As a child, I remember reciting the “Lord’s Prayer” in church service and seeing it written on a plaque hanging on the stairway wall of our home. I loved saying it, over and over. It had a sort of rhythm to it that I could recite without a real thought to the meaning.
Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV) (The words of Jesus)
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’
As I’ve gotten older and listened to messages preached on Sunday mornings, I can honestly say I have only heard one pastor preach on this passage and his focus was on the kingdom of heaven. That message he preached back in 1999 got me thinking. I started to look further at this prayer and I realized a few things, and one of those things is in regards to forgiveness.
Verse 12 “And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors”
Another way to say this is: Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
In the verse following this prayer, Jesus focuses in on one subject within this prayer, forgiveness.
Verse 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
I think a lot of Christians overlook this verse, considering most people only know the Lord’s Prayer by memory, but never taking the time to read it. If we did, we would see that Jesus is telling us that if we don’t forgive others, then we will not be forgiven. This is not the only place in the Bible that talks about this.
Matthew 11:25 (NIV) (The words of Jesus)
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
According to Jesus, forgiveness is a HUGE issue. So what does it mean to forgive? This is how the dictionary defines it:
verb ( past -gave ; past part. -given ) [ trans. ]
stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake
I know, and you know we cannot put a stop on our feelings toward someone like switching a switch; it’s much more than that. When we’ve been deeply wounded, it is a process of healing that only God can heal. In my past experiences, my best strategy for aiding the healing of those wounds is to pray a prayer of blessing over the person who has wounded you. I learned this strategy through a book I read, written by John Bevere, which helped me forgive some really hard to forgive people. Here’s the link: http://www2.messengerinternational.org/product.asp?id=ENGBKSJ003A
When you pray, it doesn’t have to be in front of anyone, just start by getting the words out. Something like, “Lord, bless (fill in the blank) with your love.” It will feel like you are in a battle between your soul and your flesh by getting words of blessing out, but what you are really doing is freeing yourself up from a spirit of unforgiveness. (Look at Matthew 18:21-35, it is a parable on forgiveness and what happens to us spiritually if we choose not to forgive others from our heart.)
So the next time you are reciting the Lord’s Prayer in church or in your home, I challenge you to think about the words you are saying. It’s more than a prayer; it’s a way of living.
Do you have any stories of forgiveness you would like to share? I would love to read your comments...
Want to explore the Lord's Prayer in a deeper way? Check out this link: http://www.historian.net/lp-pap2.html