“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12
The Bible teaches us that “there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20); and that even our best “righteousnesses are like filthy rags” in His sight (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, our greatest need from God the Father is His mercy and forgiveness; and so we ask that He would not look upon our sins and failures to keep His commandments but forgive our sins for the sake of Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death for us upon the cross. Like the tax collector who knew his own sinfulness and shortcomings and would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, we also say, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
Because God’s own dear Son, Messiah Jesus, took our sins upon Himself and bore our punishment when He suffered and died upon the cross in our stead, God is merciful and forgiving toward us. The Bible tells us: “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Psalm 86:5); “If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (Psalm 130:3, 4); and, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 1:8-9; 2:1, 2). It is because of Jesus, who suffered and died for our sins and rose again, that we can confidently come before God the Father and seek His mercy and forgiveness, saying, “Forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4).
Because God has graciously provided atonement for our sins and the sins of the whole world in His Son (1 John 2:1-2), and because God “has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12), so we also promise to forgive those who have sinned against us. We pray that God would forgive us “as we forgive our debtors.” The Bible calls upon us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). When we consider and remember our own unworthiness of mercy and the great debt of sin which our heavenly Father has forgiven each of us for Jesus’ sake, certainly we can also share that mercy and kindness toward others who have sinned against us!
When Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive his brother who sins against him, suggesting up to seven times, Jesus said to Peter: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21, 22; cf. verses 23ff.). Jesus also said, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Dear Father in heaven, graciously forgive us for all our sins against You, for the sake of Jesus and His blood shed for us upon the cross, and move us also to extend Your grace and mercy to others by forgiving those who have trespassed against us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.