Originally published:  5/8/2018  Updated:  7/11/2019

In Matthew 6: 9-13 “The Lord’s Prayer” we learn a powerful lesson in forgiveness.

Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV)

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Important definitions

The 12th verse says forgive us as we forgive others.  We do not have a right to ask God for the forgiveness of debts unless we have forgiven those who are indebted to us.  Let’s look at the definition of the two keywords “forgive” and “debt”.  To forgive means to grant relief from payment or to give up resentment or claim to reimbursement; to pardon. It means that you no longer hold an individual or persons responsible for something that you are legitimately owed.  

Debt is a state of being under obligation to pay someone or something in return for something received.  It is a state of owing, usually associated with money, but it could be something else. When the debt does relate to money or goods that an individual promised to repay, what do you do when they prove that they are absolutely unable to repay?  Of course, you forgive the debt.  How can you ask God to forgive your debt to others when you are holding a debt against someone who cannot repay you?

What should our attitude be towards each other?

Ephesians 4: 32   And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Even as God has forgiven us, He requires that we forgive one another.  This is not a suggestion, it is a requirement of God for His Saints.

Forgiveness:  easier said than done?

Some may say that forgiveness is easier said than done.  How do you know that you have truly forgiven a person?  People often speak of forgiving and forgetting, but how does one do that?

The secret to forgiving and forgetting

Someone might say, “I have a strong mind and I will be lying if I say that I forgot a thing when I haven’t”.  Here’s how you do it.  You simply no longer speak of it or allow it to come up in your spirit.  If it tries to come to your memory you stomp it down.  No!  I forgave that just as my Heavenly Father forgave me of so many things.  Since He does not pull my sin out of the trash barrel periodically, in the same manner, I will not let my mind (or the devil) drag some situation out of the trash barrel when I have forgiven a person.

Forgiveness:  its as though the offense never occurred

It is an act of my will that I have forgiven, so that situation is as good as dead.  It’s as though it never happened.  Eventually, your memory will realize that you mean business about forgiveness and the situation will stop trying to re-surface.  By the way, this forgiving is done, even if the person involved never asks for forgiveness.

A synonym for debt is trespass

A synonym for the word debt, as used in our passage, is trespass.  Immediately following the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6: 14-15, we find an expansion of the word debt to include trespass.

14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you 

15 But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

What does it mean to trespass?

The word trespass means to go beyond a boundary or limit; to cross a line.  It is the breaking of a moral or legal code.  Someone might say, “You crossed the line of human decency when you flirted with my husband, but, I forgive you.”  “Wife, I know that you have repented of your infidelity to both God and to me.  You betrayed my trust in you and you broke my heart.  But, I forgive you”.  “You and I can get through this together.”  “Friend, you really hurt my feelings when you told my personal business to your other friend. That was not right, but I forgive you”.

Further clarity from the Book of Luke

For even further clarity, let us look at the Lord’s Prayer according to the Gospel of Luke 11:2-4.  Interestingly enough, verse 4 is the companion verse to verse 12 in Matthew 6.

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. 

According to Luke, even if we expect God to forgive our sins, we should be willing to forgive anyone who is indebted to us.  (It is interesting that Luke used the word “sin”  rather than “debts”.  Whether this “indebtedness” that he uses also includes “pecuniary” or “money matters” is not clear, but  I’m certain that God would have no difficulty in making it clear to you if you ask Him.)  In order for us to receive forgiveness from God, forgiveness must be given to others.  That is the bottom line.

Want God to cancel debts?  Read on.

Some of you may be asking God to cancel or pay your debts to others because you are simply unable to repay.  The debt may be legitimate, large and a heavy burden.  Yet, in spite of your prayers, your tears, and your faith, nothing has changed.  Others of you may be crying out for forgiveness for some wrong that you have committed.  God is saying to you that you must first forgive those who have offended you, hurt your feelings, done you wrong or otherwise sinned against you.  If you want forgiveness of your debts, your sins or your trespasses, forgive others.  That forgiveness includes those who owe you money and cannot repay; those who insulted you; or even killed your cat.  Forgive them.  You are not to feed them out of a long-handled spoon, avoid them or talk about the offense to others ever again.

Forgiveness is a key to God’s favor

Forgive those who offended you and God will take care of your needs, bring peace where there once was hostility, and overcome the evil effect of sin in your life as well as the life of your debtor.  Forgive. It’s a powerful weapon.


    1. Thank you Stephanie. I’m going to take a look at the other side of the story in my next post. There is a responsibility for the debtor who was forgiven as well. As we say, there are two sides to every story.

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