“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us….” Luke 11:1-4 (NKJV)
Jesus now tells us that we are to seek forgiveness for our sins and offer forgiveness to others. When we confess our sins to God we are acknowledging our sins and failures and asking God to forgive us for them. The thing about genuine confession is that there are no qualifiers in it. What I mean is that when I genuinely confess my sin I don’t offer any excuses for what I’ve done and I don’t blame others for my mistakes and failures. Unless I am accepting full responsibility for my sins and failures I am not genuinely confessing my sin.
Scripture promises us that when we confess our sins that God is faithful and just to forgive of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). What is so great about this verse is that it was written to believers. God is telling believers that if we sin—and He knows we will—then He will forgive us for our sins if we genuinely confess our sin.
Let me say one last thing about this before we move on. Our confession of sins shouldn’t be something generic like, “Lord, forgive me where I’ve failed you today”. I could be wrong but I honestly don’t see a lot of value in that. In my mind our confession of sins should be as genuine as our relationship with God is. Instead of praying a generic confession we should confess sins we know we’ve committed or things that the Holy Spirit is convicting us about. I honestly can’t see some sort of generic thoughtless “Lord, forgive me where I’ve failed you today” as being anything more than the vain ramblings that Jesus says we shouldn’t have in prayer.
As we seek mercy for our sins against God, we also need to extend mercy to those who have sinned against us. Depending on your personality this could be a very hard part of prayer. Some of us can hold a grudge like nobody’s business. There are any number of things we may forget in life but we will never forget the wrongs done against us. Some of us are the kind of people that if we were to get amnesia we might not remember our name but we’d still know who we were holding a grudge against.
For those of us that fall into this category we read the first part of what Jesus says and are like, “Yes, God will forgive me.” Then when we get to the next part we go, “Wait. What were we talking about again?” For those of us who have committed our lives to following Christ we are not given the option of whether or not we want to hold a grudge. We are to offer those who have wronged us the same mercy we desire from the God we have wronged.
We need to understand that our unwillingness to forgive is plain and simple disobedience to God. Like any other disobedience it will eventually become a barrier in our relationship with God. We also need to understand that an unwillingness to forgive will eventually cause us to become bitter. Aside from bitter people being miserable to be around, Hebrews 12:15 says that bitterness causes trouble in our lives and eventually causes us to become defiled.
When we forgive someone we aren’t saying what they did wasn’t real. We aren’t saying it wasn’t bad. We aren’t even saying they deserve to be forgiven. We are simply saying that we are going to offer them the same mercy we want from God. There are two things I think of that help me do this.
The first is that as a general rule you are the only one being hurt while you hold this grudge. For the most part those you’re holding the grudge against don’t know that you’re holding a grudge and if they did they wouldn’t care.
YOU’RE the one losing sleep over your grudge. YOU’RE the one getting an ulcer over your grudge. YOU’RE the one hurting your relationship with God over your grudge. YOU’RE the one that will become bitter and defiled over your grudge. More than anything else forgiving those who have wronged me releases YOU.
The other is that these people, whoever they are, aren’t worth hurting your relationship with God over. Your relationship with God is vastly more important than any grudge you may have. Remembering this should help you be able to let things go and offer forgiveness.
I think that one of the reasons that Jesus talks about our need to forgive in this prayer is because He knows that many times we will absolutely have to have the grace of God to help us forgive. There will just be times where we have to say, “God please help me to forgive them” because we aren’t able to do this on our own. There must be a willingness on our part to forgive others in the same way that God has forgiven us. I believe that God honors that desire to please Him and will give us the grace we need to forgive others.