3 Days of Prayer and Fasting (2024/01)

Matthew 18:21-35 (ESV)
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Day 1: Loving God
Jesus says that this parable is what the “kingdom of heaven” is like when the king “settle[s] accounts with his servants” (v. 23). A day is coming when the king will settle accounts with all of us, and the debt we owe will determine our eternal fate. What have you done about your debt? The parable teaches that we are like the servant who owed the king 10,000 talents. An average laborer’s lifetime wage was about 2 talents, so that’s 5,000 lifetimes’ worth of wages. The average American worker earns approximately $1.7 million throughout their life (assuming the median salary of $50,000/year). If we multiply that by 5,000, the modern American equivalent of this servant’s debt is 8.5 billion dollars. When we recognize the true enormity of our debt of sin, we realize the absurdity of saying to God, “I will pay you everything” in verse 26. Our only hope of dealing with this debt is by falling upon our faces and “plead[ing]” (vv. 29, 32) with our Master. It’s His “pity” (v. 27) and not our fulfillment of “duty” (e.g. repayment of debt) that is our hope. It’s His “mercy” (v. 33) and not our “merit” that is our hope. God has absorbed the loss of our debt Himself in the death of His only Son, Jesus Christ, but are you still living as if you need to, and can, repay your debt?
Recommended Song: “Come Ye Sinners” by Shane & Shane and Davy Flowers
  • Confess the ways in which you have sought to justify yourself by your own works and merits, rather than relying fully upon the compassion and mercy of God.
  • Ask God to enlarge your view of His holiness and your sinfulness, so that your appreciation for God’s mercy and grace grows. Spend some time praising God and thanking Him for His redemption and forgiveness of sins.

Day 2: Loving One Another
Nowadays, if we don’t like what someone has done to you, we label them “toxic” and cancel them. In this unforgiving world, everyone is only one strike away from becoming a persona non grata. In light of this, Jesus’s command to forgive “seventy seven times” (i.e. without limit) is radically countercultural. The context of the preceding passage says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (v. 15). Imagine that this same brother sins against you again, and you tell him his fault and he repents, and you forgive him again. Then this happens again. And again. And you wonder, “how many more times do I have to do this?” Jesus’s answer is: “as many times as necessary.”
But how? The power to forgive others flows from the recognition of how much we have been forgiven. “And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (v. 33). Only the recipients of mercy can show mercy to others. Elsewhere in Scripture, we are commanded to “[forgive] one another, as God in Christ forgave [us]” (Eph. 4:32), “as the Lord has forgiven [us], so [we] also must forgive” (Col. 3:13). It’s the forgiveness that we have received from God that empowers us to forgive those who sin against us. For this reason, when we withhold forgiveness from others, we belie the forgiveness that we have received from God (Matt. 18:34-35; cf. Matt. 6:14-15; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37; 11:4).
Are you nursing a grudge or withholding forgiveness from a brother or sister in Christ? Are you letting bitterness and anger toward a brother or sister fester in your heart? This passage highlights the parity among the servants by repeatedly using the term, “fellow servants” (vv. 29, 31, 33), which accentuates the disparity in status between the servant and the “king” (v. 23) and “master” (vv. 25, 27, 32, 34). If our King and Master, who is superior to us and has authority over us has shown us mercy, how much more, then, should we show mercy to our fellow equals, fellow sinners, since we’re no better than they are? If our Father who has the right to punish and discipline us has forgiven us, how much more should we forgive our brothers, our equals (v. 35)?
Recommended Song: “His Mercy Is More” by Matt Papa
  • Confess the “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [and] envy” (Gal. 5:20) that you are harboring against fellow Christians in the church.
  • Pray that our church would be characterized by members freely confessing sins and repenting and freely extending forgiveness and reconciling.
  • Pray that we’d be a humble church that is more aware of the great debt that we have been forgiven than the debt that others owe us.

Day 3: Loving Our Neighbors
The word translated “jailers” in verse 34 is literally “torturers.” When the King returns to settle His accounts with His servants, non-Christians whose debts have not been paid will be handed over to eternal torture and torment. L. R. Scarborough once said, “If we could only have a five minute glimpse into hell our evangelism would be changed for a lifetime.” Randy Alcorn writes this in his book Heaven, “The best of life on Earth is a glimpse of Heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of Hell. For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to Hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to Heaven.” Have you grappled with the desperate plight of your unbelieving friends and neighbors?
Recommended Song: “In Christ Alone” by Keith & Kristyn Getty
  • Pray that our church would share the sin/debt-payment plan of the gospel with urgency and boldness.
  • Pray that the unbelievers in our church would repent and believe in Jesus, and get baptized.
  • Pray that God would send out more laborers into the harvest field, both here and abroad, especially, this month, for Indonesia—a nation we have been praying for throughout January.
  • Pray by name for your unbelieving family members, friends, and neighbors.

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