The Lord’s Prayer – Part 8 “Forgive Us Our Debts” (Matt. 6:9-15)
Prayer is children coming before their Heavenly Father, offering Him praise and adoration for who He is, expressing our desire to see His kingdom established and purified, and requesting for His will to be done in and through us.
Last week, we looked at the fourth petition which teaches us to pray for our daily bread. We begin by acknowledging that we do not deserve outward blessings, but rather to have the fruit of our work be cursed to us. Then we can seek God’s blessing and contentment with our possessions.
The way that God forgives us is instructive for how we are to forgive others. Unfortunately, there is a common misunderstanding among Christians about forgiveness of others. Many often assume that we must automatically forgive others. But automatic forgiveness is a far cry from biblical forgiveness because the result can never be true reconciliation. As we will see from this answer, that restored relationship is what true forgiveness brings.
When we know that we have been forgiven much, we will have no problem forgiving others. But we should not cheapen that forgiveness by suggesting that it only needs one party.
Read Matt. 6:9-15
WLC 194. WHAT DO WE PRAY FOR IN THE FIFTH PETITION?
In the fifth petition, (which is, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,) acknowledging, that we and all others are guilty both of original and actual sin, and thereby become debtors to the justice of God; and that neither we, nor any other creature, can make the least satisfaction for that debt:
As always we begin with our need. We will not come to God in prayer asking for His forgiveness if we do not recognize that we have indeed sinned. This is where repentance is required. God does not automatically forgive any and all sin. If we are to forgive the way God has forgiven us, then we should admit that forgiveness cannot take place apart from repentance. There must be an acknowledgment of guilt before a judgment can even be determined. Repentance coupled with faith in Christ alone (as we will see in a moment) is what brings about the forgiveness of our debt.
The biblical Christian will acknowledge both the original sin that they inherited from their first parents as well as the actual sins that they have committed, and the sins they continue to commit. Because we worship a Just God we know that our sin has added up to a giant debt that none of us could ever come close to paying off.
I like the analogy that Ray Comfort uses in his evangelism. After interacting with someone and showing them how they have broken the Ten Commandments, Ray tells them their their offense demands severe punishment. If they were to punch him, they would be guilty of a crime, but the fine would likely not be that great. If they punched a police officer, the penalty is greater. However, if they punched the President of the United States, their penalty would be severe. Then he concludes by saying that sin is like punching the infinitely Holy God in the face. It deserves eternal punishment.
Apart from Christ, we are no better than anyone else. Rom. 3:9-22 teaches that everyone is born under sin. No one is righteous. No one understands or seeks after God or does any good. The law proves our guilt before God. In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matt. 18:21-25) Jesus portrays a servant who has been forgiven an exorbitant sum of money (10,000 talents = 200,000 years of wages, or more than $10 Billion today). We are like the unforgiving servant in that we have accumulated a debt that we cannot repay.
Psa. 130:3-4 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
After acknowledging our debt we should pray for…
We pray for ourselves and others, that God of his free grace would, through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, apprehended and applied by faith, acquit us both from the guilt and punishment of sin, accept us in his Beloved; continue his favor and grace to us, pardon our daily failings, and fill us with peace and joy, in giving us daily more and more assurance of forgiveness;
Once again, even with this petition, we should not only pray selfishly. We want to have other people in mind who need to be forgiven. We know that a person will only find God’s acceptance if they turn to Christ in faith.
When a person understands the insurmountable mountain of debt they owe to God, it should come as a great relief to know that they can be “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24-26). This is only possible because Jesus was willing to shed his own blood upon the cross so that we might be purified and forgiven (Heb. 9:22). We should regularly give praise to God for His “glorious grace” in providing redemption through the blood of Jesus (Eph. 1:6-7).
And this prayer for acceptance and forgiveness ought to be a daily activity. We take our “daily failings” to him for daily pardon. Peter blesses his readers with this idea, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you…” (2 Pet. 1:2).
When God spoke to Israel through the Prophet Hosea, he declared their need to speak words to the Lord as they returned to him. They were to say, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips” (Hos. 14:2). Even during the sacrificial system, Israel needed to personally confess their sin to the Lord. The offering was required for the shedding of blood. Now we come to God through the blood of Christ, but we still confess our sin to him (as imperfectly as we know it will be).
Through Jeremiah, the Lord modeled how they might come before him in repentance saying, “Though our iniquities testify against us, act O Lord, for your name’s sake; for our backsliding are many; we have sinned against you” (Jer. 14:7). Daniel offers a similar prayer for forgiveness on behalf of God’s people (Dan. 9:17-19).
As John teaches, we can expect to be forgiven because God is faithful and just, but he also implies that we “confess our sins” (1 John 1:9). We can expect to be filled with hope, joy, and peace because we have been filled by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13).
One of the lengthiest examples of a prayer for repentance is found in Psalm 51. There we find his response to Nathan’s rebuke of his sin with Bathsheba. He freely confesses his sin and knows with strong certainty that God will cleanse him and wash him “whiter than snow”. He knows that he will return to joy and gladness. He asks for a clean heart, a renewed spirit, and a restored joy in the salvation of God. Yes, there were significant consequences for David’s sin. His son died shortly after birth as a result. But, David’s response showed true repentance and God was faithful to forgive him.
This answer also encourages us to be confident because of the fruit of forgiveness testified by…
which we are the rather emboldened to ask, and encouraged to expect, when we have this testimony in ourselves, that we from the heart forgive their offenses.
Both Matthew and Luke connect God’s forgiveness to our own forgiveness of others (Luke 11:4; Matt. 6:12). Luke emphasizes the importance of this attitude of forgiveness (Matt. 6:14-15). We are to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Jesus doesn’t demand any more than an honest confession. And he doesn’t continue in a state of bitterness, holding our sin against us after telling us we have been forgiven. There may still be consequences to our sin that have to be carried out in life, but once forgiven we have full and complete restoration with God. Our forgiveness of others should look the same.
Back to the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. His master had just forgiven him a debt of 10,000 talents ($10B). Yet, when he finds another servant who owes him a relatively small amount (100 denarii = 100 days wage, or roughly $8,000 today) he chokes him out demanding payment. Then he throws him in prison until he could make his payment (Matt. 18:21-35). When his master found out about it, he threw the man into prison. Then Jesus says, “So also my Heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” An unwillingness to forgive those who sin against us reveals a heart that has not been transformed by the grace of God.
Let us close by praying for the Lord to graciously “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”