“And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” —Luke 11:4
Some may wonder, “If I fail to forgive, does that mean I don’t have forgiveness from God.” God forbid. To suggest that would imply that my forgiving others is required for the blood of Jesus Christ to have any power. That can’t be true for it is written in Ephesians 1:6-7,
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
We have been redeemed through Christ’s blood and we have received forgiveness because of the riches of God’s grace, not because of my ability or your ability to forgive others. So what is going on here?
We need to keep in mind that prayer is, in its simplest definition, communication with God. Therefore, prayer is for those whom God is saving or has already saved. Prayer is not for the unregenerate man.
Within this model prayer Jesus has not only given us the gauge of forgiveness to measure our own Christian maturity, but He has given us the awesome blessedness of the freedom that comes from forgiveness. Built into this prayer is a personal reminder to me that I must forgive others to enjoy the freedom I have received from God because He has forgiven my sins.
A life without forgiveness is a life of torment. Do you remember when Simon Peter asked the Lord how often a person should forgive another?[i] Jesus gave Peter an impossible number of times to keep track of[ii] and then illustrated with a parable what a life was like without forgiveness, of begrudging and bitterness:[iii]
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
When we, as servants of the King of kings, fail to extend mercy as God’s mercy has been extended unto us, we become prisoners of our own grudges and bitterness, tormented by our failure to keep at the foot of the cross where God’s lavish love, mercy, and compassion are found. See what the Lord says in Luke 6:36-38,
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give [mercy, and forgive others], and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
[i] Matthew 18:21
[ii] Matthew 18:22
[iii] Matthew 18:23-35