In the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, He instructs them to pray this (Matthew 6:12 ESV):
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Have you ever considered the scary implications of this prayer request?
What if I haven’t forgiven my debtors? What if I haven’t forgiven people who have wronged me or who owe me something and have yet to repay it?
What if they have no intention of making amends? What if they don’t feel as though they even require forgiveness? Worse, what if they think I owe them an apology and they have no intention of forgiving me?
What an outrageous thought!
Speaking of the outrageous, Jesus teaches us to pray to our Heavenly Father and request of Him that He forgives us, in the same way that we forgive other people.
What if we have a problem forgiving other people? That could be awkward. We may as well be praying, “don’t forgive me Lord because I can’t forgive other people.”
Surely not. What about grace!? How I forgive people shouldn’t determine how God forgives me. Should it? Surely that’s not how this works?
Well, if we are in any doubt about what Jesus is asking His disciples to pray He goes on to state, “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.” (Matthew 6:14,15 ESV)
That’s quite direct and to the point.
C’mon God, let’s not get all legalistic about this. You’re bigger and better than that, aren’t you?
His response might be something along the lines of… Yes. Yes I am. I am also asking that you be bigger and better than that too.
To be clear, this is a prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray. This is not God’s approach to forgiveness for the lost, for all of humankind. This is not His heart behind the desire that none would perish. (2 Peter 3:9)
This is a prayer for followers of Jesus.
Consequently, His teaching is that we would pray as Jesus would pray. That we would live as Jesus would live. That we would allow Jesus in us, that we would allow the Holy Spirit through us, to forgive others as we would want God to forgive us.
If forgiving some people is too great a leap then begin with, “forgive me Lord as you would want me to forgive and grant me your heart of forgiveness”.
May this be our prayer today and every day.