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Praying Like Jesus:
For We Ourselves Forgive Everyone Indebted to Us

June 28, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 11:2-4 (NRSV)

“Father, hallowed be your name.
+++Your kingdom come.
+++Give us each day our daily bread.
+++And forgive us our sins,
++++++for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
+++And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

Focus

Forgiving those you have hurt you can feel risky. It is risky, since it allows for the possibility of your being hurt again. It is much safer to hide behind a wall of unforgiveness. But Jesus calls us to a different way of being, to a vulnerability that is possible because of our relationship with the God who forgives us completely, who loves us utterly, and is with us always. We can forgive both because we have been forgiven by God and because we know that God is present in our lives, empowering us, guiding us, and guarding us.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

In an earlier devotion, I shared a story of teaching my four-year-old daughter, Kara, to pray the Lord’s Prayer. As you may recall, instead of saying “Hallowed be thy name” she prayed, “Hollywood be my name.” Not a bad effort for a young child who had no idea what “hallowed” and “thy” meant.

Well, Kara had an interesting version of the Presbyterian petition, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” She said, and I quote accurately, “Forgive us our dents, as we forgive our dentist.” You can imagine how hard I tried not to laugh uproariously at this clever paraphrase. Since Kara didn’t know what “debts” and “debtors” were, she tried her best. She knew that dents were not something you wanted. Forgiveness might be needed. And, after one early visit to the dentist, which she hated, she was quite convinced that it was necessary to forgive her dentist.

In Luke 11:4, Jesus didn’t actually use the Greek word meaning “debtors.” Rather, he used a participle from the verb opheilō, which means “to be indebted to someone” or “to owe.” Thus the NRSV translates it accurately with, “for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.” How might sin be understood as a debt? This analogy works logically in the case of sins of omission. If you fail to do something you should do for someone, in a sense you owe that person the good you didn’t do. You could be said to be indebted to the one you wronged by omission. Though the logic works well here, we mustn’t think that Jesus was referring only to sins of omission, however. Indebtedness in Luke 11:4 is really just a poetic way to talk about sinfulness, including both commission and omission, “the things we have done and the things we have left undone.”

In his model prayer, Jesus made a clear connection between the forgiveness we receive from God and the forgiveness we grant to others. Notice, however, that Jesus did not say, “Forgive us our sins because we forgive others.” Our being forgiven by God is dependent on God’s grace, not on our acts of forgiveness. Yet, when we are forgiven by God, we are encouraged, indeed, we are inspired to forgive others.

The more you truly experience God’s grace in your life, the more you’ll be able to be gracious with others, including those who sin against you. This doesn’t mean, by the way, that you’ll simply wink at sin as if it doesn’t really matter. Sin is something to be taken seriously, not something to be minimized or ignored. In fact, Jesus taught: “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone” (Matt 18:15). Jesus wanted more than forgiveness; he wanted reconciliation, and this required an admission of sin by the offending party. Yet, true reconciliation will only happen if you are able to freely forgive the one who sinned against you. Sometimes this is a very hard thing to do, especially when the wrong is a deeply grievous and painful one. Nevertheless, if you have experienced the transforming and freeing power of God’s forgiveness in your life, then you’ll be able to do as God does, with God’s help, both treating sin as something serious and being generous with forgiveness.

Our culture will not teach us to do this. On the one hand, we have a cultural tendency to excuse our own wrongdoings, coming up with all measures of reasons and rationalizations. If I wrong you somehow, surely this is the fault of those who wronged me in the past. I’m not responsible so much as I am a victim. On the other hand, when someone does something wrong, even when that person admits it, those who suffered the wrong rarely forgive. Every now and then an exception to this rule will make headlines. It gets such attention because true forgiveness is so rare today.

Forgiving those you have hurt you can feel risky. It is risky, since it allows for the possibility of your being hurt again. It is much safer to hide behind a wall of unforgiveness. But Jesus calls us to a different way of being, to a vulnerability that is possible because of our relationship with the God who forgives us completely, who loves us utterly, and is with us always. We can forgive both because we have been forgiven by God and because we know that God is present in our lives, empowering us, guiding us, and guarding us.

Reflect

What did you learn about forgiveness from growing up in your family?

Can you think of instances of forgiveness that have been impressive to you (in the news, in movies or books, in relationships you know about, etc.)?

Is forgiveness hard for you? If so, why? If not, why not?

What helps you to forgive those who have hurt you?

Do you ever experience forgiving people as leading to freedom for you?

Act

If there is someone in your life who has wronged you but whom you have not forgiven, talk to the Lord about this. Ask for the strength to forgive.

Pray

Father, hallowed be your name.
+++Your kingdom come.
+++Give us each day our daily bread.
+++And forgive us our sins,
++++++for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
+++And do not bring us to the time of trial. Amen.


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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Importance of Forgiveness


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One thought on “Praying Like Jesus:
For We Ourselves Forgive Everyone Indebted to Us

  1. Gillian Ware says:

    I have found all your Lord’s Prayer posts really interesting- but this one where you quoted your very young daughter’s confusion with Dents and Dentists gave me great joy! Previously I told you how at about the age of 8, at school Prayers, I thought “give us this day our daily bread” was “give us to stay our daily bread”. Well, only a couple of days ago I realized I had made another mistake. For years I always said “Our Father, BECHANTED in Heaven”. I did later learn that most people said “…who art in Heaven” but just thought this was one of the many variants. Then I wondered if this was the case, and sure enough I could find no such variant ! I’m quite sad, as to be Bechanted sounded magical!

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