The Teaching of Jesus on Prayer – Part 4 of 6
Adapted and Expanded from The HOPE Study Guide
If you wanted to learn how to pray, who would you choose for a teacher? In Matthew 6:9-13, you can find a model prayer given to you by Jesus Himself. It was not given simply to recite, but to teach you how to pray. It has been called “the true pattern for all prayer.” Each verse in this prayer identifies an important aspect of prayer. This is part 4 of 6 in our study of the model prayer. Our focus here is verse 11.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” – Matthew 6:12
One writer has observed that, “As bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness is the need of the soul …it is the entrance into all the Father’s love and all the privileges of children.” Based on the work of Christ on the cross, God offers the gift of forgiveness for every sin you have ever committed or ever will commit. But for a gift to become yours, you must receive it. You enter into the blessing of God’s forgiveness when you trust Christ as your Savior. You continue to walk in the freedom of His forgiveness as you confess your sins and as you forgive those who have sinned against you.
Diving in for a closer study of specific words in this verse, we find unfathomable meaning and power.
Our English word “forgive” does not give an adequate picture of the Greek word used in this verse. This word “aphiemi” means to send away from one’s self. And here, it is used in the aorist imperative tense, calling for this action to be carried out effectively and with a sense of urgency. In other words, this sending away is timely and complete.
When missionaries in northern Alaska were translating the Bible into the language of the Eskimos, they discovered there was no word in that language for forgiveness. After much patient listening, however, they discovered a word that means, “not being able to think about it anymore.” That word was used throughout the translation to represent forgiveness, because God’s promise to repentant sinners is, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34).
Notice also in today’s verse, Jesus’ use of the word debt in… “forgive us our debts.” Luke, in his record of the model prayer, wrote “forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4). Embracing both of these accounts of Jesus’ teaching on prayer we must conclude that an act of “sin” results in a “debt.” And a debt demands to be satisfied with a complete payment. The debt resulting from sin against a Holy, Perfect, Infinite, Creator God is a debt so great we could never pay it, though some try. The debt resulting from sin against our fellow man can only be satisfied when it is released. And when someone sins against us, we must forgive if we are to walk in freedom.
In Matthew 18:23-36, Jesus tells the parable of master who forgave the debt of his servant. But when that servant refused to forgive a fellow servant of a much smaller debt, the master became angry and threw the unforgiving servant in prison. There are many lessons in this parable, but certainly, one is that when we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, we are the one who suffers. We can be imprisoned unforgiveness.
Forgiveness, in this world, it is an uncommon grace. But it is what we all desperately need, from God and from others . . . and toward others.
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32