Thus, it should come as no surprise to find a consistent patristic emphasis on forgiveness as well (especially in times of persecution, when the Church had to grapple with the issue of forgiveness for those who lapsed momentarily from the faith). What is not so easy to grasp is the profound sense of connection that someone like Origen (especially) is able to see between forgiveness and prayer. Naming sin as such is not popular these days, and political correctness has shifted our concerns from matters of sin and forgiveness to questions of hurt feelings and politeness. We are often so self-conscious of the growing number of ways that we might unwittingly offend the sensibilities of some individual or special interest group that we too easily lose a sense of accountability and guilt before God. And if so — if we have forgotten our need for the forgiveness of our heavenly Father, and if we have denied our relationship with others in political rather than ecclesial terms — then the fifth petition (Forgive us as we forgive) surely has lost its dynamic punch, and our praying in general no longer rests on the foundation of God’s forgiveness for us and the assumption of our forgiveness for the neighbor. But influence can also move in the other direction. That is to say, if we do pray for the forgiveness of Our Father in Heaven, and if we do approach our prayer with an active awareness of ecclesial community in which we are forgiven and forgiving, then those attitudes of prayer will in turn shape and define our lives. What is more (if I have understood Origen’s point correctly), the forgiveness that we give to our neighbors forces us to recognize and acknowledge our own need for forgiveness; we see and forgive the sin of others toward us, and thereby realize that we have been guilty of many of the same sins. In this way, everything is mutually influential, the internal disposition and the external posture alike.– Stuckwisch, D. Richard. “Principles of Christian Prayer from the Third Century: A Brief Look at Origen, Tertullian and Cyprian with Some Comments on Their Meaning for Today.” Worship 71 (Jan 1997): 2-19. Available from ATLA on EBSCOhost. Agree/disagree with the assertion, “the fifth petition (Forgive us as we forgive) surely has lost its dynamic punch” AND Stuckwisch’s argument with regard to why? Note: This post, along with What is the greatest challenge facing the church today? (07/02/2012) and C.S. Lewis’ humility in reflecting upon the Psalms (7/8/2012), are drawn from material read for and discussed in Theology & The Practice of Prayer (Summer 2012, Evangelical).
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!