Desiring God: The Prayer For Pardon

The Prayer For Pardon

Opening Illustration:
Many of you have seen the movie Unbroken.  Mentioning it today, this Memorial Day, seems appropriate.  I am so thankful for the men and women of the armed forces and how they have cast the shadow of freedom over this great land. The story of Unbroken chronicles the real life story of Louis Zamperini.  Zamperini was a self admitted problem child.  He caused trouble everywhere he went.  As he grew up, he realized that he had a nature talent for running.  Zamperini eventually became a track star.  He was so good that he participated in the Olympic games in Germany. He even shook the hand of Adolf Hitler.  Following the games, Zamperini, like most American males at the time, served in the military.  He fought in World War II. During the war, Zamperini’s plane crashed and he was adrift at sea for more than 30 days.  Eventually he was captured by the Japanese and sent to a hard labor camp for a number of years.  

Zamperini, in his book, that during the time of being lost at sea and being stuck in a prison camp that he promised that if God ever got him out of the mess he found himself in, that he would pledge his life to him.  You see, Zamperini was lost in more ways that one.  He was lost spiritually.  

The book, and the movie for that matter, tells the story of Zamperini and a particular Japanese jailer.  The jailer was named Mutsuhiro Wantanabe.  The men in the camp simply called him “The Bird”.  Wantanabe was a brutal man.  He made it his personal mission to inflict as much pain and discomfort on Zamperini as possible.  Everyday Wantanabe beat and abused Zamperini.  Everyday he mentally and verbally abused him.  He starved him nearly to death and make him do unbelievable amounts of work each day for hours at a time.  

Well, we know the story.  Eventually American won the war and the servicemen were released.  Zamperini came home.  He healed physically but mentally he was still a broken man.  He turned to drinking.  It didn’t work.  Zamperini’s marriage was falling apart.  A friend invited Zamperini to a revival.  There was a new, up and coming preacher in town, and his friend told Zamp that he had to hear him.  The young preacher was Billy Graham.  During the sermon, Zamperini’s heart was set on fire.  He recalled the promise that he had made to the Lord and he gave his life to Jesus the night that Billy Graham came to town and preached the Gospel message.  

Zamperini, before this time, harbored ill will and harsh feelings toward The Bird, his Japanese captor.  He hated him.  Then Jesus stepped into Zamp’s life.  What was hatred was now love.  What was once ill will was now forgiveness.  Years after the war, Zamperini wanted to see The Bird again.  He went so far as to travel back to Japan.  He even went back to the old prison camp.  He went looking for The Bird.  He wanted to tell him that he loved him, that he forgave him, and he wanted to introduce him to his Savior Jesus Christ.  

Unfortunately, The Bird would not see Louis.  However, Louis’ example shines for us today. His example of forgiveness and pardon is something that we can all learn from.  We all need to show more grace, more willingness to let go, more forgiveness.  

Remember friends, it is always good to give grace because one day, we will all need it. Amen? Amen!

It’s Always Good to Go For Grace!

Today we will go back to Matthew 6.  Specifically verse 12.  We have already learned about the purpose for prayer.  Remember, there is great reward when we dedicate ourselves to prayer.  Next, we have learned how and what we should ask of God.  God knows our needs, and takes care of our needs.  Last week, we looked at how God provides for us.  Today, we are looking at the issue of forgives.  Forgiveness is hard isn’t it?  We have all been wronged at some point along the way.  All of us have been hurt.  No one is immune.  Sometimes it is difficult to give grace.  It is hard to forgive.  However, as we will discover, forgiveness is essential to life and growth.  

Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.  
Nelson Mandela 


Matthew 6:12 ESV
…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

We Pray About Forgiveness Because It…

I. Softens (Our Hearts) vs. 12
Matthew 6:12 ESV
…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

Two little brothers, Harry and James, had finished supper and were playing until bedtime. Somehow, Harry hit James with a stick, and tears and bitter words followed. Charges and accusations were still being exchanged as their mother prepared them for bed. 

She said, “Now boys, what would happen if either of you died tonight and you never had the opportunity again for forgive one another?” James spoke up, “Well, OK, I’ll forgive him tonight, but if we’re both alive in the morning, he’d better look out.”

I often wonder why Jesus includes forgiveness in His example of prayer.  I think that Jesus wants us to pray about forgiveness because prayer changes us.  Prayer has the ability to soften a hardened heart.  Prayer is the tenderizer of the soul.  Without prayer, it is impossible to forgive.  Prayer is the open door to the Holy Spirit stepping into our lives.  When the Spirit enters our hearts, He substitutes our anger and hatred for love and forgives.  

So, are you angry this morning? Are you carrying a grudge this morning against your wife, your husband, your kids, your co-workers, or your boss?  If the answer is “yes” when is the last time you prayed for a heart of grace and forgiveness. Ill make a promise to you right now, if you pray and ask God to help you forgive the person you feel wronged you, God WILL answer that prayer.  He WILL substitute that anger.  

When we pray about forgiveness, God changes the way we look at the person we are angry at.  We see the entire world through a different lens.  For instance, the person that we feel wronged us has probably been wronged themselves.  They are hurt.  Perhaps they were abused and did not learn how to appropriately cope with that trauma.  So, instead of acting appropriately, they lash out.  Hurt people hurt people.  When we pray for a heart of forgiveness, we no longer see the person that is harming us, we see the pain driving the person actions.  When we begin to see the pain in people’s lives, we have a new empathy for that person.  We begin to understand who they really are and we desire to help them. 

Ephesians 4:32 ESV
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

We Pray About Forgiveness Because It…

I. Softens (Our Hearts) vs. 12
II. Strengthens (Our Choice) vs. 12
Matthew 6:12 ESV
…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

Do me a favor and turn in your Bibles to Luke 23.  I want to read from verses 26-34.  

Luke 23:26-34 ESV
26 As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women. 28 But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’ 30 People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’ 31 For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

Now, flip back to the Old Testament book Isaiah 37.  

While you are going there, let me set the scene.  The Assyrians were laying siege to the city of Jerusalem.  The people were starving.  It was an ugly scene for sure.  So, what does God do.  He sends out the dreaded Angel of the Lord.  We are not privy to this Angel’s name, but he is a fairly terrifying presence in the Bible.  So, the Assyrians have set up encampments all around Jerusalem.  This is how the Scripture reads.  

Isaiah 37:36 NLT
That night the angel of the LORD went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere.

One Angel, The Angel of the Lord, killed 18500 men on one night.  I did the math.  If a normal night is 12 hours, The Angel of the Lord killed more than 15,000 men in an hour.  Friends, that is no joke.  

So, Jesus is in the same city during the time of Passover.  The Passover Celebration would have brought people from all over the region to worship.  The city would have been filled with Jews from all over and Romans because they occupied the city at the time.  The population of Jerusalem normally was about 40,000 people.  That is huge for ancient times.  During the passover, the city would swell to about 250,000 people.  

That’s a lot of people.  

Go back to Luke.  

Jesus was on the cross.  He was being tortured.  He was dying.  He was innocent.  Jesus was in pain, separated from the Father, and hanging naked on a wooden cross.  He had been beaten with rods, nearly skinned alive and now bleeding to death.  Suffocation would come shortly for Him.  The Bible even records Judas’ thoughts on Jesus’ innocence.   

Matthew 27:4 NLT
"I have sinned," he declared, "for I have betrayed an innocent man." "What do we care?" they retorted. "That's your problem."

When Jesus was taken forcibly by the Romans, Peter stepped in with a sword to defend Jesus.  Notice Jesus’ words.  

Matthew 26:53 NIV
Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

Did you catch that?  If Jesus wanted to, He could call 12 Legions of Angels to be at His side for His protection.  

Again, let’s do the math.  A Roman legion was 5000 men.  So, if the number is comparable, 12 Legions of Angels would be 60,000 angels.  We know that one angel could have killed nearly 2/3’s of the population of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’s crucifixion or 185,000 fighting men.  So, what type of damage could 60000 angels do?  

If Jesus wanted, at the time of His death, Jesus could have called 60000 angels to justifiably kill 1.1 trillion people.  

Aren’t we glad that He didn’t.  You see Jesus made a choice to forgive.  Even in the midst of the worst, most terrible torture that a person could imagine, Jesus forgave.  If Jesus can withhold HIs righteous judgement and forgive those who hurt Him, abused Him, and mocked Him, so can I.  

So where did Jesus receive this strength to forgive in such a horrible experience?  Well I believe that the answer is prayer?  Jesus knew that the pain was coming. He knew that the heartache was on it’s way.  He knew that he was going to be wronged. 

Again, turning your Bibles to Matthew 26:36-39.

Matthew 26:36-39 NASV
36 Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Jesus prayed.  In that prayer, Jesus’ conviction to take on the cross was sealed.  Yet, His conviction, His choice to forgive was made.  You see friends, we often pray to God to help us forgive others after the wrong has occurred.  Jesus gives us a powerful lesson.  We should pray for a heart of grace and forgiveness before the wrong ever occurs.  

Forgiveness after the fact is great.  Living a life of forgiveness is the real victory.  When we can turn the other cheek before the slap ever occurs is the real victory of Christian living.  

If you are waiting this morning for forgiveness to be delivered in a feeling, you will be waiting a long time.  Chances are, you will never feel like forgiving the person who wronged you.  Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling.  Choose, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to forgive everyday the one that hurt you.  

Remember, you look like Jesus when you forgive.  

Matthew 18:21-22 ESV
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

We Pray About Forgiveness Because It…

I. Softens (Our Hearts) vs. 12
II. Strengthens (Our Choice) vs. 12
III. Secures (Our Salvation) vs. 12
Matthew 6:12 ESV
…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV
Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

The New Testament equalivant to this Scripture is Romans 3:23. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  

Brothers and sisters, sin is anytime we disappoint God and the Bible tells us that we have all disappointed God.  All of us have hurt him and let him down.  Because of that disobedience, the prophet Isaiah tells us that our sins have separated us from God.  Because of the separation from God, we need a Savior.  John 14:6 states that Jesus is the way the truth and the life.  He is the only way to heaven. When we believe this, and act in obedience to the Gospel message we are saved.  

There are some people though who wonder if they are really in the faith.  Are they really saved?  Well one way to tell for sure is our attitude on forgiveness.  If we harbor grudges, speak unkindly about others, long for revenge and retribution, we are probably not believers in the Gospel message.  That’s how lost people live.  

So much of who we are in the Lord hinges on our ability to let go of grudges and put into practice the example of forgiveness that Jesus displays.  

Matthew 6:15 ESV
But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

When we pray, we recognize that we have let God down.  Thanking him for our Savior, we also come to grips that God has had to forgives us our sins.  The harvest of this sort of prayer is a soft heart, a forward forgiving mind that knows that hurt is coming and a heart that is ready to forgive in advance.  

Practical Example of Forgiveness

This has a practical application for us today.  Hear this, forgiveness bring life.  Forgiveness doesn’t just bring life to a dead unregenerate soul, it brings life to you and me today.  Forgiveness can have lasting implications for us and our relationships today.  Are you holding on to a grudge?  Are you angry, hurt or damaged?  Could it be that you are living with the burden of not forgiving someone.  Know this, every day that passes you spirit mourns and life slips away.  If you want to experience life and life abundant, you have to forgive.  Let me tell you the story of Helen and Harold Hancock. Theirs is a life of forgiveness. 

Illustration: Forgiveness
WETUMPKA, Ala. (AP) -- For District Attorney Randall Houston, the gracious way family members forgave a man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the traffic death of their relative, Lynda Taylor, took a lot of character. 

Relatives, including Taylor's brother and husband, convinced Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds to be lenient on Billy Turnbow, who has a wife and two young children. 

"I don't know that I could have forgiven him," Houston said Wednesday, a day after a judge sentenced Billy Turnbow to 60 months of supervised probation on a suspended eight-year sentence. "They should be commended." 

On Nov. 21, 2000, a fatigued Turnbow plowed his Freightliner tractor-trailer truck into the 31-year-old Taylor's Chevrolet Cavalier near construction on Interstate 65 near Prattville, killing her. 

Taylor was eight months pregnant. Her twin 3-year-old daughters, also in the car, were injured and have since recovered. 

"Lynda's children have lost their mother and we couldn't find a constructive reason for the Turnbow children to lose their father," said Bryan Hancock, Lynda Taylor's brother. "Mr. Turnbow had no intention to harm anyone. We thank him for his apology." 

The district attorney said Turnbow was criminally responsible for Lynda's death because he had been driving for 20 hours straight and the brakes on his truck were in need of repair. 

"I want you to know how sorry I am," Turnbow said, facing Taylor's relatives as his wife and daughters looked on. "I wanted to call and tell you how sorry I am. I wanted to send you flowers or a card. 

"We wanted to know how your little girls were doing. But the troopers told me since it was a criminal investigation, I shouldn't contact the family at all." 

Helen Hancock, Lynda Taylor's mother, gave Turnbow encouragement: "You have to take care of your family now," she said. "You have to take care of your daughters." 

Lynda Taylor's father, Harold Hancock, a minister at First Baptist Church in Montgomery, said forgiving Turnbow came naturally. 

"We are a family whose faith is important to us," he said. "We have a deep, abiding faith in our Lord, our God and our Christ. We had to forgive Mr. Turnbow, just as Christ has forgiven us."

I Corinthians 15:57 (NLT)
But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Don’t Delay…Pray!


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