Tag Archives: The Lord’s Prayer

The Sermon, part 18: Forgiveness

Read Matthew 6:14-15

Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” (Luke 17:4, NLT)

unidos-en-la-fe-imagenes-cristianas-con-la-cruzAs was mentioned in the previous devotion, Jesus sets the model for how we should pray. Included in that model is the act of forgiveness. “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” Jesus prayed. Debts, obviously, is a term that indicates finances are involved. Those of us who have ever taken out a loan, or borrowed from a friend, are all too familiar with what a debt is. Similarly, those of us who have loaned stuff out and waited for it to be paid back, know what it means to have debtors beholden to us.

I think it is important that we look at Jesus’ words in the Lord’s Prayer, so that we can best contextualize them as well as understand the words that follow them. In the prayer, Jesus prays that God forgives our “debts” (ὀφείλημα, pronounced of-i’-lay-mah) just as we forgive our “debtors” (ὀφειλέτης, pronounced of-i-let’-ace). The Greek word for debt means “something that is owed”. With that said, the word is not so black and white, as it can also mean a sin or a moral fault. In other words, debt (ὀφείλημα) can be taken in both the literal sense of one owing someone money or property, and it can be taken in the spiritual sense of one owing God reparation for his or her sins.

There are some that want to merely see sins in this verse, and there are some Bible translations that choose to interpret this verse as “sins”; however, it is important to point out that in doing so, these translators are taking a stance that matches their theology as to what Jesus is saying here. So, if one sees Jesus’ primary mission as saving people from their sins, he or she will translate this word as “sins”. Conversely, if a translator sees Jesus’ primary mission as standing in solidarity with and liberating the oppressed (including impoverished people who are in debt to those oppressing them), then he or she will translate this word as “debts”.

Both positions, as I see it, are gravely mistaken because they both fail to see the poetic subtlety in Jesus’ words. How do we know this for sure? Because in verses 12-13, Jesus chooses a word that explicitly means debts (though, more subtly, it could mean sins); however, in verse 14-15, Jesus uses a word that explicitly means sins. The use of the two words in reference to forgiveness tells us that Jesus doesn’t see this as an “either/or”, but a “both/and”.

Jesus’ mission was both to save people from their sins, and it was to stand in solidarity with and liberate the poor. The two missions are not mutually exclusive of each other; rather, they are an intertwined and connected purpose with in the same mission. Salvation from sin equals a liberation of the poor and the oppressed, for sin is what leads to the evil of oppression and abject poverty.  If people didn’t sin, they would oppress others, nor would they hold people indebted to them to the point of impoverishment.

What’s more, without sin people wouldn’t have the corrupt notion of “owning” property and goods for everything that we possess is, theologically speaking, given to us from God. That is why the early church members gave all of their belongings to the whole community, to be shared in equally with each other for the good of the whole community. These earliest Christians were making The Lord’s Prayer a lived reality in their communities. And this is what we are called to do as well.

Jesus couldn’t be any clearer, if we forgive those who sin against us (spiritually or physically), then we are in line with God’s forgiveness and will receive it; however, if we harden our hearts to forgiving others, then we are not in line with God’s forgiveness and we have hardened our hearts to the forgiveness God wishes to give to us. Hardened hearts will not receive forgiveness because they refuse to, just as surely as hardened hearts refuse to forgive. So here’s the key truth for us to reflect on: FORGIVENESS IS THE KEY TO BEING CHRISTIAN.

To offer forgiveness is to show thankfulness to the infinite times God has forgiven you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Lord, thank you for your forgiveness. Help me to forgive. Amen.

The Sermon, part 17: The Model

Read Matthew 6:9-13

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is Yours, O LORD, and this is Your kingdom. We adore You as the One who is over all things. (1 Chronicles 29:11, NLT)

jesusprayerThe Lord’s Prayer is considered to be the greatest Christian prayer in the history of Christianity; however, I would be amiss to leave out the fact that The Lord’s Prayer is, at its core, a wholly Jewish prayer. For instance, it was the custom in first century Jewish prayer to address God as “Our Father”. What’s more, there is nothing in this prayer that would go against the religious convictions of the Jewish people. All Jews are in line with praising God, praying for God’s will to be done, praying for God’s Kingdom to come, praying for daily bread, forgiveness, and the deliverance from the evil one.

There are a few things we can pull from this prayer that will benefit us as Christians. Jesus lays this prayer out as a model for his disciples to shape their prayer life around. First, this prayer only goes to show that Jesus’ spiel on public prayer was meant more as a rhetorical device than to be taken literally. The very usage of plural pronouns and determiners such as “we”, “us”, and “our”, suggests that this is a communal prayer that Jesus is modeling for his disciples. It is a prayer that is meant to be prayed corporately and in public.

Second, it is a prayer that is patterned in a way that put God at the center of it, but is not devoid of concern for the people praying. The prayer starts off with a praising of God. To quote the King James Version, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” This praising of God not only honors God as holy, but also clearly states who God is in relation to Jesus. For the word Father, Jesus does not use the Hebrew word for father, but rather uses the Aramaic word of “Abba”, which is a both a child’s term of endearment toward their papa or their dada, as well as it is an adults child’s formal way of addressing his/her father.

Thus, the  use of the word “Abba” denotes an intimate relationship between God (the Father), and Jesus the son. On top of that, the prayer implicates that God is not only Jesus’ father, but “our Father” as well. We are all God’s children, and those who believe in and follow Jesus acknowledge that they are included in that intimate father/child relationship. What’s more, it is implied that Jesus is not only our LORD (of which he certainly is), but also our brother.

The first half of the prayer deals with God and God’s will for this world. The people praying this prayer are, then, aligning themselves with God’s will, which is to bring heaven to earth and establish God’s Kingdom here. The second half of the prayer deals with us, and the way in which God’s Kingdom will be realized. “Daily bread” is a reference to “manna” which was provided to the Israelites during the Exodus. It is a reminder that in order to share in God’s future blessings when God’s Kingdom comes, we must trust that God provides for us in the here and now.

The prayer reinforces that to receive God’s forgiveness in the Kingdom to come, we are to be a people who forgive. This forgiveness, by the way, does not just refer to the forgiveness of sins, or forgiveness on a spiritual level. Jesus very intentionally utilizes “debt forgiveness” as a way of showing the expansiveness of God’s forgiveness. A debt can be rightly seen as metaphorical for sins, but it also points the Christian to God’s future Kingdom, where poverty, oppression, and social-economic injustice cease to be. This prayer is designed to realign the hearts of the people praying it with the heart of God. Forgive us what we owe you God (and let’s face it, we owe God EVERYTHING), just as we forgive others what they owe us. That includes sins, money, favors, allegiance, and anything that could be considered a debt.

The prayer then also acknowledges that EVIL exists, and that we are often tempted to join in with evil rather than resist it. Let’s face it, it’s much easier to maintain the status quo than to risk our livelihoods, our jobs, our families, and our lives to stand up for what is right; yet, in God’s kingdom the status quo will be overturned and replaced with God’s righteousness and justice. While the closing words of the prayer were not originally in Jesus’ prayer, they are biblical (1 Chronicles 29:11) and appropriately remind us that we are to LIVE FOR GOD and that GOD does not LIVE FOR US. It appropriately reminds us that we are to be converted to God’s will, and give up on trying to bend God to our will. In essence, it concludes where the prayer started off. In other words, our prayer life should center on God and God’s will for us. Our prayer life should also translate into how we live our lives and serve our God. This is the model Christ gave to us, and we are challenged and charged to follow it.

“Humble prayer to our Heavenly Father, in deep faith in Jesus Christ, is essential to qualify us for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.” – Henry B. Eyring

Silently, pray “The Lord’s Prayer” as often as you feel called to pray it.