Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to find out who God is, what is He like, and how to partner with Him now.

Forgiveness and prayer (part 1)

We have been taking a close look at what Jesus has prescribed as the model for our prayers:

Matthew 6:9-13 Therefore, you should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
Amen.

In the middle of Jesus’ model prayer, we find a peculiar statement.

Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

This statement stands out because it is the only conditional statement in the entire model prayer. 

It’s conditional in that it is self-limiting.  In effect, I’m asking God to forgive me to the degree that I have forgiven others.  And that’s a pretty scary thought – because I’m quick to ask God for his forgiveness of my own sins and failings, but I also tend to harbor grudges against those who have hurt me.  To ask for God’s forgiveness when I am unwilling to extend the same grace to others is hypocritical…and how offensive would that be to ask God for something I am unwilling to give to others in my life?

Jesus affirms the importance of this relationship habit when immediately after giving the model prayer, he says

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive people their wrong-doing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrong-doing.

Christ’s main purpose in the model prayer is the development of the relationship between us and God.  However, it seems that our relationship with others also affects how well we can relate to God.  We demonstrate our own understanding of God’s unconditional forgiveness toward us in how well we forgive those who have wronged us.

Whenever my family members wrong me, or my coworker backstabs me, or my friend neglects me…to the degree that I harbor my anger toward them and let my resentment linger, Jesus says my relationship with the God of the Universe will be hindered! 

When my boys are not getting along, their individual relationships with me are also affected.  There have been plenty of times where we do not move forward until their relationship with each other has been addressed.  My son has no standing with me to ask for forgiveness when he is unwilling to forgive his brother.

I think that is why Jesus includes a direction in his model prayer to pray conditionally about us restoring our relationship with God through our forgiveness of others.

Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

A difficult thing to pray, that is for sure…but keeping it in mind helps guide us to the goal of fulfilling our created design – we were made in God’s image, as a reflection of who he is, so we should forgive like he does.

Keep Pressing,
Ken