Praying Through the Bible #127
TEXT: Matthew 6:9-13
We are continuing our in-depth look at the six parts of what is called the Lord’s prayer. As a reminder, those six essential parts are as follows:
1. We praise and recognize God.
2. We put God’s will before ours.
3. We ask for our daily needs.
4. We confess our sins and ask for forgiveness of sin.
5. We ask God to deliver us from temptation and evil.
6. We praise and recognize God’s glory once again.
We have already looked at the first three building blocks of this prayer — “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…” Today, we are going to look at the fourth building block in which Jesus Christ teaches us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Charles Spurgeon said, “No prayer of mortal men could be complete without confession of sin.” Why? Because even though we are saved, even though we strive to do what is right, it is inevitable that we will sometimes act or think in a manner that is displeasing to God. When we think of “sin”, our minds focus on big, outward sins such as adultery, murder, lying, or stealing. But the Bible informs us that a lustful glance, the entertaining of impure thoughts, and not doing the good that we know to do is all offensive in God’s eyes. When we pray, if we are sensitive to God’s Spirit, we will confess each of those infractions as sins as well.
Evangelist Billy Graham once told the story of how one day he got sick and was taken to the hospital. He had preached in hundreds of crusades and events around the world. He was getting on up in years, and as he lay in that hospital bed with pain wracking his body, he began to pray and ask God to just take him on home. He said that as he prayed, God began to remind him of some things that he had done wrong — some of what we would call “little things” that were offensive to God. And as he lay in the hospital, Billy Graham said that he confessed those things one by one and asked for God’s forgiveness.
Let’s look closely at the word “forgive” in this passage. This word comes from a Greek word which means to send away or to set loose. It was a legal term which meant to free someone from a bond, to acquit, or to make exempt. That is what God does for us when He forgives us. He sets us loose from our sin and the guilt of sin. The story is told of missionaries in northern Alaska who were translating the Bible into the language of the Eskimos. They discovered that there was no word in their language that was equal to forgiveness. After much patient listening to the natives, however, they found a word that means, “?not being able to think about it anymore,” and that word was used throughout the translation to represent forgiveness. God’s promise to repentant sinners is, “?I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more?.”
However, as 1 John 1:9 says, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins.” Just as salvation is conditional on our acceptance of the gift offered through Jesus Christ, forgiveness is conditional on the confession of our sins. So, in prayer, we must confess our sins and ask God to forgive us of our sins.
However, there is something we must do before we ask God to forgive us of our sins, and that is: forgive those who have sinned against us. We ought to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” The Greek word for debt means something that is owed — a spiritual or moral debt to God. In the parallel passage of the Lord’s Prayer found in Luke, a different word — hamartia — is used which clearly indicates that the prayer is talking about sin and not financial obligations.
We cannot go to God asking for forgiveness of our sins if we refuse to forgive those who have sinned against us. “Well,” you say, “So-and-so has not come to me asking for forgiveness.” That is not the point. God didn’t wait for us to come to Him asking for salvation before He decided to send Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for sin. You ought to forgive freely because you have been freely forgiven by God. We are commanded in Ephesians 4:32 to ‘forgive one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.’
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” These phrases are dependent on each other. God will not forgive us if we do not forgive those who have sinned against us. John MacArthur said, “If we want to enjoy the benefits of God’s forgiveness toward us, we must be willing to forgive other believers, even those who repeatedly sin against us. Or we can express this final principle more directly, which is that God does not forgive those who do not forgive others.”
During one period of his life, the Methodist founder John Wesley was a missionary in the American colonies. He ministered in the area that would one day become the state of Georgia. There was a general by the name of Oglethorpe with whom Wesley had some dealings. General Oglethorpe was a great military leader, but he had a reputation as a harsh and brutal man. One day he said to John Wesley, “I never forgive.” And Wesley replied, “Then, sir, I hope you never sin.”
Dear friend, we all have sinned against God and others. The Bible makes that plain. And, our life experiences also make plain that others have sinned against us. There is a remedy for this undesirable part of the human condition — prayer to God and forgiveness of others. Let us be quick to forgive, quick to confess, and then quick to pray: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”