Martin Luther divided much of the Lord’s Prayer into an introduction, 7 petitions and the conclusion. Today we are dealing with petitions 5, 6 and 7.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us:
The word ‘trespasses’ has been translated into debts, sins, and offences. If we put them together they give us a picture of the complexity of the word. We owe God, our sins make us His debtor, we offend against God’s laws, we fail God in so many ways each day however hard we try not to fall short of the perfection shown to us in Jesus. We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven will not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. In (Matthew 6:14-15) Jesus said,
“For if you forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will also forgive you your offences. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your offences.”
This condition for our forgiveness is the part that I find the most difficult part of the prayer. To forgive others who offend me in whatever way can be very demanding and I have to ask God for help there. When I hear of the atrocities committed by terrorists, paedophiles, murderers and abusers I have to remind myself constantly that it is not for me to judge but to try to understand and leave the judgement to God. We can be equally guilty; Jesus taught us that it is not just the action that is a sin but the thoughts and feelings. The only account of Jesus losing his temper and dealing aggressively with others was at the Temple where dealers were preventing Gentiles from reaching God in His Temple. Their space for worship was being misused by people trading fraudulently in the very place where they believed they could be closest to God When I am angry with, or because of, others my anger is as bad as the action in my thoughts. We can be equally unworthy of the things for which we pray, but we still ask Him to grant them to us by grace, and we too must try to forgive gladly.
God demands that we act like Him by forgiving those who have offended us. He knows that forgiveness liberates the wounded heart and removes the poison that endangers it. In that process we experience the depth of God’s love and mercy. When we forgive we also reveal God’s love to others.
He gave us His unconditional love in the person of Jesus Christ, even when we were His enemies. Amazingly, at the very moment when all our infidelities, neglect, hatred and ingratitude nailed Jesus to the cross, he loves and he forgives.
Forgiveness is very hard, especially when we feel deeply hurt and betrayed. Yet, it is essential that we forgive from our hearts because forgiveness is woven into the very fabric of our relationship with our loving God.
And lead us not into temptation:
this is sometimes translated as ‘do not bring us to the time of trial’
God tempts no one. In James 1:13 – 16 we read
No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. 16Do not be deceived, my beloved.
The book of Job tells of temptations to curse God being heaped on one previously fortunate and also very faithful man. The story tells us that it is not God who tempts Job, but Satan. God allows Satan freedom to destroy Job’s fortune and health; but knows that Job’s faith will be strong enough to survive such tremendous trials.
We pray in that God will give us a strong enough faith to resist all temptation. Although we are daily attacked by false beliefs, despair, and other wrongdoings, we can pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory for Jesus.
But deliver us from evil: the final petition of the prayer
We pray in this petition, that our Father in heaven will rescue us from every evil of body and soul, and, when our last hour comes, graciously take us from the valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven. When we say “but deliver us from evil,” we pray that God will always protect us from harm, and especially from harm to our souls.
In John 17:15 Jesus said
“I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.”
We need the strength of the Holy Spirit in order to turn away from our inclination to follow false leaders and wrong paths that will take us away from God. We can’t do it on our own. It is by the Grace of God shown to us through Jesus, witnessed to us through the centuries by countless Christians, backed up by the teaching of the church and the scriptures that we can petition God in this way to guide us on our Christian journey avoiding the many pitfalls of human life. When we fall short we can be confident in faith that we are forgiven as we turn back to God in prayer. Amen