Here are a few thoughts I had from a recent discussion I was in concerning the petition for forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthews 6:12).
Some have proposed that the Lord’s Prayer — the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray — is for those who are under the law and does not apply to those who are not. Some even suggest that is it not for Christians today but for some future tribulation period. However, that raises a few questions:
- First, where do we find anything in the Law to the effect of what Matthew 6:12 says? This petition does not seem to me to be specific to the Law, or even about the Law in a general way.
- Second, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also spoke about murder and adultery, and seems to “raise the bar” in regard to the way many thought about them in those days (and still often do today). Does that mean that what He said about those things are not pertinent for us today? Hardly.
- Third, as I consider the other petitions in that prayer, none of them appear to be about the Law. So why should we suppose that the petition about forgiveness should be understood as being about the Law, when the others are not?
- Fourth, where do we find any hint that this is only for saints enduring the tribulation period? I don’t see that anywhere in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, or even in the larger context.
The Lord’s Prayer is a kingdom prayer: “Thy kingdom come ... Thine is the kingdom,” it says. It is not only about being forgiven ourselves, it is also about us forgiving each other. This forgiveness is about fellowship, not just our fellowship with God but also our fellowship with each other. This is about the kingdom of God, and that kingdom has already begun through Jesus, God's Messiah King.
The Lord’s Prayer does not allow us to think merely individualistically about our relationship with God and whatever He is doing. Rather, it teaches us how we are to live together as the community of God’s people. We do not address, “My Father,” but “Our Father.” It is not merely, “Give me this day my daily bread,” but “Give us this day our daily bread.” And the petition for forgiveness is not simply, “Forgive me my debts,” but “Forgive us our debts.” It is quite appropriate, then, that Jesus adds these words: “as we also have forgiven our debtors.”