The Lord’s Prayer Part 2
7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
9 “In this manner, therefore, 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 this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer was spoken and taught by Jesus as part of His Sermon on the Mount which goes from chapters 5 through 7 in the Book of Matthew.
Today we’ll focus on verse 12: “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.”
This one short verse encompasses one of the keys to a believer’s life in Christ. We need to forgive others of their sins, just like Christ forgave us of our sins.
As an example, let’s look at the little but powerful book of Philemon, verses 1-21.
To set the stage a little bit:
Paul is writing to his friend and brother in Christ Philemon. While in prison, Paul meets a runaway slave named Onesimus and leads him to salvation in Jesus. He mentors Onesimus and nurtures his faith. Now this slave had run from his master Philemon. That was illegal at this time. Paul is writing to Philemon to ask him to take Onesimus back as a brother in Christ, and not as a slave. Paul is also asking that Philemon forgive the wrongs of Onesimus. “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.”
Vs 1-3 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philemon and his family had a house-church in their home. At this time in Israel, there were no churches like we have today in church buildings. There were plenty of synagogues, but the original Christian churches were in homes. House churches are very common today in places like China where Christians are heavily persecuted. They cannot worship in open and known places but have to worship in secret. They cannot even be found with a Bible in China or they will be persecuted. Philemon is a brother in Christ, a solid believer, that Paul loves and prays for.
(Side note: Two amazing books on the persecuted church in China: “The Heavenly Man” by Brother Yun and “Safely Home” by Randy Alcorn. Brother Yun tells his own true story, while Randy Alcorn weaves an excellent fictional story based on real life conditions in China.)
I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
In these 3 verses, Paul tells Philemon that he prays for him, thanking God for him and for his faith! I love that. I need to tell my friends more often that I am praying for them. It is so comforting to hear from a friend that they have been praying for me. I love that!
Then Paul also points out that he prays that Philemon’s faith would be even more effective – it would have even greater impact – when he acknowledges all of the good in his life is from Christ.
For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother. Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ—
Paul says “I’m not going to tell you what to do, though I could. But as one Christian brother to another, I’m going to ask you -”
I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.
Paul is saying: “I’m asking on behalf of my friend and brother Onesimus. I know he wronged you in the past, but now he can be a real blessing to us both.”
I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel.
But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.
Paul has other choices here. 1) He could keep Onesimus with him and never say anything at all. Or 2) he could could push really hard and almost force Philemon to take him back and tell him how wrong he would be to punish him and keep him as a slave. Or 3) Paul could make the request with humility and faith, and in prayer.
This third option is the route Paul chooses. If Paul were to 1) keep it all to himself and never address the issue, nothing is solved, and no hearts are changed. If he were to 2) force it on Philemon then Philemon might allow it but wouldn’t have a changed heart and may be bitter now toward both Paul and Onesimus, and may mistreat Onesimus and keep him as a slave. Instead, #3 gives Philemon the opportunity for a changed heart. Philemon has the chance to choose to do what is right rather than be forced into it. Remember the verse from the Lord’s Prayer? “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.”
Look at this story in Matthew 18:23-35:
For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
So in this letter to Philemon, Paul is appealing to Philemon because he knows that Philemon has been forgiven. Philemon has accepted Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness and salvation. Philemon knows that his own sins are what put Jesus on the cross and are the reason Jesus died. “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.”
For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account.
Paul is saying you should receive him as a brother in Christ now, and if he owes you something, I’ll repay it myself. So Paul is willing to take on Onesimus’ debt in order to heal this relationship.
I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
When Jesus’ taught the disciples the Lord’s Prayer, in verse 12 He is telling them that they need to forgive others. That’s hard to do! Really, really hard! We don’t want to forgive. It’s not in our human nature. We want to hold onto it. Yet, it’s so much easier to forgive someone when you consider how much we have been forgiven.