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“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”


Both parts of this petition can be difficult for us to understand.

Forgive us our debts..

Firstly, why must Christians keep on praying ‘forgive us our debts’? Weren’t we forgiven when we first came to Christ? Why keep asking for forgiveness?

Can’t we just pray the ‘sinners prayer’ get forgiven and get on with our lives? Well, to truly come to Christ, is to be born again into a new reality, it is to be adopted into a new relationship. God is our loving Heavenly Father. When we sin, we damage the intimacy of our relationship with him. Our sin does have consequences. But he is eager to forgive, restore and heal:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:8-9

..As we forgive our debtors

Is this a plea for God to forgive us on the basis of something we have done (in this case forgiving others)?

The Bible is clear that our hope is to be found in asking not for what we have earned (the wages of sin is death) but for his grace and mercy. Scripture never lets us use grace as a licence for sin though. Those who have received mercy are expected to be merciful. Those who have been forgiven are expected to be forgiving. They go hand in hand together. Often we will pray the Lord’s prayer and be challenged as we come to this petition- we will have to ask for grace to help us to forgive those who have wronged us as we remember how God has forgiven us in Christ.

We owed a debt to God that we could never have hoped to repay, yet Jesus paid it in full on the cross for us. When we remind ourselves of this great truth, forgiveness becomes possible.

May we not be like the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18 who having had his huge debt cancelled by the King, proceeded to demand his fellow servant be thrown into prison until the small sum he was owed was paid in full. Forgiven people forgive people.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Matthew 5:7

This does not mean that if we withhold forgiveness from others we will be un-forgiven, we will lose our salvation and our status as God’s children, rather it means the quality of our relationship with our Father will be affected.

Our love for God and our love for our neighbour are tied together by our Lord, but we ought to be encouraged that his Spirit lives within us. It becomes possible therefore for us to love and forgive in a way which demonstrates to the world something of how the God has loved and forgiven us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”