In this series, we are examining how the Lord’s prayer shapes our prayer life. In this post, we want to apply the phrase “…Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…” How does this statement in the Lord’s prayer shape our prayers?
First, we should pray regularly for the forgiveness of sins. The believer in the Lord Jesus Chris is eternally forgiven from the moment they place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. When a Christian is justified before God they will saved from the future judging wrath of God (Rom. 5:9). Yet, we are still to approach God and regularly confess our sins since Christ is our advocate in heaven (1 John 1:9, 2:1).
When you pray, ask the Lord to forgive your sins. If we know of any sins, take them and confess what they are. Acknowledge their guilt against God. In humility, simply ask to be forgiven. As you do this, remember how the cross of Christ has paid for sin.
As you continue to pray, ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and draw to your mind any unconfessed sin. There is no shame in asking the Holy Spirit to bring specific sins to our attention. Pray for your conscience to be pricked. Ask for your hearts to be illuminated. We ask the Holy Spirit to bring unknown sins to our attention so that we might have the joy of confessing them and the assurance that God forgives sins. The goal is not to be incapacitated with guilt, but to simply walk humbly with our God.
As you are praying, consider reading Scripture and reflect on God’s forgiveness of sin. You may find Psalm 32 or 51 particularly helpful for both confession and reminder of the preciousness of forgiveness.
Second, we must also be willing to forgive others in our life. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells the parable of a servant who was forgiven a great debt but was unwilling to forgive another of little debt. The point of the parable is that those who have God’s forgiveness are willing to forgive others. Our sin against a holy God is far greater than any way another person could wrong us. If I am unwilling to forgive and bitterly hold on to what I am owed when I was wronged, then how can I claim to know God’s forgiveness? Matthew 6:14-15 says “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
So, how do I forgive others in my prayers? Ask God if there is anyone you need to forgive. If, while praying, you think of anyone to whom you need to offer forgiveness go to them at your earliest opportunity. Do everything on your part to make restitution.
In your prayer, you may acknowledge to God that you forgive them—not as a statement of pride to God but as a way of humbly acknowledging to God what you are doing. You may need to ask for help to forgive them. It can be hard to get over the hurt and betrayal of being wronged. It is not always pettiness that makes these wounds deep. Part of the prayer involves asking God for strength and ability to forgive and be more Christ-like in our character.
Another thing we should ask for in our prayers is that God will forgive them. In this respect, consider how Stephen prayed in Acts 7:60 for those who were stoning them him, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Depending on the person’s own relationship with God they may or may not be eternally forgiven of the sin. However, we are doing our part to forgive the persons. We are not going to hold a grudge or prosecute the offense of the other person.
Finally, in your prayers, pray for a willing spirit to forgive others. There may be times when someone asks for forgiveness and we do not have a lot of advanced notice. We may be caught off guard by a person asking to be forgiven, and so I suggest we pray in advance that we would be generally gracious and forgiving in our demeanor. Along these lines, we might also pray that we not be easily offended but exemplify a spirit of grace in all our dealings.
Tim Bertolet is a graduate of Lancaster Bible College and Westminster Theological Seminary. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He is an ordained pastor in the Bible Fellowship Church, currently serving as pastor of Faith Bible Fellowship Church in York, Pa. He is a husband and father of four daughters. You can follow him on Twitter @tim_bertolet.