Getting started

  • Pray the prayers that people have brought along with them.
  • Have you had a kindness shown to you recently? We’d like to hear about it.
  • Imagine a world in which there was no mercy, no let-offs, no second chances. What would it be like?

Something to think about

You cannot pray in the Jesus manner if you do not love the person being prayed for. But there are some people that we find it hard to love—people who have hurt us, or hurt someone that we love; people of whom we are afraid; people who do cruel things to others or take advantage of those who are weak and immature.

 Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them. In doing so they reflect the very heart and nature of God, they show that they are children of their Father in heaven who makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

  • Read Matthew 5:43-48

On the cross, Jesus prayed for the people involved in his crucifixion: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) NRSV.

In this prayer, Jesus was reflecting the mind of God. In line with his own teaching, in praying that prayer he demonstrated that he was truly a child of God—Son of God.

God is a God of mercy. Yes, God can be experienced as a God of wrath and judgment, but the overwhelming witness of the New Testament is that God loves and that this love shows itself in mercy and compassion, in grace and in acceptance.

It is because of this that we can pray our prayers of confession. Sure, God knows us through and through—our weaknesses and our faults, our sins and our errors, our failings and our mistakes—but by acknowledging them to God we allow God to forgive them and consequently for us to be released from their power. Their power is experienced as guilt, shame, apprehension, bad habits, deceitfulness, separation from God, suspicion and alienation from other people.

To talk about

  • If Jesus died for our sins, why do we need to pray prayers of confession?
  • Is it healthy to focus on our failures? We do this in prayers of repentance or confession.

Jesus said, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37) He taught his followers to keep no count of the number of times they forgive someone (Matthew 18:21-22) . And he told the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35) to indicate that we are to reflect God’s forgiveness in our dealings with other people.

Prayer is never mere words. The words are like the shape that the spirit takes, the clothing worn by our desires, the form in which our heart’s innermost thoughts are expressed. If we ask for God’s forgiveness without being ready to forgive others who hurt us, we are using only words—the husk of prayer, not the real kernel.

If we pray for something, we must be prepared to do something about it. Prayer is not meant to be a substitute for action. Many times God will ask us to become part of the answer to our prayers.

To talk about

  • Give examples of God asking someone to become part of the answer to their own prayer.

The followers of Jesus have not been so generous as Jesus was in forgiving the people who crucified him. For centuries the Jews were vilified by Christians as the people who put Jesus to death. This anti-Semitism is a blot on the life and history of the church and seems to overlook the fact that Jesus himself was a Jew.

To talk about

  • What do you know about anti-Semitism? Does it still persist? On what basis? What can be done about it?
  • We started by saying that you cannot pray in the Jesus manner if you do not love the person being prayed for.
  • What implications does this have for intercessory prayer?

Practise prayer

  • Sit quietly with hands held out in front, palms downward, and imagine your sins, failures and mistakes falling away from you through those hands. Then after a minute or two turn the palms upwards and imagine God filling them with his love and grace.
  • Pray for Jewish people in Australia and around the world. Thank God for their gift to the human race.
  • At home, make a point of praying for somebody that you don’t like, somebody that you don’t get on with very well. You will need to think about that person in a positive light for a while before you give voice to your prayer. You are not encouraged to tell anyone whom you choose, but before you leave decide on whom you are going to pray for this week.