The next section of the Model Prayer deals with the difficult subject of forgiveness.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Mat 6:9-13)
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Forgive Us Our Debts
Our debts are the sins we commit against God and against each other. When you sin, you owe someone something you have not given them, or you take from them something you need to give back. When you slander someone, for example, you take away their good name. When you neglect God’s Word, you deprive Him of the opportunity to speak to you.
The Model Prayer is a daily prayer. (Remember daily bread?) Each day we pray according to this pattern, we are to settle our outstanding sin debts. We are to keep short accounts with God and man.
It’s interesting that the issue of sin isn’t addressed until this point in the prayer. Normally, you’d expect to deal with sin first. I think addressing our sins at this point in the prayer makes them much more obvious. Think about it: you’ve praised God for His perfect character, submitted yourself to Him and acknowledged Him as your Provider. In light of those actions, you then evaluate your conduct. The closer you draw to the light, the easier it is to see your uncleanness.
When we sin against God, we need to confess our sin to Him. When we do, He has promised to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Even when we sin against others, we still need to confess our sin to God. Ultimately, all sin is against God (Psa 51:4). We also need to confess that sin to the ones we have wronged and seek their forgiveness (Mat 5:23-24).
Let me go off on a little rant here for a minute. There’s a popular idea I’ve heard that says we should forgive people unilaterally – whether they want our forgiveness or not. That’s an unscriptural idea. We are to forgive others in the same way God forgives us. He forgives our sins the minute we confess them to Him, but not before. He is willing before, but doesn’t extend forgiveness to us until we meet the condition of admitting we have sinned. In the same way, we should have forgiveness waiting for the offender, but it is not extended to them until they confess their sin. Often, this one-sided forgiveness is just a spiritual mask for being too cowardly to confront the wrongdoer biblically. When we fail to do that, they continue in their sin, and in their alienation from God.
Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. (Luk 17:3)
Notice, finally, that we ask God to extend forgiveness to us in the same measure that we have offered it to those who sin against us. The law of sowing and reaping pops up again. “Forgive me, Father, in the same way I have forgiven those who have wronged me,” should be our prayer.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Eph 4:32)
What About You?
- Do you have any outstanding sins you haven’t confessed to God?
- Do you have any outstanding sins you haven’t confessed to man?
- Have you forgiven everyone who has sought your forgiveness?