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The Rev. David W. Hall (PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is married to Ann, and they are parents of three grown children. He has served as the Senior Pastor of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) since 2003. After completion of his undergraduate studies, Pastor Hall studied at Swiss L’Abri and then enrolled at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating in 1980. In addition to pastoring, David Hall is the author or editor of over 20 books and numerous essays.

Article by David Hall

Can You be a Jihad Disciple?

July 9, 2015 •

Matthew 6:9-15

This great model prayer concludes by linking divine forgiveness and human forgiveness under the rubric of prayer. Even a first-time reader can observe Jesus teaching that those who are mighty in prayer necessarily know that God’s mercy is mighty.

The title may have gotten your attention; and you may think that this is a commentary on terrorism. However, the point I wish to make follows from the above linkage. One religion is based on using force or doing whatever it takes to get to the top. The other religion stresses mercy and forgiveness through and through. And to begin, you might wish to ask: Am I a functional Muslim, depending more on revenge and getting even . . . or do I in practice depend on and pray more consonant with the dynamic of mercy? A Jihad disciple cannot pray this prayer and mean it.

Can your lack of forgiving hurt your prayer life? What else might prevent your prayer life from being full?

1 Peter 3 gives one example, taken from a common relationship between a husband and a wife . . . “so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” When husbands mistreat or disrespect their wives, they ought not think that just showing up at a prayer time grants easy access to our Father. He requires certain things: a life obedient to Christ.

While we are saved by grace and by grace alone, it does appear that certain things we do may help or hinder our prayer life.

Hating your neighbor or refusing to forgive is another prayer hindrance. Jesus could have simply ended his instruction on prayer without included verses 14-15, but in his prayer seminar, he thought this so important as to emphasize this main aspect.

The extended discussion of this is like the form of the Beatitudes. Turn back and look at this briefly in chapter 5. There are 8 simple beatitudes, averaging about 10 words each. Then a long addition is given in vss 11-12 to amplify one of those (blessed are those who are persecuted). Here, too, a final clause—and only one—is amplified. It must be significant. J. C. Ryle puts it this way. We must “not expect our prayers for forgiveness to be heard if we pray with malice and spite in our hearts towards others. To pray in such a frame of mind is mere formality and hypocrisy; it is even worse than hypocrisy; it is as much as saying, ‘Do not forgive me at all.” Our prayers are nothing without charity. We must not expect to be forgiven, if we cannot forgive.”[1] We need daily confession and pardon. This, Ryle adds, “condemns all self-righteousness and self-justifying.” We maintain a continual habit of confession and of “seeking mercy and remission.”

Ligon Duncan calls this “the principle that differentiates our Religion.” He notes in a sermon on this passage: “At the very beginning of the prayer, He wants you to remember that you are not entering into the throne room by right, you are entering into the throne room, by privilege. You are not entering into the throne room by nature, you are entering into the throne room by a gracious covenant. You are not entering into the throne room merely as a creature, but you are entering into the throne room as a child of God. And that should remind you of the mercy of God towards you. God has showered his mercy on you. You deserved condemnation. You deserved destruction and punishment, but he has given you blessing and adopted you, giving you the status of joint heirs with Christ. And you must allow that to impact your prayer to God. Those who love little, will love in return little. Those who have not sensed the love of God in their lives, will not love God with great love. But like the one who broke the precious vial of perfume on her Lord’s feet, those who know the greatness of the mercy and the love shown to them, will return to God that same love and gratitude in force. And so the Lord Jesus puts before us our adoption to remind us of the greatness of God’s mercy to us.”

Earlier in a previous petition (v. 12), Christ notes that if we’ve been forgiven, we should be forgiving. If we’ve been mercied . . . we should be merciful. If we never allow God’s mercy to sink down deeply enough to call us to mercy, we may be more like Mohammedans than Christians.

This may sound like a hard word, but it is essential to healthy praying. If we want maximum praying we must heed this. Our pride must be truly broken before we can rightly pray. If not such an attitude may invalidate our prayers. A forgiving attitude is the indispensable condition for receiving forgiveness. This is not a requirement for salvation or a way to earn grace, but it is the by-product and natural result of gracious salvation. It is the Spirit’s work.

Is that law? Or gospel? It’s both—in equally red letters.

There is no other religion or philosophy in the world that holds forth both grace and demands like this. And they are beautifully united in Christ. We can only practice these when we become new creatures in Christ. And that is not being on a Jihad like Muslims.

Do you need to forgive someone? Often folks are looking for global cures for pass ills. Maybe relationships would improve more by Christian forgiveness by individuals—some might begin in a marriage—than by a global initiative that touches no one actually in your life. And might that not be better than continuing a Jihad?

[1] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977), 53.


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