The Great Sayings in the Gospels
How Shall We Pray?
Forgive Us Our Debts
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. KJV
We come today to look at what is probably the most significant issue in this arrangement of really significant issues. There is not one idea here that anyone can look at and say that it is unimportant but this little statement, ‘forgive us our debts,’ located here in the middle of this short prayer is, without doubt, the most important of all of them. In Luke’s account of this prayer, the statement is worded a little differently. Of course, Luke’s account is of a different situation at a different time. In Luke’s account, 11:1-4, the disciples came to Jesus and asked to be taught to pray. The wording is so similar that there is no doubt but that Jesus intended that these ideas were to be used in our prayers.
In the account in Luke, the words “forgive us our debts” become “forgive us our sins.” I am convinced, as are many scholars, that the meaning of the two is the same. The ‘debt’ that Jesus had in mind here is the ‘debt’ that we owe to God because of our sins. When you think about it, this has to be the most important issue of the prayer. If one’s sins are not forgiven, then he has no access to heaven, no relationship with God, and no salvation. Nothing that he will pray will matter until the issue of sin and forgiveness is settled.
. First, let us consider the problem of sin in general.
Q. 14. What is sin? A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.
This means that any time God says “thou shalt not…” and we do the thing forbidden, we have sinned and any time God says “thou shalt…” and we do not do what is commanded it is sin. It is the violation of His commands, whether positive or negative.
And, why is sin a problem?
The scriptures teach that the real problem with sin is actually the Holiness of God.
1 Peter 1:15‑16
15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. KJV
13 Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: KJV
4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. KJV
The Holiness of God means that He refuses to fellowship with those who rebel against Him. He shuns them as He did our First Parents in the Garden of Eden. He drives them away from Him and then turns His face away. Instead of fellowshipping with them, He declares judgment upon them. It cannot be otherwise with a Holy God. He simply cannot accept wickedness, embrace it, fellowship with it and remain Holy. He must judge it, condemn it, shut it away from Himself.
. What is the remedy?
. On the part of God, the remedy is the Work of Jesus Christ, His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
1 Peter 2:24
24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. KJV
Peter is clear. When Jesus died, He was actually bearing the sins of all who would ever believe in His body. When you think about it, this presents some really interesting questions. Paul went even further.
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. KJV
He actually said “I was crucified with Christ.” Now Paul was not even a believer at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, yet he was crucified with Him?
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. KJV
He goes further and makes the general statement that, for all believers, their “old man” was crucified with Him.
The only construction I have ever been able to see as valid here is that all of those who had ever believed, were believing at that moment, and who would ever believe were in actual union with Jesus Christ as He died. His death, then, constituted the actual payment of the penalty of their sins.
This is how God solved the problem of sin for Himself.
. On the believer’s part, the problem of sin is resolved by repentance from it and trust in the Work of Christ as his Only Hope of salvation.
By ‘repentance’ here we do not mean the simple confession, “Lord, please forgive me of my sins.” Sin must be dealt with in particular, not in general. In the case of Zachaeus, and the Prodigal Son, there is the picture of the actual sins of those men being dealt with in honest before God.
Biblical repentance also involves a genuine sorrow for sins committed and an accounting of those sins before God.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. KJV
And, it involves a grieving over those sins that can only be described as ‘agony.’
3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. KJV
Along with a particular and individual confession of sins.
Then, there is a turning from them, a change of life, a change of pattern, or as Paul said, “old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.”
. But the prayer that Jesus gives us contemplates the issue of the believer sinning after having repented and believed.
Believers do sin and they must account for those sins before God.
The issue of sin does not go away, as we learn in Rom. 7.
Yet the believer is called upon to live without sinning.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. KJV
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. KJV
What is set up here is a daily, continual, unending struggle with sin for the entire lifetime of the believer. He must forsake it and yet he can never do so absolutely. He can certainly grow more successful and should, but perfection will forever escape him. Therefore, he will have to continually deal with God concerning it.
. Why is it such a problem?
What happens when a believer sins?
Do you remember when you were first converted? You felt wonderful. All of your sins were forgiven. You felt fresh and clean and new. And you were. You had been born from above and all of your sins really were forgiven. You may also have had renewals of those feelings, times when you truly confessed and forsook sins afresh and were renewed in your sense of fellowship with God.
This is the state in which God would have us live all of the time, regardless of external circumstances. Do you remember when Paul and Silas sang praises to God until midnight after having been beaten and thrown into prison? He would have us living in joyful communion with Him all of the time.
But sin robs us of that. How so?
1. When we sin, the Holy Spirit pulls back from us. He changes His role in our lives from Comforter to Convictor. He stops assuring us that all is well and begins warning us that things are not right between us and God. While it is certain that we cannot ever be lost again, He sternly speaks to us that discipline is possible unless we repent. In fact, discipline has already begun, He has taken away our sense of joy and comfort.
2. When we sin, our heart changes within us. We have moved from being a willing subject of our King to an active rebel, an outlaw, refusing to serve Him as He requires, with the whole heart.
3. Thus, our sense of cleanliness, comfort, and encouragement is lost.
Now, the only remedy for sin, from the human side is repentance, whether a person is converted or unconverted. It is the only response that God will accept. Anything less is still rebellion and keeps one under discipline until repentance is restored. We have already seen what genuine repentance looks like: grief for sin, ownership of it, confession to God and forsaking it completely.
So, God gives us here in the Model Prayer a daily tool to use to restore, cleanse and refresh us in grace at the beginning of every day. He gives it to us to teach us the value of keeping short accounts with Him, not letting days and weeks go by in which we live in rebellion and unrepentance. In His ideal, no sin should linger more than 24 hours without being handled and the life restored.
And, why should we keep such short accounts with God?
1. The longer we remain unrepentant about sin, the deeper into rebellion we go.
1. Sin never travels in singles. The unrepented sin will attract others more serious and severe.
1. Unrepented sin opens a door of invitation for the devil to gain access to our lives and make havoc of them.
1. The longer we resist the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, the more intense His efforts will become. He will do whatever it takes to bring us back. He has even been known to take children of God out of this life in chastisement for sin.
Sin damages and unrepentance changes us. You remember that David lusted and committed adultery but would not repent. His sin caused him to be calloused and hard-hearted toward Uriah and actually conspired to have him killed. That foolish act of gazing and lusting changed him into a murderer. Such is the power of sin even in the life of a child of God.
Therefore, the Lord would have us take inventory at the beginning of every day. Sins committed since our prayer time yesterday are to be brought before Him, confessed and forsaken. He has promised to forgive us if we deal with Him in this way.
1 John 1:9‑10
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us KJV
God has been gracious and kind to us. Long before we were ever born, He took all of the sins we would ever commit and placed them on His Son. Jesus bore them in His Own Body and suffered there on the cross until both He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit were satisfied that the penalty for them was satisfactorily paid.
Then, as with Paul, ‘in the fullness of time” He revealed Himself to us, convicted us of our sins, and drew us to Him in repentance and faith.
Now, He has given us a tool, a means, whereby we may live in freedom, comfort, joy and peace. We may serve Him with the whole heart and never be more than 24 hours away from communions with Him. Even when communion is lost through our foolishness, He allows that it may be restored quickly and fully.
Let us not fail to take advantage of all that He has provided.