2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV) …if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Matthew 6:9 (ESV) Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
DEVOTIONAL FOR ADULTS
As you start your fast, consider two absolutely critical concepts that go hand in hand—repentance and forgiveness. Repentance requires an honest look at yourself. You are going to look not only at how you live, but how you think. As you fast and pray, this is where you completely open up to God and let Him show you things that you might not even realize. Take some time to linger in the Presence of the Heavenly Father and commit to turn away from anything contrary to His will for your life. You might have tried to get past some of these sins before, but without success. But right now it is time to believe that things are going to be different—that God will give you all the strength you need to overcome every temptation and take captive every thought.
As you do this, simply ask God to forgive you, and He will forgive you. In times like these, you will often be prompted by the Holy Spirit to go to other people and ask them to forgive you as well. Who do you need to approach in this way? As any names comes to mind, write them down and follow through on contacting them. Add a note to call someone, or meet for coffee. It might not seem to be that easy, but you can ask God now to help you take these important steps in the near future.
There is one more essential part to your time in repentance and forgiveness and it may be the hardest. This is where the discipline of fasting can be so essential. This is about you forgiving those who have sinned against you. One of the definitions of forgiveness is to cancel a debt. In essence, when you harbor unforgiveness, you are saying, “You owe me something.” That sounds a lot like that unmerciful servant in Matthew 18 who was forgiven a massive debt, yet did not forgive another a small debt. As you finish up your fasting and prayer time today, let Jesus’ forgiveness of your sins help you beautifully, swiftly, and gracefully forgive your debtors!
DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUTH
Take a moment to reflect on these verses. What stood out to you? Hopefully one of the biggest things was that Jesus forgives us with open arms. It’s kind of like when you did something you shouldn’t have done, you tell your parents– expecting to really get an ear full, because you deserve it, and instead they say, “I hear you, I forgive you, and I am going to help you get better”. This is what our Heavenly Father does for us when we come to Him wanting to change and grow in Him. He says that He is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). This means all that is left is righteousness (right standing in His sight)! Fasting helps increase this desire and awareness to turn to him for his help and forgiveness! Maybe you have been struggling with something for a long time. Maybe it’s a certain sin, maybe it’s a certain mindset, maybe, you don’t even really want to read your bible anymore. Fasting will help open your eyes, clear your heart, and give clarity to things that you didn’t know were blurry in your life.
Once we repent and experience His forgiveness, our natural reaction should be to extend this forgiveness to others around us! It sounds great but it can be tough, especially if the people who wronged us are close to us. Especially if its family members, close friends, or a significant other. Fasting is amazing because it helps us see that Christ forgave us of so much, and he did it because he loved us so much. Sometimes it can be difficult to love someone who has hurt us, mistreated us, or wronged us. The cool thing is, the more we grow in understanding how much Christ loves us, the only thing that comes out of us is love. When we understand this love and forgiveness, fasting and praying helps us to then love and forgive those who we never thought we could. It is through his strength and power! After you repent and receive his forgiveness, begin this week of fasting by asking God who you need to forgive in your life. Watch as he leads you, and gives you the ability and heart to forgive those who have wronged you.
DEVOTIONAL FOR CHILDREN
Hey Kids! Let’s think about “forgiveness”- You are God’s child and many times you do things that are incredibly amazing, but other times not so much. We all make mistakes and God is right there ready to forgive. All you have to do is ask him! Just say “God I am so sorry for______”. He is crazy about you and will forgive you on the spot! What if you hurt someone’s feelings or disobey your parents? You bet God will forgive you, but you will need to ask the person you hurt to forgive you too. Sometimes that may feel hard or embarrassing, but pray and ask God to help you say the right words that are in your heart. If someone has been mean and made you sad, have a forgiving heart towards them and tell them you love them. That’s right “I forgive you and love you” (and really mean it). God forgives you so you can forgive others too. A forgiving heart is a joyful heart and that’s a cool thing!