Today I wanted to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next year, through something I’ve only realized in the past week or so.
For the past year, I’ve been praying “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That was Jesus’ prayer on the cross.
When He prayed it, in that situation, it was incredible and selfless and beautiful. Unfortunately, like all things, we can take a beautiful thing and twist it selfishly. I’ve never struggled much with being a Prodigal Gone Wild, but boy am I good at being a Pharisee. I think my prayers in the past year have been mostly these:
Father, forgive them because they don’t know how much they hurt me.
Father, forgive them because they can’t see how selfish they are.
Father, forgive them because they act so entitled.
Father, forgive them because they’re blind to how manipulative they are.
Father, forgive them because they don’t trust anyone.
Father, forgive them because they’re such a gossip.
Father, forgive them for being so jealous and controlling.
Father, forgive them because they have so much pride and don’t even know.
Ironically, the more I prayed those seemingly selfless prayers, the more a sneaky kind of self-righteous pride crept up in my heart. Sure, I was being super-spiritual praying for these people. But just like everything else Jesus was concerned with, my behavior didn’t mean anything. It was my heart that mattered. I am so convicted by this story Jesus told about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18, when he addressed this exact situation:
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
I’ve been praying the wrong prayers for a year. Instead, here’s what I really should have been praying:
Father, forgive me for hurting people.
Father, forgive me for how selfish I am.
Father, forgive me for acting so entitled.
Father, forgive me for manipulating others.
Father, forgive me for not trusting You and thus not trusting others who have earned it.
Father, forgive me for slandering all these people no matter what my reasoning.
Father, forgive me for being so jealous of others and their lives and for trying to control things and people.
Father, forgive me for the immense pride in my heart that allowed me to wound others without even realizing it.
I have been praying the wrong prayers. As I go into 2016, I am aware I can’t fix all the relationships I’ve broken by praying the wrong prayers. I can’t force people to accept apologies or to make them like me again. But I can humble myself enough to pray in repentance, “Father, forgive me. I had no idea what I was doing in 2015. But now I have no excuse, because my eyes have been opened. Help me in 2016 to turn away from pride and to humility, and to walk in integrity, and will you heal those I’ve left bruised and broken in 2015?”
It is the meek who will inherit the earth. It is the ordinary people, the poor, the lowly, the underdog, the beaten down, the hurting, the wounded, the ones you won’t expect who will be in heaven. Who the Lord chose to walk among and heal when He was on earth.
This year, join me and pray for help to stop praying with pride. Instead of re-living the past and how you’ve been hurt, look at how you’ve sinned against others and learn from it. We are often way too focused on what’s been done to us, that we forget we have a billion sins that we need to ask for forgiveness for before we ever go near the other person’s.
And then comes the long journey of forgiving yourself, which, truthfully, I am still figuring out…all I know is, the past is the past, and you can’t live in it, and you can’t heal people from the damage caused, or force them to do anything. He is in control of that. We are responsible for ourselves, for leaning into Jesus, for repentance, and for making peace as far as it depends on us. Then it depends on Him.
Easier said than done.