O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
whose mercy never fails:
deepen our faithfulness to you
and to your living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the faithful and in the congregation.
The works of the Lord are great,
sought out by all who delight in them.
His work is full of majesty and honour
and his righteousness endures for ever.
He appointed a memorial for his marvellous deeds;
the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
He gave food to those who feared him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He showed his people the power of his works
in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are truth and justice;
all his commandments are sure.
They stand fast for ever and ever;
they are done in truth and equity.
He sent redemption to his people;
he commanded his covenant for ever;
holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
a good understanding have those who live by it;
his praise endures for ever.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘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.’
… if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Today we have heard Matthew’s account of Jesus’ great gift of The Lord’s Prayer. In so few words Jesus shows us how to worship, hope, intercede, confess and pray for deliverance. The Lord’s Prayer embodies the way in which we need to speak to God in the knowledge that our Father knows what [we] need before [we] ask him. The piling up of pious phrases, sometimes in archaic language, is both unnecessary and counter-productive. Our Father in heaven knows our joys and our sorrows, our needs and our desires, he does not need us to try and justify ourselves in empty phrases.
So … having acknowledged Jesus’ teaching on a more conversational and natural approach in our prayer life, we need to consider the biggest issue of all. After the expressions of worship and hope, and after we have laid our intercessions before God, we come to the issue of forgiveness. In the translation we heard today we heard of debts. Other translations speak of trespasses and sins. The use of the word debt should not lead us down the blind alley of imagining that this issue of forgiveness revolves solely around material issues such as money and other worldly possessions. This teaching runs much deeper than that. Jesus is speaking of our capacity to understand that all are made in the image of God, and yet all are capable of getting things wrong. Once we have grasped that fact we also need to go further and come to the understanding that we are just the same.
Human beings are fallible creatures … yes, all human beings … even us. We all trespass where we should not in our relationships with others. We all sin by setting ourselves against the teachings and laws of God. We all pile up debts as we abuse and exploit others in our quest to be seen as successful. We are all in need of God’s forgiveness. And then, we need to take that necessary step towards being Christ-like in our daily lives … we need to forgive others, all of them!
This one moment in The Lord’s Prayer is possibly the most challenging reminder of how Jesus taught us to live out our lives in this world. We should acknowledge that we are sinful, and we should ask our heavenly Father to forgive the sins we have committed. But, in order that we might prove our worthiness of that divine forgiveness, we need to forgive others.
Let us pray for the strength to forgive others their sins, trespasses and debts against us as we strive towards the certainty of God’s loving forgiveness in our lives.
Prayers of intercession
As children of our heavenly Father, let us pray for the Church and for the world.
Guide your Church, rooted and grounded in Christ, in the way of the Gospel. As you have taught us to pray, keep us constant in prayer. Increase our faith, that we may bring our needs before you with perfect confidence.
Release all people from the selfishness of the closed door and the closed heart. Help them to care for the needs of others, knowing they are children of the same Father.
Give grace to us, our families, friends and neighbours, to be generous in giving. Teach us how to share our spiritual blessings and the good news of the Kingdom.
We pray for all those who feel excluded from the company of others, for those whose pleas for help in distress have been ignored. Give strength and perseverance to agencies of relief.
Receive the faithful departed who prayed on earth that their sins might be forgiven. As they were buried with Christ in baptism, may they rise with him to eternal life.
We make our prayer in the name of Christ, who has taught us how we should pray.
Prayer for the week
your Son Jesus Christ came to make all things new.
Refresh us by the power of your Spirit,
that through the stillness of prayer
and the energy of service
we may discover afresh your call on our lives
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.