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“AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS” | Deeper Study With Annie Tibbs


“Seeking His Forgiveness”

“And forgive us our debts.”

The second petition in the Lord’s Prayer which deals with our human dilemma

is, “And forgive us our debts.” The first three requests relate to the role of God

as our Father. The last four focus on our very human needs as God’s children.

Of these seven, the matter of forgiveness assumes such enormous importance

that it reemphasize and develop in depth.

The thoughts and concepts held in the Master’s mind when He said, “Forgive

us our debts, were much wider than this simple petition implies. Evidence of

this can be found in the various ways this has been rendered in different

translations. Here are some examples:

“Forgive us our trespasses (Knox)

“Forgive us our shortcomings” (Plymouth).

“Forgive us what we owe to you” (Phillips).

“Forgive us our sins” (TB)

“Forgive us our resentments” (Amplified).

“Forgive us the wrong we have done” (NEB).

If we sincerely pray, “Forgive us our debts, ‘”or,”Forgive us our trespasses,”

then we are openly and candidly admitting ourselves to be guilty of


Now this really does not come home to many of us who repeat

these five simple words. Thousands of dear people who recite the Lord’s

Prayer do not see themselves really as debtors, trespassers, sinners, or

offenders. They do not consider themselves actually guilty before God.

And, of course, it follows, does it not, that it is not until one feels convicted of

wrongdoing that there is any sense of need for forgiveness? The irony of it all

is that uncounted people do feel quite innocent. Consequently this petition,

instead of being a genuine desire rising from a penitent heart, is often little

more than an empty repetition of words by a self-satisfied soul.

All of which leads to the second very searching concept. Do I indeed come to

my heavenly Father as one who feels indebted to Him? Do I sense in some

deep instinctive way that I have trespassed on His love and generosity? Am I

acutely conscious of wrongdoing, of wrong attitudes, of wrong motives?

Unless I am, then obviously this prayer is not only pointless but absurd.

Yet none of this nullifies the fact that we should come to our Father keenly

sensitive to sin and selfishness in our lives. The very recognition and

admission that we are debtors, and trespassers produces within the human heart

a genuine humility that opens our whole being to the presence and Person of

God Himself.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in

spirit. (PS. 34:18)

Perhaps the next point it is well to remind ourselves of, is that our petitions are

not likely to be answered if we come in an attitude of arrogance and pride. (J


No doubt the thought held uppermost in Christ’s mind when He taught this

prayer was that of a human heart coming humbly to seek restoration from a

forgiving Father. After all, He Himself made it abundantly clear to us that

God’s attitude toward anyone who sought forgiveness was one of immediate

reconciliation. God our Father never holds anyone at arm’s length who shows

the slightest inclination to turn toward Him in honest and open need of


Now, it may very well be asked, “But what if I don’t feel I have done wrong?

What if I don’t feel in need of forgiveness? What if I don’t sense my


The only possible answer which can be given is that such a soul has never yet

had a personal encounter with the living Christ. That one has never yet sensed

the overwhelming love and concern of God for him as a Father for His child.

It is when we stand alone, quietly, earnestly contemplating the cost to God of

our forgiveness made possible by the cross, that there floods over us our deep

debt of love to Him. The cross stands central in our Father’s magnanimous

scheme for the forgiveness of all men of all time. Someone, somewhere

always must pay the penalty for misconduct. He Himself undertook, at

Calvary, to bear that cost, to absorb the penalty, to pay the enormous price for

our sin.

The outstanding, eternal debt which all men of all time owe their heavenly

Father is a debt of gratitude and of love for the price paid for our forgiveness.

The cost of that forgiveness was Calvary. No man, no woman, who

contemplate this expression of our Father’s love and concern for us can help

but feel a deep sense of unworthiness.

It is no wonder, then, that Christ should include this request for forgiveness in

His prayer, It is the key which unlocks the door where by we enter a rich and

wondrous relationship to God our Father.

So when Christ taught His disciples this prayer, this petition was included to

cover and deal with this deep need in the human heart that deep down they

know something is wrong, something is missing, but what? As long as we

sense in anyway that sin or wrongdoing stands between us and God or that sin

or wrongdoing stands between us and God or between us and others, we feel

estranged and apart.

“Forgive us our debts” may well be the four most important words that ever

cross our lips, provided we really mean them. Any man, any woman, who

comes to our Father in heaven with a genuine, heartfelt attitude of contrition is

bound to find forgiveness. There will fall from the shoulders the old burden of

guilt, and, in its place, there will be wrapped around our hearts a radiant sense

of warmth, affection, love, and acceptance. “You are forgiven. You are Mine.

You do belong. You are home!”

“As we forgive our debtors”

In all of our Lord’s Prayer, by far the difficult phrase is, “As we forgive our

debtors.” It Is not easy for us either to understand or to apply in a practical

way to our daily living.

It is probably safe to say that the overwhelming majority of men and women

who repeat this prayer have not forgiven others. They have not written off the

debts. They do not have a clear conscience. A backlog of lingering ill will,

hostilities, resentments, and animosities beclouds their relationship with

others. They are still demanding restitution. They still insist on getting their

pound of flesh.

How can we come and in good conscience ask our Father in heaven to forgive

us, when we have failed to forgive others? It cannot be done except very

hypocritically. God sees right through this sort of sham.

Our Lord was always emphasizing the fact that our inner attitudes were more

important than our outward actions. It was His assertion that our Father in

heaven knew our attitudes and rated them far above outward appearance.

Beneath all our difficulties in forgiving others lies the formidable foundational

fact of human pride. The iron-like resistance of our egos, the great, central I,

which stands like a huge, steel beam at the very core of our makeup refuses to

budge, or bend, or be broken. We insist on our rights; we defend ourselves; we

lay claim to our privileges; we hold fast to our positions. Mine, me, and I stand

guard, jealously protecting our personal self-esteem and our proud reputation.

How can we get over this? What can change these inner attitudes that are so

damaging, both to ourselves and others?

The answer lies again in coming to Christ and seeing something of what He

endured for us at Calvary. Calvary stands eternally as God’s demonstration to

us of total selflessness. It towers above time as the supreme act of self-denial

in a world that is largely selfish and self-indulgent.

It was no small thing that our Lord, who was God in human form, should be

willing to humble Himself, make Himself of no reputation, take upon His

innocent Person our wrongs, pride, and perverseness. All of this He did

without murmuring or complaining.

This is the exact opposite of our usual behavior. It is the difference between

God’s conduct and man’s conduct. It is love in action as opposed to selfishness

in attitude.

It is no wonder, then, that Paul should write to the Christians at Ephesus, “Be

ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God , for

Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph 4:32

Our Master put it like this: “If your brother wrongs you, go and have it out with

him at once – just between the two of you. If he will listen to you, you have

won him back as your brother (Mt 18:15)

It is in the bright light of understanding something of God’s kindness that we in

turn are able to extend genuine forgiveness and kindness to others. We are

made willing to accept others as they are just as we desire our Father in heaven

to accept us with all our weaknesses. The marvelous thing ,is He does. And

wonder of wonders, we begin to discover that we too can accept and forgive

others with all their faults.

This is to find rest from our own restlessness. It is to be set free from our fault-

finding. It is to know a quietness of spirit not readily aroused by those who

trespass against us. However, if we have truly expressed God’s forgiveness,

then we will have a readiness to forgive others.

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