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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody

LXXXVII THE LORD'S PRAYER, VIII

FORGIVENESS

Luke xii.1-3.

We come to the petition in the Lord's Prayer which is the easiest to understand and the hardest to pray, -- the prayer that we may be forgiven as we forgive. This prayer does not, of course, ask God to measure His goodness by our virtues. We should not dare to ask that God would deal with us just as we have dealt with others. It is the spirit of forgiveness for which we pray. |Give us forgiveness,| we ask, |because we come in the spirit of forgiveness.| The spirit of forgiveness, that is to say, is the condition and prerequisite of the prayer for forgiveness. If you do not love your brother whom you have seen, how can you truly pray to God whom you have not seen? If a man comes to his prayer with hate in his heart, he makes it impossible for God to forgive him. He is shutting the door which opens into the spirit {216} of prayer. Right-mindedness to man is the first condition of right prayer to God.

The traveler in Egypt sometimes looks out in the early morning and sees an Arab preparing to say his prayers. The man goes down to the river-bank and spreads his little carpet so that he shall look toward Mecca; but before he kneels he crouches on the bank, and cleanses his lips, his tongue, his hands, even his feet, so that he shall bring to his prayer no unclean word or deed. It is as if he first said with the Psalmist: |Wash me thoroughly of my iniquity; purge me of my sin; make me a clean heart; renew in me a right spirit;| and then with a right spirit in him, he bends and rises and bows again in his prayer. The petition for a forgiving spirit prepares one in the same way to say his morning prayer. It cleanses the tongue; it washes the motives; it purifies the thoughts of their uncharitableness; and then, in this spirit of forgiveness even toward those who have wronged him, the Christian is clean enough to ask for the forgiveness of his own sin.

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