The Lord’s Prayer: Description Not Prescription (5 of 6)

lords-prayer-forgive
Copyright: wayoutwest / 123RF Stock Photo

In this series, I’m discussing The Lord’s Prayer, and why I believe it reflects some of Jesus’ most radical and challenging ideas. The prayer is meant to be descriptive of how to pray, not prescriptive on what to pray. In Part 5, we think about the connection between forgiveness and forgiving.

 

Jesus taught the disciples that prayer should first acknowledge God as “father,” that they (we) should ask God to bring the Kingdom of heaven to earth through us, and that we should ask to not be so self-reliant. He then instructed the disciples on how to receive forgiveness.

When you pray, say…

“Forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone indebted to us.”

The Lord’s Prayer in sign language translates this phrase, “We wrong, wrong, wrong, you forgive us. Other people wrong, wrong, wrong, hurt us, you help us forgive them.”

Whatever term you use for transgression against your neighbor – debts, trespasses, sins, or wrong, wrong, wrong – I think the interesting thing about this phrase is the connection between forgiveness and forgiving.

Please understand, I don’t think God requires us to forgive others before God will forgive us.

That would be a negation of the gift of grace, which is given freely given, no strings attached. And it certainly wouldn’t be a very loving way of approaching it. God’s kind of love is not conditional.

However, I do think that in order to be released from our own sense of guilt for wrongdoing, we need to let go of the anger, and the bitterness, and the blame we hold toward others.

So, the “radicalness” of Jesus’ petition to God is in saying that we play a part in our own forgiveness.

Yep – YOU have a role to play in your own forgiveness.

Note that I did not say we play a part in being forgiven; because, forgiveness comes from someone else.

We do, however, play a part in our own forgiveness.

Think of it this way: if someone gives you a gift, you must accept it to complete the giftedness. It is no less a gift if you don’t accept it, but you must play a part in receiving the gift to complete the giving.

Just as giving is not complete without receiving. Forgiving is not complete without receiving.

So, in following Jesus’ radical prayer, “forgive us our sin as we forgive everyone indebted to us,” I offer this suggestion:

When you pray say, “As we are gifted with forgiveness, help us forgive others and in doing so be ready to receive forgiveness.”

Up next: When you pray, say…
“May we not be severely tested.”

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