The disciples sought instruction from Jesus about prayer. He told them to ask God to forgive the debt they daily accumulated with God through their misuse of His blessings. Forgiveness was possible because the Lord Jesus Christ would die to pay for sin, as prophesied in the Old Testament. Because of His forgiving work, Godís people again "have access to the divine majesty", and should boldly seek Godís face in prayer.
What, now, might the results be of such a prayer for forgiveness? I
In the first place, we may fully expect that our sins definitely will be forgiven. I say this because of Jesusí words to the disciples when He taught them to pray. After He gave them the Lordís Prayer, He told them the following; said Jesus:
"Öask, and it will be given to you" (Luke 11:9).
"For everyone who asks receives" (Luke 11:10).
Says Jesus to the disciples standing around Him (and this word is true
for all Godís people of every time and place): Ďask according to the instruction
of the Lordís Prayer, and God in heaven will definitely supply. He will,
because He has promised Ė witness the OT sacrifices, witness My coming
death on the cross. He will wash away sin, He will forgive your misuse
of the daily bread He gives Ė no matter how horrendous your sins are. So:
donít shy away from praying, donít think that God will be angry with you
forever, donít let your guilty conscience prevent you from going on your
knees. Rather, confess sins and then dare to work with Godís promise of
forgiveness, dare to ask for forgiveness. He has promised forgiveness;
work with that promise, ask Him to forgive the enormous debt youíve built
up with Him. And be convinced: God in heaven will answer, will forgive,
will wash away every last bit of the debt you daily build with your God.í
Thatís the first result.
The second result is this: if God in fact does forgive my sins so that I have no debt with God at all, I may again ask for daily bread, yes, and expect to receive what I need also. Deuteronomy 32 told us of how God would discard Israel because of their hardened misuse of His gifts, of the daily bread He gave. But once that debt with God is gone, once there is forgiveness, God returns again in favour to His people and supplies again their daily needs. Ps 85 speaks of God having "forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have covered all their sin" (vs 2). That is: here is answer to the fifth petition. But the same psalm mentions the result of this forgiveness as it relates to the fourth petition. I read this:
"Yes, the Lord will give what is good;
Though sin, misuse of Godís gifts, should lead to Godís hand being forever
closed to sinners; though misuse of the gifts God has given in answer to
the fourth petition should lead to God denying every other request according
to the fourth petition, God in infinite mercy is pleased to forgive sin
(the fifth petition) Ė and so answer the fourth petition again too! Thatís
the promise of Holy Scripture: we may pray confidently for daily bread
because all our sins of misuse of Godís gifts are forgiven for Jesusí sake!
So, dear reader: pray, pray for all you need day by day to live for Godís
glory, all you need to make His kingdom come, all you need to do Godís
will. Pray for your needs, even while you know youíve misused Godís ample
gifts this morning already. Pray for your needs, confident that your Father
in Jesus Christ graciously forgives your sins. Pray, and seek grace too
to use Godís many gifts to His greater glory Ė and not your own satisfaction.
The third result of such a gospel is this: I readily forgive those who trespass against me. Jesus put it like this:
"Öif you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mt 6:14f).
In simple terms: to hold a grudge against the neighbour on account of his wrongs against me means there is no forgiveness for me in the courts of God. And we know: if there is no forgiveness for us from God, there is no blessing from God either; there is only the curse. Then we can pray for bodily needs till the cows come home, but there is no answerÖ. And prayer is so hard, so frustratingÖ. I want, then, to be able to pray? I shall need readily to forgive my neighbour whatever evil or hurt he has done to me.
The disciples wanted to know how to pray. Jesus in infinite mercy taught them not just four petitions; He added a fifth Ė the one that makes approaching God possible in the first place. Given that instruction, it is for us to go on our knees before the Majesty on high, confess our sins and seek forgiveness of our debts with God. And our Father in Jesus Christ will hear, and graciously supply all we daily need to live to His greater glory.
That is the promise.