Letter from John Woodhouse

Dear friends

What do you think is the very best thing about the Christian life? I suppose there are many good answers to that question. One good answer is: forgiveness. The Lord Jesus Christ summed up the message to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations of the world as “repentance and the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47; cf. Acts 13:38).

When we pray it is important to remember that we pray as forgiven sinners. God hears and answers our prayers because we have been forgiven. This is not only important because if we were not forgiven we would not dare to approach Almighty God, but also as we approach him we know that our prayers are far from what they ought to be. When we pray, do we have the reverence for God that we ought? Rarely is our heart truly “broken and contrite” (Psalm 51:17). Even as we pray we need his forgiveness for our irreverence! When we pray, do we long with all our heart for God’s will to be done? At best we only approach this ideal. And so even as we pray, we need God’s forgiveness for our worldly and selfish desires. When we pray, do we trust God fully? Our trust is always mingled with doubt. Again, even as we pray, we need God’s forgiveness for our unbelief.

We pray in the context of forgiveness. We do not pray to a stern God who demands perfection in our prayers, but because of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ we pray to a Heavenly Father who forgives our faltering efforts to bring our requests to him. We do not have to wait until we are in the “right” frame of mind, or until we can find just the “right” words. What we pray and how we pray will always be tarnished by imperfection and ignorance. But we pray to a God who forgives.

Our freedom to pray comes from this forgiveness — the forgiveness that the gospel of Jesus proclaims. If our prayers were to be judged by the standards of God’s holiness and goodness, then all of our prayers would deserve to be rejected by him. But that is not how it is. Our Heavenly Father pardons even our faulty prayers, and mercifully hears them.

So let us pray!

John Woodhouse
Acting Senior Minister