Lord's Prayer--The Fifth Petition

Text: Matthew 6:12

And forgive us our debts, as we also surely forgave our debtors.


Daily reconciliation is the key to a lasting marriage and family. Our sins against one another will destroy our marital and family relationships. The sins we commit against one another replace the good feelings we had toward one other with the ill feelings of resentment. We then fall out of favor with one another. We become alienated and separated. Daily reconciliation is therefore needed to hold our relationship together. Forgiveness is at the heart of that reconciliation.

The same is true in our relationship with our heavenly Father. We are his children through faith in Jesus. We are on the road that leads to eternal life with him in heaven and he walks that road with us. While we walk the road to heaven with him, however, we sin against him. Our sins ruin our relationship with him. They separate us and alienate us from him. Only his daily forgiveness of our sins can reconcile us to him and preserve our relationship with him into eternity. For this reason we pray the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. It asks for our Father’s forgiveness of our sins and directs us to forgive the sins of others.

Being the children of God, we are to imitate our heavenly Father and be like he is. His Word, which guides us on the path to eternal life, tells us in Matthew 5:48: “You shall be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. The problem with us, however, is that we are not perfect. By nature we are slaves to sin. We must admit, as Paul did in Romans 7:18, “For I know that no good thing dwells in me, that is in my sinful nature. Being such good for nothing sinners, on the road to heaven we grumble and complain and gossip. We weigh ourselves down with the excess baggage of worldly things and concerns, which only makes our journey to heaven more difficult. We fall into one kind of a sin or another. While we walk to heaven with our Father we neither hallow his name nor do his will as we should. We miss the mark of his perfection, so that he must say to us in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

The sins we commit against our Father while on the road to heaven separate and alienate us from him. We fall from his good favor . We become afraid of his wrath and fear the punishment we justly deserve for our sins. We know that our many sins make us unworthy to ask him for anything. All we deserve from him is his punishment in hell for having deserted him to go our own way into sin. His Word warns us: “The soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4); “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Being aware of our sins against our Father and knowing that we deserve his punishment, we feel unhappy with ourselves for having strayed from our Father’s path to fall into the ditch of sin and corruption. We feel uncomfortable in our relationship with our heavenly Father. We feel guilty and fear what he will do to us. We feel alienated and separated from him. We feel uneasy with no peace of mind.

The only way we can resolve these feelings and become re-united with our Father is to pray: “And forgive us our debts, as we also surely forgave our debtors.”

When we speak of our debts in this petition we mean all the sins of which we are guilty--the sins we are unaware of as well as the sins we are aware of. Our sins are all our failures that missed hitting the mark of our Father’s perfection. Our sins are all our transgressions by which we crossed over into forbidden areas of conduct and behavior. Our sins are all our iniquities in which we strayed from the straight, narrow path of our Father’s moral law into the crooked, perverse byways of evil and wrongdoing.

Our sins against God have indebted us to him. They have obligated us to make good on them in the future. We must make up for them and pay them off. We owe such payment to him.

We can never pay off the debt of our sins, however, for there is nothing we can give to our Father that will pay our debt and make up for it. This is why the punishment for sin is everlasting. The debt of sin is never paid.

Knowing that hell is the consequence of our sins, we pray “Forgive us our debts (or sins).” When we pray this petition, we are making a confession of our sins. We are admitting to our Father that we have sins we are guilty of, which need his forgiveness or we will perish. We are confessing that we deserve nothing but punishment for our sins and that we are therefore unworthy to ask him for anything.

When we pray this petition, we throw ourselves at the feet of God, pleading for his mercy. We beg him to forgive the huge debt of sin we are obligated to pay but can never pay. We ask him to pardon the punishment we deserve, because he is merciful and gracious, and be willing to hear our prayers. We do not deserve our Father’s forgiveness. There is but one reason he will forgive us: Jesus paid the debt of our sins.

At the time of Jesus when a person had run up a debt he could not pay, he was sold into slavery until he could pay it. Of course he could never pay it then, for he was a slave. The only way his debt could be paid and he could be freed from enslavement was if someone else paid his debt for him, which was unlikely.

We have a huge debt of sin. We are by nature enslaved to sin. We do not have the means to pay off our debt of sins against God. Thanks be to Jesus, our loving Savior, that he stepped in and paid our debt for us. He paid the price to set us free from the guilt of our sins and from the punishment we would have to suffer for them. The price he paid was his own holy, innocent life, which he gave into death as our substitute. Since he paid the debt of our sins, our Father canceled our debt, marked it paid in full, and pardoned us from all punishment.

Jesus’ payment of our debt reconciled us to God. He is no longer angry with us. We are no longer separated from him. He is our dear Father and we are his dear children.

Each night through this petition we lay at our Father’s feet our many sins of the day. With penitent hearts and sorrow for our wrong doing we confess them to him and ask that he would forgive us. At the end of each day’s journey on our road to heaven we can rest assured that we are reconciled to our Father and rest in his peace, for 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous -- he forgives our sins and purifies us from all unrighteousness.” His forgiveness and reconciliation calms our fears, evaporates our feelings of guilt, restores that good feeling of walking with our Father on the road to heaven, and makes us ready to continue our journey the next day.

Having our Father’s forgiveness, this petition points us to a principle we will now follow. In appreciation for his forgiveness we will forgive others as he has forgiven us.

If we do not forgive those who sin against us, our Father will not forgive us either. A few verses after this fifth petition these words of Jesus are recorded: “For if you forgive men their transgressions, your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” Our Father forgives us the many sins we commit against him while we walk with him on the road to heaven. Now his Word instructs us to forgive those who sin against us.

On our life’s journey to heaven we meet many people. On the way they sin against us. Following our Father’s good and gracious example, we will forgive them. Likewise, on the road to heaven we lodge and travel with those who are nearest and dearest to us--our parents, spouse, families, and friends. During life’s journey they sin against us and we sin against them. Our sins alienate and separate us from one another. If we do nothing to remedy our sins against each other, those sins will tear us apart. A cold resentment will set in between us, bringing our relationship to an end--a relationship that should be life-long. We must become reconciled to one another. Only our forgiving one another will establish that reconciliation.

Let us be reminded of this each time we pray this fifth petition, “And forgive us our debts, as we also surely forgave our debtors.” When we pray these words, let us be thinking, “Father, on the road of life to heaven today I sinned against you and others sinned against me. Forgive my sins against you, just as I forgive those who sinned against me. Truly forgiveness is the key to reconciliation and long lasting relationships--my relationship with you and our relationships with one another.” Amen.