Matthew 6:12, “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Jesus’ main idea in His teaching on prayer is that prayer is about God. Prayer is God-centered because it is communion with Him, it is one way His children develop and strengthen their relationship with Him.
From the beginning, it is important to remember that Jesus is teaching His disciples to pray. He instructs them to pray to their Father. God is their Father. Therefore, when Jesus instructs His disciples to ask God to forgive their debts, He is not talking about initial forgiveness or justification.
As God’s children, there are times when our sin has broken, disrupted our relationship, our communion with God. We must ask for forgiveness, ask to restore the relationship that we have broken.
John makes this point in 1 John 1:9. As Christians, we sin, and we must confess it. The confession of our sin is based on God’s character. We confess our sins because God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. God is faithful to forgive those who confess their sins because Jesus is the propitiation of their sins. Jesus purchased their forgiveness. God will never not forgive one of His children when they ask for it.
This is a most comforting verse. We come to God with confidence that He will restore the relationship that we have broken. This is another rehearsal of the gospel for the Christian. In the gospel, God is the one who moves and restores sinners to Himself through His Son. God in His love sent Christ to purchase those He chose before the foundation of the world.
God’s children still need the truth of the gospel. Every time we make this petition we are reminded of the gospel. We ask God to forgive us, but it is God who must restore the relationship God is the mover, He takes the initiative because of His great love for Christ and those who are in Christ.
Is your sin keeping you from prayer? Is there a sin you struggle with that keeps you from communing with your heavenly Father through prayer? Even as Christians we can allow our sin to eclipse the truth of the gospel. When we sin we hide the face of Christ from us whichkeep us from praying when our heavenly Father wants to hear from us.
What do you do when you have interrupted your relationship with God in prayer? The solutions are simple, but they are not easy to implement.
- Preach the gospel to yourself. One way to do this is to pray through the message of the gospel. When your sin is keeping you from communing with God, you need gospel grace to keep going. Sheer effort will not do it only resting in the gospel will.
- Go to your Father. When you come back to the Father, your Father, to ask for forgiveness you will never be turned As you rest in the gospel run to your Father. Like the father, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, God will come running to you. As my pastor said once God does not want us to wallow in our sin but to wonder at His grace. Jesus reveals to us the heart of the Father. Jesus said He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick. Jesus provides rest for those who labor and are weighed down with burdens. The Father does the same for us when we come to Him and ask His forgiveness. He does not load us down with more, but He forgives us.
The confidence that God forgives us when we ask causes us to forgive those who have broken their relationship with us. There is no such thing as a child of God who is stingy with forgiveness. When forgiveness is requested by someone, who has harmed you must be granted forgiveness.
We are transformed, people. We are new creations. Forgiveness is not the easiest act we will ever do. We have been hurt, and the last thing we want to do is forgive the person who offended us.
This is why these two statements Jesus made go together. When we are asking God to forgive us (which will be often because we sin often), we are reminded that we break our relationship with God often. This humbles us in two way. One is we are humbled before God. We submit to what He says is true. We do not act as if what we did was not wrong or sugarcoat what we did. We admit that we have done wrong and we trust that God will forgive us as He promised.
The second way this truth humbles us is before man. We are no different than the person who hurt us and is asking for forgiveness. The gospel and the reality of our sin puts us all on a level playing field. We have no right to withhold forgiveness because we are just as much a sinner as the person who sinned against us. Withholding forgiveness is an evidence of pride, and we are again disrupting our relationship with God because He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. When we are humble before God, we will be genuinely humble before our fellow image bearers.
Are you beginning to see the high standard Jesus is teaching? Apart from the gospel, it would be easy to view every part of this prayer as a burden. But in Christ, we can properly hallow God’s name, we can humbly ask for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on the earth. We understand that God took care of the biggest problem we could ever face, our broken, sinful relationship with Him, in Christ, therefore, He can provide our daily bread. And in Christ, we know that our Father is a forgiving God. We can ask for forgiveness because of Christ.