As we forgive our debtors . . . Matthew 6:12
The first three requests in the model prayer are all Godward. They involve God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. In the rest of the prayer, we are instructed to pray about our concerns. First is daily bread, and then comes the matter of our sins—“forgive us our debts.” On the heels of vertical forgiveness is our responsibility to forgive men of their trespasses against us. God’s forgiveness includes the command to us to forgive others. The model prayer is emphatic: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). Having forgiven us for our offenses, God expects us to forgive our offenders. Heaven’s pardon demands and enables our pardoning of others on Earth.
Our relationship with God affects our relationship with men. And our relationship with men impacts our relationship with God. Hence, the forgiveness protocol.
To forgive is to release a debt. It is giving up our right to hurt our offenders for hurting us. It is letting go of the right for revenge. The act of forgiving others is strictly between us and God. It does not require the involvement or consent of our offenders. Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a choice. Forgiveness is not an emotion; it is a decision to release our offenders from their debts. Forgiveness is something we work out with God in the secret place of prayer.
Reconciliation is a different matter. Once we are clear in our spirits with God, then we must choose how we will relate to our offenders. Reconciliation is impossible apart from their owning their actions and putting things right. Forgiveness is not pretending that no offense was committed against us. We are under no obligation to maintain a close relationship or conduct business with an untrustworthy individual or business entity. The only way to deal with shady characters is to walk away from them (I’m speaking here about voluntary relationships). People who are dishonest cannot be trusted. So until they repent, we are not duty bound to maintain a working relationship with them. Have we forgiven? Yes. Do we need to open ourselves to more abuse? No!
To forgive another requires suffering. To secure our forgiveness, Jesus had to suffer on our behalf. He absorbed our liabilities and sacrificed Himself to die in our place. Sin always involves suffering. The wages of sin are death, which means separation from God. At Calvary, Christ was separated from His Father when He bore the judgment for our transgressions. The sin of mankind was judged in the person of Christ.
In order to forgive people, we must bear the loss. We surrender our right of retribution and place it squarely in the hands of God: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). Forgiveness is handing our legal cases over to the judge of the universe. It becomes God’s responsibility to deal with our offenders. Once we forgive, we no longer expect anything from the person who has offended us. The Lord takes up our cases and resolves them in His way and timing. He does not need our input on how to settle it. As far as we are concerned, it is completely out of our hands, because we have released that debt.
Forgiveness is an essential protocol for prayer, because we need freedom in our spirits to speak with God. Unforgiveness binds up our spirits. Internal resentment makes us incapable of prayer. When we are bothered and burdened over the injustices inflicted upon us, we are incapable of dialogue with God. The static and noise in our souls make us incapable of meaningful prayer. Unforgiveness also robs us of the capacity to worship. It further steals our joy and desire to witness. Why? Because it grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit, who is the author of all true prayer. But releasing our debts allows the Spirit of God to fill us with His marvelous fruit, which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22–23).
Forgiveness is releasing our offenders from debtors’ prison (see Matt. 18:21–35). We drop all the charges and allow the Lord to deal with them. We deliver the entire matter into His capable hands. As we forgive others, God restores our fellowship with Him. When we release another from debtors’ prison, God releases us from our self-imposed prisons. Setting another free sets us free. The Scripture teaches that the Lord treats us according to how we treat others. What we do for others, God will do for us: “Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord” (Eph. 6:8).
There is freedom in forgiveness. This is why the Bible instructs us, “Be ye . . . tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).
The importance of forgiveness cannot be overstated. It is one of the required keys to entering heaven’s throne room. It liberates our souls. It allows God’s Spirit to bear witness with our spirits and lead us in the way we ought to pray.
- Our relationship with God affects our relationship with men, and our relationship with men affects our relationship with God.
- Forgiveness is giving up our right to hurt another for hurting us.
- Forgiveness is not an emotion; it is a decision. Forgiveness is not a feeling but a choice to release our offenders from the debts we are holding against them.
- Bitterness brings bondage. It so binds up our souls that we cannot pray, worship, or witness.
- Have you forsaken your right of revenge? Are you willing to give up the right to hurt others for hurting you? Tell the Lord about it now.
- Realize that emotions and feelings are irrelevant in the matter of forgiveness. Disregard your feelings, and obey God.
- Are there individuals you need to forgive? Forgiveness is a judicial act between you and God. Pray out loud, “Lord, I’ve been hurt and angry, but I choose to forgive (name) for what he did. It’s out of my hands. I will no longer seek vengeance. It’s between You and him. I release the debt I’ve been holding against (name). I choose to forgive (name). Thank You for restoring peace in my spirit. Amen.”
- Your future and your freedom in Christ are dependent upon habitual forgiveness. Purpose in your heart to live a lifestyle of forgiveness.
Taken from “Approaching God‘s Throne: Biblical Protocols for Prayer”. CLICK HERE to order your copy TODAY!