Praying God’s Will; 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5

Gods will 1 Thessalonians

Good morning!  Are you ready for a new week full of new blessings and fresh perspectives?

Every week God takes something we learned from the previous chapter and brings it to life for me, in some way or another.  In 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4, we prayed that “God will guide us, that we will live as peacemakers, and grant to each of us the desire and the way of working to provide for ourselves and our families so that we will not be a burden, but can even afford to be generous with others.”

Before I had even published that devotional, we received a letter from a pastor we’ve known for many years, explaining how his congregation is struggling.  Though their building is payed for, their numbers have not grown enough to keep up with the expenses of ministry.  He asked for prayers, and that we might seek God’s guidance as to whether we can help them in any way.   What a privilege to be able to seek God’s will for their congregation, and we truly rejoice that we are able to help, even in some small way, to support them as they are waiting for what God will have them do next.

Also, (and this is a fun one) last week our Pastor taught some ways to share the gospel with others.  He stood right up front and asked, “When was the last time you prayed for boldness in sharing the gospel?”  

We started praying this in 1 Thessalonians 2:2!!!  It is crazy, amazing, wonderful to know God’s will for us, and such a privilege to be praying for His will to come to pass on earth as it is in heaven.  😀

Are these things happening to you???


Chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians is rather full.  Paul continues his dialog concerning the return of Christ, and then he switches gears, giving the church directions on how to live Godly, blameless lives while they (and we) wait for that glorious day.

I used the New American Standard Bible, the Amplified Bible, and in my study this week.

Lets pray, and ask for wisdom before we begin.


My Notes:

vs. 1 & 2– Now (a continuation of Paul’s discussion about end times).  It seems the Thessalonian church has already been educated about Christ’s return.

vs. 2 &3– Those who have not been saved will feel safe, but will be taken by surprise by His return (like a thief in the night) and they will not escape destruction (judgement for their sin).

vs. 4-9– The church should be ‘sober and alert (cautiously watch lest we fall away), ready for Christ’s return since we are not destined for judgement but for salvation through Jesus’s death and resurrection.  Paul sort of introduced the analogy of the armor of God here in being ready.

vs. 10– So-whether we are alive, or have physically died before Christ’s return, we (the saved church) will all live together with Him.

vs. 11– (continue to) build up and encourage one another within the church.

vs. 12 & 13– Paul instructs the church to appreciate, and in love, respect its leaders and teachers for their work.

vs. 13– live in peace with one another and

  • vs. 14–admonish (seriously advise, warn) the unruly (disorderly–out of ranks, often of soldiers).
  • encourage the timid, fainthearted
  • help the weak (Proverbs 18:14~wounded spirit)
  • be patient with everyone (individually and collectively, always keeping your temper)
  • vs. 15–don’t repay evil for evil;
  • instead, earnestly endeavor to show kindness and seek to do good to each other and everyone
  • vs. 16–Rejoice always (be happy in your faith and glad-hearted)
  • vs. 17– Pray without ceasing (persevere in prayer)
  • vs. 18– in everything (all circumstances) give thanks; for this is God’s will for you
  • vs. 19– Do not quench (subdue) the Spirit of God;
  • vs. 20– Do not despise prophetic utterances (prophetic revelations, inspired instruction or warning, and perhaps even the Bible?)
  • vs. 21– Instead, examine everything carefully (test everything— no God inspired instruction will ever contradict His Word, the Bible)
  • Hold fast to what is good;
  • vs. 22– Abstain from every form of evil (shrink away from it)
  • vs. 23– May God completely sanctify/set apart/purify/consecrate you so that you may be preserved and found blameless (spirit, soul and body) at the return of Jesus.
  • vs. 24– God is trustworthy and will fulfill His call on your life doing this (vs. 23).

vs. 25 & 26– Paul asked the church to pray for the apostles and greet the brethren for them.

vs. 27– They were to make sure Paul’s letter was read out loud before all the brethren.  They didn’t have Bibles.   (Their letter is part of our Bible!!)  It was important that they all hear this letter in order to receive encouragement and instruction.

vs. 28– was Paul’s closing and blessing.


I am so thankful to have gone through the study, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit, before getting to this chapter.  Better understanding of these Christ-like characteristics made Paul’s instructions for Godly living much more meaningful.  I put links to each “fruit” devotional as I see them applied in this context, so you can go back and read through them if you like.

When reading verse 23, where Paul talks about being preserved in spirit, soul, and body, I really wanted to understand more fully what this meant. (Yes, I am a Bible geek.  I know.) 😛

Body– is just our body.  We want to keep it holy by abstaining from sinful practices.

Spirit– is the power by which we know, desire, decide or act…

Soul– is the seat of our feelings, desires, affections, aversions.  Different than the body; not dissolved by death.  This is the same word Jesus used in Matthew when he said to love God with all your soul.

All these parts of our being, God wants to preserve as blameless until his return.


“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”  1 John 5:14-15

How can I use these observations to pray according to God’s will?


vs. 1-3– continue to pray for the lost, that they will be saved and ready for the Day of our Lord!

vs. 4-10– Thank God for our salvation, and ask Him for perseverance and faithfulness to watch for and be ready for Christ’s return.

 In the future there is reserved for me the [victor’s] crown of righteousness [for being right with God and doing right], which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that [great] day—and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved and longed for and welcomed His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8

vs. 11–Continue to pray for grace to build up and encourage one another within the body of Christ.

vs. 12,13– Ask God to work in our hearts, and give us the loving appreciation and respect that He desires for us to have for our church leaders and teachers.

vs. 13– Pray that we (the Church) will live in peace with one another (as we began praying in chapter 4, verse 11), AND:

That God will give us wisdom and boldness to…

vs. 14– admonish brothers who are out of order, and not living Godly lives,

Give us discernment how to best…

–encourage the faint-hearted, and support the weak and wounded in spirit.

Pray that God will supernaturally enable us to…

–be patient with everyone, individually and collectively (the whole church)

vs. 15– Pray that we will earnestly endeavor to show kindness and do good to everyone, never seeking revenge.

“So, as God’s own chosen people, who are holy [set apart, sanctified for His purpose] and well-beloved [by God Himself], put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [which has the power to endure whatever injustice or unpleasantness comes, with good temper];” Colossians 3:12

Pray that God will…

vs. 16– enable us to be happy in our faith and rejoice always

vs. 17, 18– strengthen us to persevere in prayer and give thanks in every circumstance.

vs. 19– Give us hearts that are tender toward God’s will, and never subdue the Holy Spirit who works within us,

vs. 20–and love God’s word and His correction,

vs. 21– give us discernment, as we examine everything, to know what is good and true, and what is not from God.  Help us hold fast to what is good!

vs. 22–Pray for wisdom and self control to shrink away from evil.

vs. 23– Thank God for His faithfulness in setting us apart and keeping us holy in spirit, soul, and body–blameless for Christ’s return.

vs. 27– Pray that God’s word will continue to be proclaimed (in our homes, churches and the world) and accomplish His will.


Praying God’s Will; 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4

Good morning, Friend.  I hope you had a good sabbath and are ready for what this week holds.

Last week was a long week for me because my hubby took the camp interns out of town for 3 days, and they went on a tour of several other camps.  This is so much fun because they get to explore God’s creativity in other places, network with other camps, look at the differences and similarities in how other camps are organized and facilitate ministry in their location, and so much more.  This has become an annual event, and they always come back with inspiration.  Plus, the fellowship among our own staff while they travel is great.  I miss him when he’s gone.

Meanwhile, the kids and I kept with our school schedule, and the kids also did a lot of playing outside in all the new snow.  We had so much Sunday night and Monday, preceded by rain and sleet, that all the schools shut down and many events were cancelled.  It was a winter-wonderland.

Have you been witnessing God move in your heart and your local Church Body?

Last Sunday one of our teens was preparing to leave for the Philippines and our elders and leaders prayed over her during the service.  Get a load of this little guy?  He so sweetly wanted to be a part.  Eventually he scooted over and held onto someone’s sweater.



This morning I received word about a brand new believer!  And the request that I be praying for her.  Praise God, He uses our prayers! 🙂

Well, have you taken time to read 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 3 and listen for God’s will?  This chapter ran me through the full spectrum of emotions, I think.  It even moved me to tears…. happy tears.

Like I always say, I’m not an expert.  This is just my “home-schooled” Bible study, but God is a great tour guide when we get into His Word.  My study companions were the NASV and the Amplified Version,, and the IVP Bible Background Commentary for the New Testament.

Shall we pray for wisdom before we dig in?

Gods will 1 Thessalonians

My Notes:

vs. 1 & 2–The Thessalonian church has been following the instructions the apostles gave them concerning Godly living, and Paul says they should do so even more.

vs. 3–It was God’s will that they (and we) be set apart/consecrated/sanctified for holy living, and abstain from sexual sin.

vs. 4 & 5–Their bodies were not to be used for lustful passion, but they should know how to be self controlled (in purity and honor).

vs. 6–No man was to “transgress and defraud his brother” in this matter (sexual sin).  Well, I had to ask what, exactly, did Paul mean by this?  The IVP Bible Background Commentary teaches that Paul was referring to committing adultery with another man’s wife.  Makes sense.  It’s a good reminder that sexual sin not only harms us, but the one we sin with, and others as well).

vs. 7– Again, God called them (and us) to be sanctified/pure/set apart to be holy, just as God is holy.

vs. 8–When we reject God’s will, we reject His Holy Spirit ( whose business it is to be doing the sanctifying in us!)

Now Paul changes gears.

vs. 9 & 10– Grow and excel more and more in loving other believers.

vs. 11– Their goal (and ours) should be to live a peaceful life, mind their own business, and work with their own hands.  My study bible says that Greeks looked down on manual labor, and those who weren’t rich often adopted a habit of begging.

vs. 12–Why do these things?  So they would behave properly toward outsiders  and not be in need… (Paul promotes manual labor again in Eph. 4:28 for the purpose that they will not be in need, but also so they would have extra to give to others in need.  There’s that concept of giving again.)

vs. 13– Paul wants the Thessalonian church to understand what happens when believers die so they will not grieve like those who have no hope (they come from a culture devoid of hope).

vs. 14 & 15– Those who are alive when Christ returns will have no advantage over those who died before.  God will bring those who have already died to Himself through the work Jesus did in his death and resurrection (He conquered sin and death!!).

vs. 16– What do we have to look forward to?  Jesus will descend from heaven with a loud cry of summons, the shout of the archangel and the blast of the trumpet of God.  Those who have already died will rise.  *Chills*

vs. 17–Then those who are living will be caught up with the resurrected dead to meet Jesus in the air, and we will ALL be with Him for eternity!  *Cheers!*

vs. 18– Comfort and encourage each other with these words (this hope!). *Happy Tears*


“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”  1 John 5:14-15

How can I use these observations to pray according to God’s will?

*vs. 1,2 3, & 7– Thank God for setting us apart and ask Him to continue to empower us to live holy lives for him, and specifically that the church will abstain from sexual sin.  Sexual sin was rampant in Paul’s day.  Prostitution was common.  All this time later, sex trafficking has exploded in our day.  Sometimes, even church attenders are confused about what is right and wrong as far as sexuality.   Unfortunately, there are other times that wrong choices are made, and instead of repentance, excuses are made.   It should not be this way.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  God doesn’t want us to cover up our sin.  He wants us to confess it so He can cover it.   “For His divine power has bestowed on us [absolutely] everything necessary for [a dynamic spiritual] life and godliness, through true and personal knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”            2 Peter 1:3

*vs. 4 & 5–Pray that God will teach us and empower us how to be self controlled in purity and honor.  And then consciously submit to God’s Spirit since self control is a fruit of the Spirit.

*vs. 9 & 10– Pray that we will consistently grow and excel, always, in loving other believers.  These people are our family and will be our neighbors (forever) when we get to heaven.  😉


*vs. 11 & 12– Pray that God will guide us, that we will live as peacemakers, and grant to each of us the desire and the way of working to provide for ourselves and our families so that we will not be a burden, but can even afford to be generous with others.

*vs. 13-18– Praise God for giving us a future hope through Jesus, and for telling how we can look forward to His return with great expectation.  He’s coming back for us, and we get to spend ETERNITY with Him!  Pray for the lost, by name if you can, that they may share with us in this hope.

How did God speak to you in this chapter?  I can’t wait to hear your insights.


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More Power in Prayer; God Never Makes a Mistake

God never makes a mista

Several years ago, one of our camp counselors become ill toward the end of youth camps.  Once Sarah started feeling unwell, things went downhill rather quickly.  When she explained to the camp nurse that she was experiencing blurred vision, she was taken to the local hospital where they ran a full gamut of tests.  Even so, they could not decide what was wrong.

Eventually her parents got her to a specialist in the cities (that’s Minnesota speak for the Twin Cities: Minneapolis/St.Paul and surrounding areas).  He found damage to the optic nerves that may or may not be permanent. What was certain was that if healing was possible, it would take time.  He sent her home with the diagnosis of “legally blind”.

All this didn’t stop her from serving.  I remember her sister bringing her up for a ladies’ retreat, and even though she was using a walking stick to get around, Sarah was running the big dishwasher while greeting women through the serving window.

God used her to touch a lot of hearts during this time, including a young camper who continued to correspond with Sarah after the summer.  The teen she was mentoring gave herself to Christ just shortly before losing her life in a traffic accident, and afterward God used Sarah to comfort the girl’s mother.

For many months we prayed for Sarah, asking the Lord that if would be His will, would He heal her?  During a weekend staff reunion in which the young adults studied the power of prayer, the camp staff and her peers laid hands on her and prayed for her healing during every session.  At the last session of the last day, she said she had come to terms with the idea that her healing was not going to happen at the retreat, and she was okay with that.  But when the closing prayer was said, she opened her eyes and the whole room heard her announce in surprise, “I can see.”

Sarah returned to camp as an intern.  We watched her enjoy a  blooming relationship with one of our local boys, another Camp JIM counselor, and last January my husband had the honor of marrying them.


When I asked Sarah about her story, she shared, “When I went back to my doctor, he found that the damage to my right eye was reversed (medically impossible that a nerve could regrow that quickly) and my left optic nerve was still so damaged that I shouldn’t be able to see anything!”  
 Sarah is a walking miracle, and anyone who knows her would tell you about how God used her story to spur us on to greater faith, and the ways we all delight to spread God’s fame because of his merciful kindness.  As Sarah says, “God gets all the glory!”

It’s easy, when our prayers are answered in the affirmative, to say we believe that God never makes a mistake.  But what about the times that healing does not occur?  When a loved one dies?  When the depression doesn’t lift?  When a child walks away from God?  When the loss is too great.

I cannot even begin to touch the hem of the hurts that you have lived.  Our paths are not the same.

And yet, the Bible tells us that there is one who understands each hurt, every need, every tear.  He knows the beginning from the end, and every moment of our lives in between.  He knows the what if’s, the endless possibilities and the non-negotiables.

His goal is that we reach spiritual maturity by drawing near to Him, and that our lives would become light houses that beckon others home.  In the process, we become vessels who minister to the Lord,

who encourage other believers,

vessels who declare the glory of God–not simply by what we say, but by what we live, because other people are watching, and we exemplify what we believe.

light house

Sometimes it’s the healing that brings about our perfection.

Sometimes it’s the suffering.

The question that begs our attention, when we realize that effectual prayers must be in line with God’s will, is: Are we committed to God’s will?

Do we believe God’s promise, that He works ALL THINGS together for good, for those who love Him?

There is a friend and neighbor of camp who is dying of ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  This insidious disease causes the death of neurons that control the voluntary muscles of the body, causing their eventual failure, but it doesn’t affect the victim’s ability to think and reason.  As their body stops working, they are all too aware of what is happening to them as helpless victims, trapped in their own bodies.  This friend, who I will call D, has lost his ability to walk, and he has to be on a breathing machine already.  Soon he will lose his ability to talk and swallow.  It is heartbreaking for all to watch, especially his family.

Friends from all over the country have been coming every few weeks to visit with D and pray over him, asking God if He will heal our friend.  They stay at camp when they come, and they have included our staff in their prayer vigils.   So far, while D’s disease has progressed more slowly than the doctors predicted, his condition has continued to worsen. 

Why doesn’t God heal D like He healed Sarah?

I don’t know.

Can He?

Absolutely.  D says he will walk over himself to tell us in the event that healing is God’s will.  🙂

But even if God doesn’t heal D, do you know what I see?

I see the Church Body gathering around D regularly to pray for and encourage him.  While they are there he asks them about what they are facing, listens to them, discusses with them, and yes–prays for them.  They are bearing one another’s burdens.

He is interceding a lot these days.  Are you a follower of Christ?  He is praying for you.

People come together to minister to D, but they leave with full, light hearts, realizing that they also have been ministered to.

As we pray for his healing, we are encouraged by the grace and strength God is providing for him to handle what is happening to him.

I see D’s trust; I see the peace he is experiencing, despite his circumstances.

I see God’s faithfulness.

And I am amazed.

What do I see?  I see God working.  In all His mercy, and unfailing, loving kindness, He is working in D and in all of us, and it is a beautiful thing.

Does God make mistakes?


Is it worth it, trusting God’s will?

Emphatic, Yes.

Effective prayer doesn’t always change our circumstances, but it always changes our hearts.

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”  1 Peter 4:19  ESV


HUGE thanks to Sarah, for giving me permission to share her story and for the use of her wedding picture.  All glory to God!

Other photo credit belongs to Pixabay.


More Power in Prayer; Prerequisite #3 for Effective Prayer

Hello friends!  Thank you for joining me for this series on prayer.

So far, we’ve learned that in order for our prayers to be effective there must be no un-confessed sin between us and God, and we must forgive others.  The 3rd prerequisite, shared by Evelyn Christenson in her book, “What Happens When Women Pray”, is that we pray according to God’s will.

More Power in Prayer #3

Martin Scott, author of “Gaining Ground, Prayer Strategies for Transforming Your Community,” taught that to make a difference within our sphere of influence one has to make a sound that attracts heaven.  With all my heart, I believe that sound is comprised of the voices of God’s people praying for His will to be done.  Jesus taught His disciples to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.  There is nothing in heaven that is contrary to God’s will.

1 John 5:14-15 gives us this promise concerning our prayers to God:

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

How truly awesome is that?  We can have confidence in approaching God in prayer, because we know that if what we want from God is what God wants to do, He will give us the requests that we ask of him.  

So many times we hear individuals ask in prayer, either for themselves or for others, and they have a play list.  They say, “Pray for this outcome (specifically); and pray against this outcome.” And even when we say please, our prayers often sound more like demands than requests.

Well, how do we know what God’s will is?   And when we don’t know what God wants, how do we pray His will?

While it’s true that many times we don’t know God’s specific intention concerning the details of our lives, scripture gives us an overview of God’s will.  We know that:

  • God does not wish any to perish, 2 Peter 3:9
  • It is His will that we love Him first and not allow any desire to to become an idol in our lives, Colossians 5:1-5
  • It is His priority that we understand His will and grow in Spiritual maturity, Colossians 1:9,10
  • It’s God’s desire that we walk by the Spirit and be filled with His character, Galations 5:13-26
  • God will complete the work He has begun in each of His children (sanctification–producing the fruit of righteousness in our lives), Philippians 1:3-11
  • and SO much more, if we dig into the scriptures with open eyes.

We can always ask for God’s will in our lives when we pray.  We can ask specifically, citing scriptures like these examples, or broadly, trusting God to do what is best in our lives, in the Church, and for those He brings into our sphere of influence.

But what if God’s choice of methods to bring His will about in our lives is something we don’t want?  So often, it is fear that keeps us from welcoming God’s will.  And, it’s our reluctance that can clue us in to what we are keeping as idols in our hearts… our health, our possessions, our comfort in our present situation, our loved ones…

As long as we hold anything closer than God’s will, we will be controlled by fear and anxious about the future.  Only by trusting God completely can we experience His peace and joy in any circumstance.

And when uncertainty does pressure us?

Jesus left us a powerful example of how to make requests while being submitting to what God wants.  In the garden, while he prayed before his arrest and eventual crucifixion, he battled his humanity, knowing the suffering that lay before him and not wanting to have to walk the road that was prepared.  He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” Luke 22:42

Don’t you love how he said, “If you are willing?”  Even in stating his request, he acknowledged his Father’s Lordship in his circumstances, but then he followed his request in humble submission, offering, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Many times we lay our play list out there for God to follow, and then we tack a “if it’s your will,” onto the end.  But I’ve come to realize that unless we approach God in submission, truly seeking His will while we lay our requests at His feet, our last minute “if it’s your will,” is nothing more than a dutiful disclaimer.

What else happens when we are praying for God’s will?

While we do this, we know (Romans 8:26-27) that the Holy Spirit knows God’s mind, and He helps us in our weakness by interceding for us, as He prays God’s specific will on our behalf.

What a compassionate God we have.

Putting out the Fleece

Sometimes, while we are asking for God’s will, we are trying to discern how He would have us to make a particular decision.  In this case, Gideon sets an example for us in Judges 6:36-40. Gideon asked God, “if your will be “this” then please give me this sign,” and God was faithful to do so.  Sometimes it’s simply asking God to open and close doors as He sees fit while we patiently stand ready to take on the opportunities He presents.


Last summer I had the privilege of leading a small group through “What Happens When Women Pray” while we prayed for Camp JIM, the salvation of campers, and each other.  As the summer progressed, and we learned more of the prerequisites for effective prayer, I noticed changes in the way the women approached God with their requests.  Their thanks multiplied and they frequently pointed out God’s will in scripture.  They stopped telling God what they wanted and started asking for His will, even when it meant opening their hands and saying, “Whatever it takes, Lord, for your will to be done in this person’s life” (to bring them to you; to heal their hurts; etc…)… “whatever it takes.”

It was truly beautiful to see this transformation, for it wasn’t just their prayers that were changing, but they themselves.  The way they prayed simply mirrored what God was doing in their hearts.  Evelyn Christenson shared that according to Vine’s Expository of New Testament Words, the word “effectual,” found in James 5:16, means “the effect produced in the praying person, bringing him into line with the will of God.”

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” 

We want our prayers to be effectual, but “The effectual pray-er, then, is a person who is completely committed to God’s will for answers, and not to his own will.” ~E. Christenson

So, what happened in the midst of all that praying this summer?  Statistically, there were more salvation decisions than any other summer in the 14 years our family has had the privilege of serving at Camp JIM.  Praise God!!

As children of God, when we pray according to HIS will, rather than our will, we can have confidence because we know He hears us and gives us what we ask for!  We can also have confidence knowing that wherever He leads us, something good is in the making, and for this we can rejoice! Romans 8:28

Whatever God’s will holds, it is a comfort to know He NEVER makes a mistake, and that is what we will discuss in the next post in this series.

But until then, I invite you to join me on Mondays, as we read from God’s Word and look for God’s will.  We’ll highlight what we see and then use it to actually pray for ourselves, our family and friends, the Church body, and the world.  Meet me here on Monday, February 19th to begin praying God’s will from 1 Thessalonians, chapter 1.  I’ll be studying in the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Version in preparation.

You can read the previous posts from this series by posting on their links at the end of This Post.

Praying God’s will for you,


More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite #2 for Effective Prayer

More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite 2

When I was in charge of coordinating the Women’s Events at Camp JIM, I once booked a speaker to share at a retreat on the subject of Forgiving.  The speaker had several talks she had prepared for events and she told me, in all the years she had been traveling, I was the first to ask her to use this seminar.


When the topic is the heart warming reminder of our own forgiveness, we’re all over it; but, no one wanted to trudge through a weekend of emotional sludge to let go of their own grievances.  Ouch.

However, we can’t afford not to.  Forgiveness is a prerequisite to to more powerful, effective prayer.

There are several occasions in the New Testament when God promises to hold us to our own standards.  In Matthew 6:12, Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray,

“And forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” TLB

The King James Version says, “forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.”  We all know a debt is something we owe, but did you know that debt, offence and sin can be used interchangeably?  It changes our perspective, doesn’t it?

Do we want to be forgiven “as” (in the same way) we have forgiven others?

Mark 11:24-25 says it even more clearly:

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

God wants us to pray for one another in intercessory prayer.

And we’ve learned that if we want God to hear our prayers, we have to confess all known sins, and seek His forgiveness.  But these verses take that even further by saying that we also need to forgive anyone against whom we are holding a grievance.

Isn’t it easy to hold a grievance?  Without even realizing it, we can nurse it along, holding onto it like an old friend.  It becomes a part of who we are and we may not even realize we’ve developed a critical spirit toward that person who hurt us.

God says forgive.

It is a required of us in order for God to listen to our prayers.

Many years ago, on a Good Friday, tragedy snuck into our family unannounced.  On Saturday my husband took me to see “Passion of the Christ” in the dollar theater in his home town.  Ugh.  I have never been so torn by a movie.  Christ’s suffering was so large on that screen, I know I was swollen and blotchy and pathetic when we came out of the theater and into the light.  I was burdened afresh with the opportunity to meditate on the message of Easter, that Christ’s passion was to save me. It was my sin that brought Him all that pain, but I could rejoice because He is risen and I am forgiven.

The testing came Easter Sunday, when the silent offence came screaming into the light and tore the cover right off my heart.  You know those movies that show a person in shock, experiencing the moment in slow motion, and every sense is cranked up to high?  Too many individuals were affected for me to share the details.  Suffice it to say, no grievance against oneself ever comes close to the pain you enter into when the grievance is against your child.

When the weekend had ended, my heart finally quieted, and my eyes ran dry.  I’m sure God orchestrated our weekend so that I would watch that movie at that exact time.  I knew the choice I faced was no choice at all.

No matter how grieved I was by this offence, a perfect God was more offended, and yet Jesus died to forgive that person who grieved our family.  He died once and for all, for all people, just as much as He died to forgive me.  He loves us all the same.  So how could I refuse to forgive?

How dare I refuse to forgive?

Isn’t that what it boils down to?  The parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35 depicts it perfectly.

So we make the choice to forgive.

We don’t wait until we feel like it.  Emotions are fickle, and we could wait an eternity without ever “feeling like forgiving”.  Make the choice, even if it means choosing daily.  Healing is a process.

But now comes the awkward, and how do we act when we encounter this person again?

This is where the rubber meets the road.

In her book, “What Happens When Women Pray?” Evelyn Christenson shares that once we commit to forgive, God expects us to illustrate follow through.

Now if anyone has caused pain…  For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.”  2 Cor. 2:5,7,8

Paul is writing to the Corinthian church regarding a brother who has grieved the congregation, most likely received church discipline, and has repented.  Paul tells the church to not only forgive him, but to comfort him… and reaffirm their love for him.  What this person has been through has been hard, and feeling ostracized by the church could overwhelm him with grief.

Don’t we do this, as parents?  When our kids have a quarrel, and we mediate, we make sure they reaffirm their love for each other.  “Now give each other a hug!”  I have just about cracked up when scowly faced children say, “I forgive you,” but can barely bring themselves to touch each other.  And yet, once embraced, the tension drains from their bodies, is replaced by a genuine smile, a REAL hug, and fast friends return to play.

confirm forgiveness

It’s easy to say we forgive, but the proof is in the follow through.

Maybe it’s time for a heart to heart, a hug, and tears all around.

Maybe the proof is in doing something to serve this person who has grieved  you.

Perhaps, like our family and the church in Corinth, it is bringing him or her back into your fellowship.

What if they’re not sorry?

The grief and subsequent bitterness will eat you alive if you choose not to forgive.  In Evelyn’s words, your prayer life will become “like straw”.  And as Paul warned the Corinthians, forgive, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”

For Christ’s sake, and for yours, you still need to forgive.  Lay it at the foot of the cross.  Pray how God wants you to confirm your love. Perhaps it is as simple as sending a ‘Thinking of You’.  Or, perhaps God has another opportunity prepared for such a time as this.

What if they don’t want anything to do with you?  Then honoring their wishes in keeping your distance may be the best way to confirm your love.  Even if they never know, God will know, and He will give you His peace.

That your prayers may not be hindered: (page 40-41 of “What Happens When Women Pray):

*  Ask God to remind you of anyone whom you need to forgive.

*  Ask forgiveness for the sin of not forgiving that person.

*  Forgive that person, even if you need to ask God to enable you to do so.  He will provide you with the strength and ability.

*  Ask God for as much love as He wants you to have for the person who grieved you.

*  Ask God how He would have you to confirm your love for them.

*  Wait in silence for His answer.

*  Pray, promising God that you will do whatever He has told you.

*  Go do it!

“Lord, forgive me for holding onto grievances.  I forgive ______________ for _____________________.  Give me the heart you want me to have toward him/her.  Show me how you desire for me to confirm my love for them, and give me the strength to follow through.”

You can find the rest of the posts in this series at the end of this post.  Thanks for reading!