A Prayer for a Forgiving, Compassionate Heart

This is the ninth of ten strategic prayers I am writing in response to Priscilla Shirer’s book, Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer. Shirer wrote that if she were Satan, she would make sure that you keep thinking about old wounds and the people and circumstances that caused them to “ensure that your heart was hardened with anger and bitterness. Shackled through unforgiveness.” If you have ever harbored feelings of anger, bitterness, and resentment towards another person, you know the damage it does to you and to your relationship with the offender.

Strategy 9 – Against Your Heart

He uses every opportunity to keep old wounds fresh in mind, knowing that anger and hurt and bitterness and unforgiveness will continue to roll the damage forward (Hebrews 12:15).

PRISCILLA SHIRER

I have experienced the bondage of unforgiveness. For years, I resented my mother for cheating on my father and trying to turn us kids against him, for making me and my sisters buy groceries with food stamps under the condemning eyes of adult shoppers, for leaving me, at seventeen, in charge of four younger siblings while she stayed all night with her boyfriend. When Mom almost died, I finally found the grace to forgive her, to let go of these old wounds. I thank God that I had the chance to forgive her. I miss my mother, the wounded, flawed woman who taught me to have compassion for others, and regret not having had more compassion for her.

Forgiveness for the Offender (2 Corinthians 2:5-8, NIV)

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 

Today, my mind is not tormented with thoughts of personal hurts and grievances. But I do grieve at what has happened in my country and I struggle with feelings of anger, resentment, and bitterness at the people I blame for it.

*******

Heavenly Father, before I bring my need, I bring my heart. Thank you for forgiving my sins. I confess that I do not forgive others as easily. I need more of Your grace and kindness.

Lord, I am troubled by the divisions in my country. The lies and conspiracy theories that fueled an assault on democracy make me angry. I am angry at the people who silently accepted, condoned, and promoted the lies.

Lord, I am struggling to understand and to forgive the people, including friends and family, who put a wicked man in power and voted to keep him there. It’s tempting to paint them with a broad brush but I know that his supporters are not all alike. Some of them claimed that You put him in power even though they chose to mark his name on their ballots. Some of them chose him because of the single issue of abortion or because he promised to stand up for Christians. Some of them chose him because they are Christian Nationalists and think that Republicans can “take back” America for You. Some of them chose him because they are xenophobic and he promised to build a wall to keep Mexicans out. His most radical and fervent supporters adore a wicked man because they are wicked, as we saw so clearly on January 6th.

Lord, I especially feel betrayed by fellow Christians who were willing to trade Christian values for political power. They were willing to accept racism and to tolerate dishonesty and vile, vengeful, divisive language in exchange for the Republican agenda. Of course, they have not betrayed me personally but their hypocrisy severely damages the witness of the Church.

Jesus, I need more of your compassion. Even as you faced death for testifying to the truth, you prayed for your enemies: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ Help me to have compassion for the people who see but do not perceive, who hear but do not understand.

Father, You are good to the ungrateful and the wicked. You cause the sun to shine on the evil and the good and send rain on the righteous and unrighteous. Help me to love my enemies, the enemies of truth. Help me to be good to them with no expectation of receiving anything back.

Lord, as I struggle to forgive those who have aligned themselves with wicked men, help me to remember that my struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers of this world’s darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The secret power of lawlessness is at work, deluding those who delight in wickedness.

Father, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon. For it is in pardoning, that I am pardoned.

Amen

*******

Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash

Matthew 5:44-45

Mark 4:12

Ephesians 6:12

2 Thessalonians 2

Humbling learning from others

I recently saw Russell Moore on TV. I recognized his name but knew nothing about him so I searched on Facebook and learned that he is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. On a post promoting his book on courage, a woman commented that you don’t need another book; read and study God’s word and you will learn everything you need to know about courage, wisdom, love, etc. She went on to criticize Dr. Moore and others for writing books instead of obeying God by visiting widows and orphans and making disciples.

I still don’t know much about Russell Moore. I know that the Facebook critic opposes him because he is a Calvinist. She opposes him because he is a friend (not a relative) of Beth Moore, the popular evangelist, and she believes that Beth is a false teacher.

I agree with Russell Moore’s critic that we can learn many things directly from the bible. The bible is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). But as someone else told Moore’s critic, books by religious authors can lead people to God who would not read the bible. They can encourage and teach those of us who do.

Sometimes reading comments on social media is like a trip down the rabbit hole. I wanted to learn more about a specific theologian and instead got a close look at a damaging aspect of human nature: arrogance.

Arrogance prevents a person from learning from others. I am not a theologian. I don’t always understand what I read in the bible. I learn and am inspired reading religious books and blog posts. Other people know much more than I do about the historical context of the bible. How can you learn if you think you know everything already?

Arrogance prevents a person from seeing oneself honestly. The woman who used her knowledge of the bible to rebuke and warn others about what she sees as false teaching lacked the humility to accept criticism herself. Our biases can cause us to selectively read scripture. How is it that in her daily bible reading, the woman who decided that Russell Moore is disobeying God by writing, missed the scripture about spiritual gifts? How does she know what God has called and gifted others to do?

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Believers are all members of one body. We are called to unity, to humility and patience.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:2-3

Lord, as I am drawn to both read and to write, I pray for wisdom and discernment. I pray for the humility to be teachable so that I can live a life worthy of my calling. Help me to bear with others in love and to seek your truth even if it reveals uncomfortable truths about myself. Amen

****

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash