The first half of these lesson on prayer taught us to pray for God’s name, God’s kingdom and God’s will.
The second half, so far has taught us to ask for God’s provision for our physical needs. As we move from our physical needs, the next two petitions address our spiritual needs: forgiveness of our sins and deliverance from temptations and evil.
We are twice as needful of spiritual provisions as physical needs, although in our daily attention we spend far more time addressing physical needs than spiritual ones!
Let’s turn to Matt 6:12 and look at this fifth petition in the Lord’s model prayer: “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
This word used in the Greek New Testament comes from a verb which means “to owe, as in a financial obligation.” It is usually used for monetary debts, but it is also used for a moral obligation.
We know that this is not a financial debt that Jesus is talking about here because this same saying in Luke 11:4 has the word hamartias or sins. Forgive us our sins, as we ourselves forgive everyone who are indebted to us.
Luke’s account shows us that debts in this context are sins. Sin is pictured as a debt, and the sinner is pictured as a debtor. Get this: sin is not only wrong, but it requires payment—the debt must be settled. This is a major problem. Many People woefully underestimate the seriousness, deadliness and consequences of their sins before God.
To illustrate this, look at the picture that Jesus paints of our situation using a story that will hopefully tingle in our ears: Matt 18:21-35.
- V. 21: Notice that the context of this parable is in response to Peter’s question about forgiveness.
- V. 23: This parable is couched in financial terms. The servant who owes the king is said to be in debt.
- V. 24. How much is ten thousand talents by today’s standards? A talent was worth about 20 years wages. The servant here owes the king 10,000 talents, or $6 billion dollars! This is a dramatic representation of the amount of sins that we have committed against our King and God.
You need to grasp this if you are ever to grasp forgiving others. If you see yourself as a relatively good person (relative to others, not relative to God), then you will never understand why we ought to forgive as God forgave us. Back to our story in Matthew 18:
- V. 25-27 Not surprisingly, the servant could not pay the king the debt, despite all the servant’s vain promises that he could.
Scottish pastor Horatius Bonar wrote these words in a hymn:
Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.
Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.
Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.
We’ll come back to this parable later. But what I want you to understand is that great debt of sin that every person owes to God. It is both wrong, and must be paid.
If you are a Christian, your debt has been paid. Your sins have been forgiven. Your account has been settled.
For you, passages like Col 2:13-14 are sweet:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Now, if you have never approached Jesus Christ and asked for his mercy and forgiveness, then you still owe a huge debt of sin to God, and you can never repay it. But it doesn’t need to end for you this way. Notice what 1John 1:9 says, “if we confess our sins…”
Forgiveness by God for your sins requires confession on your part. Confession doesn’t mean repeating all the things that you’ve done. Confession is from the Greek verb homologeo and it literally means “the same word.”
Confession is when you say the same things about your sins as God does. God knows what you have done. He isn’t surprised. He wants YOU to recognize them as offenses against HIM, and to call them what they are. He wants you to agree with him that they are sins, and they are wrong, and they are a stench in his nostrils.
If you confess with a broken heart and a right attitude, God will forgive and will cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
If you play the part, saying “I’m sorry” in order to get out of punishment, or in order to satisfy your guilt without truly seeing the depths of your sins, your only fooling yourself and your sins remain.
When you realize how your sins are an offense against God, then you will want to be changed. You will want to turn from them. You will want to get away from them like a wretched garment that is stained with filth and vomit.
Is. 55:6-7 says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”