connections with nice people who might give one a handout or free assistance when they need people to help them move. It can also be an opportunity to showcase one's talents, such as their art work, drama ability, organizational skills, or expertise as a cook, and get some acknowledgement for it. Attending church can also give one a veneer of respectability in society, and a higher moral tone when proving points concerning one's views in debates.
There can even be changes in one's life that seem to indicate conversion, but are really nothing more than a moral make–over, because the person has had the sense to see that their past life–style was holding them back from getting the things they wanted out of life, such as to recover a fallen reputation, or get a good job that requires that they show they can exercise restraint and handle responsibility, or to marry someone they have fallen in love with who has good morals. This is all well and good and very sensible, but in the inner depths of the heart, there can still be a lack of an abhorrance of sin and no addiction to righteousness and the Presence of God.
Producing the fruit of the Spirit does not mean being a church attender with the required "churchy" behaviour and opinions, though it is good to regularly get together with fellow Christians, do good deeds, and have rational, moral views. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self–control. If we aren't walking in the fullness of all these things, then we have sins to repent of, and need to talk to our Father about it.
To repent means to turn away from a behaviour, to change one's mind about what one thinks is good for them. Eve made a big mistake when, contrary to what God had said about how the forbidden fruit would be bad for her to eat, she decided that He was wrong, that it would be good for her to eat it, to make decisions independent from Him. She gave in to an impulse of the moment, and it had devastating consequences.
There are a lot of people who give in to unrighteous impulses. A case in point is one who fornicates, though they profess to be a Christian. They know that the Bible teaches it is a wrong, but they let themselves get into situations where their hormones kick in, lust pulsates through their body, and then it seems good to them to follow their impulses and get sexual release, though it degrades them as the person whom God designed them to be.
In some cases, it may not even be a matter of getting release for sexual tension. It may be that the other party has promised, or implied a promise, of being a benefit to them in some way. Not trusting the Lord to meet their needs, or not willing to wait for His timing, it seems good to them to give the other person what they want so that they can get their needs met.
If a person has truly repented of their sin, then they have made up their mind once and for all that what God says is bad, is bad, and what He says is good, is good, regardless of any other factors that play into the situation that could make us temporarily change our mind. Slipping into the same sin over and over, getting worked up with guilt each time, and going to the Lord again and again, asking Him to forgive, is not repentance. That is presumption.
There is an underlying belief in the ritual of self–condemnation that God is satisfied with how much we have punished ourselves for what we did by feeling so bad about it. We know that in God's eyes, what we did was wrong, but we really aren't sorry deep down in our hearts for what we did; we just want to avoid going to Hell, and also to possibly avoid negative consequences in the here and now.
This was Judas's error. He thought he could pay for his own sin by showing God how much he was suffering with remorse for convincing himself that Yeshua deserved to be betrayed. Not everyone takes their own life right away like he did; more often, they just die a slow death, lashing themselves with guilt, while continuing in their sin, tempering their enjoyment of their sin with pain–filled bouts of remorse that they suppose are pleasing to God. They might even mortify their flesh by cutting it or burning themselves with cigarettes, or in a monastery, flailing their backs with a scourge.
Some continue to wallow in self–condemnation, even after they have stopped the sinful behaviour. It could be that they stopped the behaviour only because of negative outside pressure, or because they no longer had any opportunities to indulge in it, or at least, not the kind of opportunities that appeal to them.
For instance, some people fornicate at the drop of a hat, with anyone, but others insist on doing it only with those whom they believe to be free of disease, and others with those who qualify in that way, but are also physically attractive to them. People of more refined tastes and better sense require intelligence, some important character strengths, and social compatibility in the package, as well. Financial advancement is a factor that carries a lot of weight with some fornicators, but the bottom line is, none of these people hate sin. It is just that the pickier ones hate not gaining some advantage from risking their reputation by engaging in sin.
It is easy enough to kid ourselves that we have changed when we no longer have appealing chances to behave any other way, but that is not true repentance, nor is sobbing and begging for forgiveness, then going back to our sin like a dog to its vomit. Yeshua is the only one who pleased God with His behaviour and attitude. We need to repent of our pride and independence, and receive His righteousness, which includes the ability to stop sinning, instead of trying to palm God off with counterfeit repentance.
If we have an area of serious weakness, we need to get help so that we can break out of that sinful pattern. This entails finding someone trustworthy and full of faith to confess our fault to so that we can receive prayer. We also need to make ourselves accountable to them, so that they can ask us how we are doing in that area and receive a truthful answer.
It also involves removing ourselves from situations where we are likely to be tempted. The best way to overcome temptation is to avoid it. The Bible tells us to flee the lusts of the flesh, not to flirt, not to linger, and not to saunter away from it, but to flee.
I am really concerned about the loosey goosey ideas that some Christians have about God's forgiveness. If Christians, or people who call themselves Christians, do not understand what genuine repentance is, and there comes a breakdown in society that permits sin without legal consequences, what will their choices be when they can get away with doing what seems good at the moment to them?
In Nazi Germany, ordinary, church–going people turned into monsters when they were guaranteed immunity by their government in regards to perpetrating crimes against people who had been singled out for persecution and elimination. Some church people, though they did not actively participate in crimes against others, sinned by turning a blind eye and deaf ear to what was going on around them.
I read of a certain church by a railroad in Germany. Jews who were transported in cattle cars to concentration camps would cry out for help when they caught sight of that church, but all the people inside did was sing their hymns louder, so that they could drown out those cries for help and keep their consciences asleep, as they were not willing to pay the cost of responding righteously to injustice. If we are not faithful in that which is small, such as keeping our minds, hearts, and bodies pure, how can we be ready to risk our lives to help others, if we are called upon to do so?
There were many soldiers during the World War II, who came from wholesome families and had been raised in church, knowing the difference between right and wrong, who participated in rape when they passed through Europe, Africa, and Asia. Soldiers in the Allied forces from countries that were considered Christian, did this. It wasn't just the Germans and their allies, and the atheistic Russians who raped, plundered, and murdered civilians, though they did it on a larger scale.
Allied soldiers did this because they could get away with it, and the folks at home weren't likely to find out about it. They perpetrated this crime, not only on their defeated enemies, but even on people whom they were supposed to liberate. A few soldiers were charged with rape and punished, but only a very few.
I read a letter written by an American soldier at that time. He said that the good families of his fellow soldiers would be horrified, if they knew what the sons they were so proud of were doing while away from home. Many of them did not rape, but they took advantage of starving women and girls by giving them food for sex, instead of just giving them the food.
Are we constantly searching our hearts for hidden sin that could become a problem at a later date, if it were given license to show itself? It isn't just Christian men who need to do this. In times of war, and during catastrophe where there is a breakdown of law and order, women have turned to perversion and committed atrocities, too.
We may think that we will never be cruel, if we are in a position where we have the upper hand. The world is changing fast. One never knows what they will see and experience before their time on Earth comes to a close.
In South America, a woman doctor was raped by Contra soldiers who considered themselves to be Christians. They were right wingers who felt that they needed to take up arms against Communism, and some of them were evangelicals. They believed that it was legitimate for them to torture and maim prisoners to get information out of them.
There is nowhere in the Bible that God condones torture, raping, maiming, and murder. Yeshua said that we are to love our enemies, and if they are thirsty, to give them something to drink. He did not mean to give them something to drink in between bouts of torture. He said that such evil deeds are done by people who do not know God.
Some Christians suppose that Yeshua said to be kind to our enemies so that we can heap "coals of fire on their heads," meaning to make them squirm with guilt about what they did to us, or smoulder with annoyance about how our generous response makes them look bad.
That is not what the Bible is talking about when it speaks of heaping coals of fire on one's head. In those days, if a person's fire went out, they would go to their neighbour and ask for some coals to relight their fire. They had a potsherd of clay to put the coals in to carry them home, and they placed it on their head to carry it.
Yeshua meant that we should take pity on our enemies' basic needs when they are down and out, remembering that they are human like us, and be helpful, even generously so. The aim is to soften their hearts with kindness. Isn't there enough misery in the world without Christians making it even more so by looking for revenge, or being self–righteous and grudging when they feel obligated to do the "Christian" thing?
What Yeshua says in regards to giving our enemies a cup of cold water stands in sharp contrast to worldy responses demonstrated in scenes I have seen in movies, such as The Colour Purple and Disney's Beethoven (a movie for kids?) where, when a character was angry at another character, they spit in their drink before handing it to them. If we are to do good to our enemies, how much more terrible is it, then, in God's eyes, if we do them evil?
If we don't yet have the maturity to be tender and generous to our enemies, or to do them good even in a tight–lipped way, at least, let's not do them evil.
The doctor who was raped said that it was extremely bizarre that, while she was being raped, soldiers in the camp were singing hymns and speaking in tongues. Some of the soldiers were very concerned about their tendency to get carried away with violence and perpetrate rape on their victims. Their pastors told them that it was understandable that their passions got into such a fever in those circumstances, but to just pray afterwards and ask God to forgive them. Yeshua said to pray beforehand, so that we won't enter into temptation.
Where were the exhortations about making restitution to their victims? Or to the families of their victims when the young girls and women were tortured, mutilated, and murdered afterwards? Or what about sacrificing their lives to defend men, women, and children against being raped? If one does not have the courage to step in and stop atrocities, at least don't participate. No matter what anyone's politics are, or even wrongs that they have done previously, there is no justification for subjecting anyone to rape and/or torture.
Besides that, why would Christians need to torture people in order to obtain information? If a person's heart is right with God, and they make it a practice to tune in to Him, God will tell them what they need to know. Elisha the prophet warned the king of Israel several times about ambushes that had been planned by the king of Syria.
Some might protest that the testimony of the feminist doctor who was raped by Contra soldiers would naturally be suspect in regards to Christian right–wingers but, sadly, it is not the first time in history that atrocities have been committed by people who regarded themselves as Christians.
Some Christians in America and Britain owned slaves before slavery was abolished, and during financial reverses, they sold some of their slaves, regardless of the pain it caused the slaves and their families, so that they could maintain their level of physical comfort. Frequently, slaves were raped. Even if a person does not actually commit rape themselves, or other acts of sadism, they are party to it, if they turn a slave over to a trader who will subject them to those dangers or sell them to rapists, sadists, and brothel keepers.
Even John Newton, who wrote the song Amazing Grace, continued in the slave trade long after he became a Christian. It is not true that he gave it up right away. All that he gave up was having sex with the slaves because he knew it was wrong to fornicate. It was an improvement, but he did not see the evil of slavery until many years later when Christians of much more tender conscience campaigned against it.
As the captain of a slave ship, John Newton bought slaves in Africa and sold them. He recorded in his notes that he refused to buy a certain slave who was offered for sale because she was ill–made and her breasts were too long. Obviously, he knew that buyers meant to use female slaves as sex toys, as well as to do work. He didn't have any right to look at a woman's naked body, except for that of his own wife.
We don't have a right to judge the man, though we can judge his actions or lack of actions. Amazing Grace is a wonderful song, regardless of the flaws in the man who wrote it, but if we are aiming to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, then we need to take the Bible more seriously than what Brother Newton did for many years until near the end of his life, when others showed him through their outrage at these injustices that he had been in error.
It would have been a noble thing if those Christians who owned slaves had learned how to make do for themselves without servants, or been willing to pay regular wages to free men and women, and then sent their slaves to safety, when they had the means to do so, and set them free. They would not have been rich, in society's eyes, but they would have been rich in character, and had more treasure laid up in Heaven.
There is also the case of how Martin Luther had an Anabaptist cast into prison and starved to death, because he did not agree with Luther's views. Anabaptists were Christians who believed that infant baptism was futile; that it made no difference unless a person repented of their sins, received Yeshua as their Saviour, and THEN got baptized. Luther clung to a lot of Catholic practices. John Calvin wasn't any better in regards to not forcing his will on other Christians. He judicially murdered an Anabaptist by having him drowned because he would not recant beliefs that differed from his own.
These were men who had authority and power, and did much for the cause of gaining freedom from the Catholic church, but they tolerated only those who subscribed to their views and knuckled under to their rules. Protestant rule was a big improvement over being under Catholic rule, but not as much as it would have been if the leaders had gotten more serious about cleansing their hearts from sin.
In olden days, some Christians mistakenly held to the Old Testament commandment that says to not suffer a witch to live. Under the New Covenant, Yeshua's way is to win occultists away from their pagan religion by sharing the Good News with them, and showing them love. Obviously, those people who killed others who were accused of witchcraft did not search their hearts diligently enough for sin and repent of their inclination for violence.
Oh, wait a minute. Did I say that happened in the olden days? Correction; it still happens right now! And a lot of the people who are being accused of witchcraft in churches aren't guilty of it. I am not talking about witchcraft in the sense of merely being rebellious against authority, or using manipulation to get what one wants, but literal witchcraft, sorcery, and satanism.
False accusations of witchcraft are a terrible problem in Africa where pastors, to demonstrate how tuned in to God and "discerning" they are, will point out children in their congregation, and accuse them of being involved in witchcraft. Then the parents are hit up for money to pay covetous pastors to exorcise their children.
Can you imagine how alarming that is to an ordinary teen who doesn't have anything more serious on his mind than listening to rap or hiphop, hanging out with his friends, being cool, and having a good time? Mom and Dad drag him to church and, while he is sitting or standing there daydreaming, suddenly the preacher is in his face, calmly and authoritatively telling his mother that this kid is a witch and the preacher knows all about it.
I am sure that the preacher feels he has an "inner prompting" that justifies his so–called "word of knowledge," but is it the prompting of the Holy Spirit or a desire to impress, and possibly to profit financially, as well? Once the words are said, they shoot like sparks throughout the whole assembly and then through the whole community.
It would not even matter if the pastor was right, if the child really was practicing witchcraft. That is a totally irresponsible way to confront it. If Mr. Big Mouth thinks he has a revelation into a matter like that, he should keep it to himself and pray in private about it, so that the child and the family is not stigmatized, especially if it turns out that he was wrong. Most certainly, they should never make it known to anybody who is likely to respond ignorantly to the problem, including the child's parents.
With a sinking heart, I watched a video that was filmed of a teen–aged boy being accused of witchcraft. I could see the look of dread come over the mother's face when the pastor singled her out to tell her that her son was a witch, and the solemn horror on her son's face. That is one boy, whose mother probably made him go to church when he would have rather been playing soccer with his friends, who was likely going to hate church and Christians because of a foolish man who made himself look like a dynamic discerner of devils at that poor kid's expense.
I don't think that his mother believed that he was a witch, but she knew what it was going to do to her family because the preacher said this about him. She was minding her own business, listening to the sermon, when her world came crashing down around her ears. When accusations of witchcraft are launched against a child, the whole family is treated like pariahs, unless they take measures to get their child exorcised, which usually involves violence, or cast him/her out of their home.
The families are frequently very poor, but somehow they manage to scrape up the money for an exorcism. Their children are kept prisoners at the church or in the pastors' homes, chained up or locked in rooms so that they can't run away. The exorcisms frequently involve the child being being beaten to thresh the devil out of them, or poisoned to kill the devil in them. More novel approaches involve pounding nails into the child's head, hacking off an arm with a machete, or anything else that comes into a twisted mind.
Some pastors boast that they do not take money to point out a witch or exorcise them; they simply do it in the interest of being obedient to the Lord. They do not seem to feel that they have any responsibility for how others respond to their "revelation." They ignore the fact that Yeshua and His Apostles never did anything physical to cast spirits out of demonized people.
I guess accusing, beating, and killing people (by their hand or by those who take their allegations seriously) is their take on the Scripture about turning someone over to satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that their soul can be saved. When Paul said that he turned over to satan folks who were so extremely far gone in their rebellious opposition to the ministry of Gospel, while claiming to be Christians, he most certainly did not mean that he was actively involved in inflicting physical punishment on them. That would have made him an instrument of the devil, not of God.
All that Paul was doing was releasing the person, through prayer, to be rebuked, which may have come about through financial reverses, or sickness, or some other kind of trouble that had nothing to do with godly people taking a hand in it. When everything wasn't going their way anymore, they were more likely to take God seriously, repent of their sinfulness, and look to Him to get them out of their mess.
There is a false prophetess in Africa who makes lurid movies about child witches and writes books, wherein she says that if a child is fussy at night and cries, it is because they have a witch in them. This woman's testimony is that she formerly was a witch, so she knows all about this subject.
If native pastors want sensible Christians to respect them and take them seriously, they have to stop doing this vile, ignorant stuff. It stinks of the shamanistic practices that they used to resort to before they professed to be Christians, the witchcraft that they say they have repented of.
Simon Peter said in Acts 8:23 to Simon Magus, a sorcerer who had supposedly converted to Christianity and was baptized, "I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness (still enslaved to idolatry), and in the bond of iniquity (will lead others into bondage)." Simon Magus's interest in Christianity was how he could profit from it.
This "prophetess" who stirs up superstitious people against their children has indeed profited from her ministry. Maybe that should be spelled profitess. She drives a nice car and lives in a big house, and is lauded far and wide by African church leaders who admire her great wisdom and discernment. More likely, it is the material things she gains from her scam that they admire. She even travels internationally, spreading her dangerous ideas. Thankfully, though, it is now against the law in her country to accuse a child of witchcraft, but there are many African countries where it is not against the law, and thousands of children accused of witchcraft have been cast upon the streets.
The "proof" of one little's girl's guilt was that she shared her food with her sister, because sharing food with others to bring them under their power is something that witches do. The spirit of suspicion certainly kills the inclination to be generous and share with others. The problem of witchcraft in Africa is real, but similar to Salem, Massachusetts, where innocent Christians were accused and executed, the real witches (who were frequently the accusers) escaped detection.
It is obvious that these pastors who accuse vulnerable children who cannot fight back have not cleansed their hearts of pride and greed, and also they have found a way to exercise a perverted tendency towards sadism. God says in His Word that if anyone commits an offense against a child, it would be better for them to have a millstone hung around their neck and be cast into the sea, than to have to face how God will deal with them when judgment falls.
Frequently, the parents abuse these accused children, as well. Many are quick to accept a pastor's allegations that their financial stresses are due to one of their children secretly being a witch, rather than due to mischance, or their own laziness about acquiring more education or working harder. It may be that the children are blamed for sicknesses, deaths in the family, or tensions in relationships.
If they have escaped being murdered by lunatic pastors and parents due to fear about witchcraft and greed that profits from fear, many innocent and vulnerable children have been driven out of their homes to fend for themselves, even toddlers, often after being beaten, tortured, scarred, and maimed by their own parents, or by neighbours. Some of those children were formerly doted on by their parents, before someone said they were a witch. It is a huge shock to them to be so cruelly betrayed when they have no survival skills developed by hardship.
The Bible clearly states that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, and that it is not people whom we need to fight, but rather evil forces who control people. He has given us the weapons of prayer, of praise, of worship, of holy living, of obedience to Him, of showing kindness, and of forgiving others.
Yeshua said that they who take up the sword will die by the sword. It seems that physical death by violence is not the only kind of death He was speaking of. It seems evident that using violence as a means to obtain a solution to a problem unleashes death in one's soul, causing them to cast off restraint and give in to evil passions. What a man or woman truly is, is made known when they are in the midst of the crucible, when they can avoid legal or social repurcussions for misbehaviour.
God wants us to search our hearts. This is an integral part of prayer, which is why Yeshua told us to ask for God's forgiveness of how we have fallen short of His righteousness. It is His righteousness that sets the standard, not the level of righteousness that is acceptable to others. If our pastor and fellow church members are okay with things that God warns us off from in His Word, we need to stick to what His Word says.
We don't have to let ourselves come under condemnation when we slip. If we are doing our best to abide in Yeshua and produce the fruit of the Spirit, God bears with us. He does not expect us to produce more than what our spiritual maturity is capable of, just as a parent does not expect an eight–month–old child to work an eight hour day. That does not mean that He will tolerate us remaining at that level of maturity. We have to be increasingly growing towards having the mind of Christ and developing His character.
The Bible says that a righteous man, when he slips, gets right back up on his feet; he doesn't just let everything go to pot and keep on sinning, seeing as he has blotted his record and it is no longer perfect. We need to practice damage control. If we slip, the sooner we get back on track, the less mess there will be to clean up afterwards.
In asking God to forgive us our trespasses, our request must contain a resolve to not repeat the offenses, and we must practice a plan of action to prevent reoccurances. Part of a good plan of action is to be consistently faithful in the small things of every day life, so that when we are faced with bigger stuff, we will be faithful in those temptations, as well.
We must realize that the biggest hindrance to our walking in obedience to God, is not the world, and it is not the devil, but it is our own, rotten, sinful flesh. We are our own worst enemy. We have to search our hearts, so that we can get rid of stuff that could cause trouble further on down the line, if it is not taken care of now. We must run as fast and as far from Self as we can, because it is the most deadly of all our foes.
Paul lamented about the wretchedness of his sin nature. He described it as a body of death. In those days, a Roman form of execution for murder was to drape the body of a murder victim onto the back of the murderer and chain it there. The murderer had to carry that putrifying body all the time, and eventually he became diseased by it and died.
That is what Self is like; it gloms onto us, clamouring at us to give in to its desires. Paul cried out in distress, "Who can deliver me from this body of death?" Then he remembered and calmed down. The Anointed Lord Yeshua has conquered sin and He can deliver us from giving into the impulses of our sinful passions.
We need to be humble and honest about our level of character when we come before the Lord, asking Him to forgive us of our trespasses. We need to let Him point out to us some specific things that we need to repent of. We need to develop an increasingly greater abhorrence of sin, to develop His view on issues, rather than adopt a stance that is comfortable to us.
None of us have trouble identifying areas of weakness in others, and we should be discerning. It is very necessary to judge in that sense, but this part of the prayer does not condone despising or condemning others for their wrongs. Rather, it encourages intercession on the behalf of others to get their issues resolved, and zeroes in on things in ourselves that we need to take care of. When Peter asked Yeshua, "What about that other guy? What are you going to do about him?" Yeshua replied, "Just follow me and mind your own business."
Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you.