The Model Prayer: Forgive Our Debts
Why is it so hard to forgive?
Only a person committed to Christ dare pray this
prayer. "Forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our
debtors" (Matthew 6:12 NET).
These are the most frightening words in
This part of the prayer wakes us up spiritually and
make us think about what we are saying.
Do we have an unforgiving spirit? If things are not
right with other people, how can they be right with a holy God?
Jesus taught His disciples to pray, Forgive our debts, as we
also forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12).
“Our debts” is a common word for legal debts, but
here it is used of moral and spiritual debts to God. We are sinners who
have wronged God. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of
God" (Rom. 3:23). "If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are
deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. . . If we say we have
not sinned, we make him a lair and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:8,
We are sinners who are constantly in the need of forgiveness. We have
obligations to God. We owe God a debt. We need Him to cancel our debt because as sinners
we can never repay it. We are spiritual debtors in the need of Gods
“Forgive our debts,” means, “to send away, to
dismiss, to wipe off, put away” (cf. 1 Jn. 1:7-9; Eph. 1:7; Matt.
26:28). From other Scriptures we learn that God provides forgiveness on the basis
of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Nothing can be added to
that. Our forgiving disposition does not earn God’s pardon. Our
forgiveness is based entirely on God’s unmerited favor and grace, and
not on any merits on our part. It is the divine grace of God in Christ
that saves us (Eph. 1:7; 2:8-10).
The act of forgiving others does not merit an
eternal reward or gain for us salvation or eternal life. However, when
we forgive others it is evidence that the grace of God is at work in our
hearts. That which is impossible for us to accomplish in our own
strength God enables us to do by the power of His indwelling in our
hearts. If we hold on to our bitterness and grudges and unforgiveness,
we need to examine ourselves. The apostle Paul admonishes us, "Put
yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine
yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus
Christ is in you--unless, indeed, you fail the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5
The grace of God in the believer's heart keeps
bringing him back to the sanctifying truths of God's word. "But if we
confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins
and cleaning us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NET).
In the most hurtful experiences of life we forgive,
and we to choose forgive again. It is a process whereby we confess our sins
and choose to forgive the person who has offended us. It is a choice we
make once and for all to let it go and trust God with the consequences.
And everytime the "old man" brings it back up we choose to forgive again.
Our old sinful nature will remind us of the hurts of life.
When we choose to forgive we demonstrate that we
are children of God and we have experienced His saving grace. By nature
this is not something we do on our own. Human nature says take charge,
get revenge, get even, don't let them do this to you. However, we have
become new persons, a radical change has taken place in our hearts and
we cannot live in the character of the person we were before we came to
Christ. The power to forgive comes from the new life in Christ.
always begins with God’s electing grace and never with us (1 Jn. 4:19;
Jn. 13:15; Eph. 4:32; 1 Pet. 2:21).
The evidence of that saving
grace is how we respond to the circumstances of life.
Jesus taught the disciples to pray, Forgive our debt as we
forgive our debtors. The idea can be paraphrased: Forgive us our sins in proportion as we forgive those who have sinned against
us. Jesus says with powerful words in verses 14-15
that if we forgive others, God will forgive us; but if we refuse to
forgive others, God will refuse to forgive us.
"For if you forgive others their sins, your
heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if
you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins"
(Matthew 6:14-15, The NET Bible).
No amount of trying to make excuses, or interpret
the words in a way that caters to our sinful human nature won't work.
Human forgiveness and divine forgiveness are relational. Jesus
says our forgiveness of others and God's forgiveness of us cannot be
separated. The are related to one another.
This prayer forces us to our knees in humble
confession and repentance.
Do you remember Peters question about forgiveness? Lord,
how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?
Jesus response was unnerving, I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up
to seventy times seven (Matt. 18:21-22). Then
Jesus told a parable on forgiveness and concluded, You wicked slave, I forgave
you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your
fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you? And his lord, moved with
anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My
heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother
from your heart (vv. 23-35).
Jesus said forgiveness must be present in us if we
are to receive the Father's forgiveness. We must be willing to forgive
others if we have experienced His forgiveness. The person seeking
forgiveness must have first taken forgiving action with respect to those
who have sinned against him.
Jesus keeps bringing us back to a spiritual birth,
a radical change in us, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
what is old has passed away, what is new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17
NET). Forgiveness is evidence of that radical change in our hearts.
Has anyone in this earthly life arrived at this
perfect state of forgiving? Let's face the reality that only Jesus
Christ has been able to forgive perfectly (Luke 23:34). Our forgiveness
is so imperfect.
All excuses laid aside, we are forced to come to
God and deal with these issues of forgiveness and receiving forgiveness
daily. This prayer for forgiveness should be a daily priority in our
Jesus expected His people to forgive others, and He
gives assurance that the forgiveness of God is certain.
In order for us to enjoy Gods forgiveness of our sins we must forgive our debtors.
We get back what we give. Jesus said, Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive
What we are humanly unable to accomplish, God enables us to do by His
power working within us. It is His grace within us that gives us the desire and ability to
forgive our neighbor. When we do take action to forgive we have a credible witness to our
lost neighbor. He can see the grace of God at work in our lives. He will see the change
and ask, What makes you different?
Vengeance belongs only to the Lord (Rom. 12:19). We are to hand every
situation over to the Lord and trust it to Him. We can find no greater example of this
action than in Christ Himself while hanging on the cross. He prayed, Father forgive
them, for they now not what they are doing (Luke 23:34; Jn. 13:12-15; Eph. 4:32;
5:1-2; Col. 3:13). The forgiveness of Christ must have startled those who were hurling
insults, curses and abuses on Him in the hour of His death. One of the criminals saw the
difference in Christ and responded to His love.
There is a tremendous sense of inner peace of mind and heart when we
choose to forgive. Gods name is glorified because we have been obedient to His
Only the power of Christ living in us can empower us to forgive.
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has
fulfilled the law (Rom. 13:8).
Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006
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