Blog Entry
The Lord's Prayer

The Fifth Petition

May 30, 2018

The German’s tell a story about a father and son who had become estranged.  The son had stolen from his father’s silver… and ran off. The father, in anger set off to find him.  He searched for months.  But during the search… the father began to contemplate an old German saying, “An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  The father came to the notion that He was to blame in part for His son’s theft.  He too had stolen from others, and set a bad example.  His anger cooled, and his love for his son won over him.  So, the father put up notices in all the neighboring villages.  They read: “Dear Hans, meet me our village square at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you, and I want you home, Your Father.”  On Saturday, 20 sons named Hans showed up in that village square all seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers. 

We are all that father and son. We all carry the guilt of sin past and present.  That sin destroys our lives.  If we are going to find healing and restoration we need both to be forgiven as well as to forgive.  And so Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

Jesus told us to be bold in prayer.  So far we have learned how bold we are when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. We call our Creator/All Powerful God and Judge, “Our Heavenly Father” and ask that we be turned into His dear and true children.  We call Him Holy… and pray to be holy ourselves… perfect in ever thought, word and deed.  We’ve asked to belong to His Kingdom… even though citizenship there requires we be willing to live without any falsehood or wrong-doing.  We’ve asked for His will to be done, even though this demands we drastic changes in our lives, turning our backs on all evil, living according to God’s Word.  We’ve asked for our daily bread, even that bread requires we serve Him 24/7.

But, there is no request more audacious, or bold as the fifth petition. We actually go to God, after all that we have done to hurt Him, after all the times we have ignored Him, after all the occasions on which we have rebelled against Him, and say, “Heavenly Father, I would like for you to cancel all of it.  We pray, “Cancel the debt I owe you.”

We’ve learned the word “Trespass” in the form of the Lord’s Prayer we pray.  We often associate that with wandering onto someone else’s property.  But this isn’t exactly what we pray.  What we are really asking is for God to cancel our debt of sin.  And what we promise is to cancel the debts of others.  It’s as if God is the owner of the only spiritual bank in the world.  Every soul born into this world has an account in this bank.  With every sin we commit our debt to this Bank grows.  What we now owe is astronomical.  It’s a debt so incredibly large we cannot pay it back.

But we try!  We go to the owner of the bank and try to make deals with Him.  We say,“I’ll be good from now on!”  That’s a common offer.  But, really, how many loaning institutions would cancel your mortgage if you said, “I promise I won’t borrow any more money if you just cancel my debt?  From now on… I’ll will no longer be a debtor… but a gracious lender!

Another common offer made to this bank is one of comparison.  “I’m not as bad as other people.”  Again, what financial institution is going to cancel your car loan just because you borrowed $10,000 and someone else borrowed $20,000.  

Neither will ignoring debt.  That’s another popular way to deal with our sins against God.  Just ignore them.  People do this with their financial debt all the time.  They get themselves in such deep debt that they just pretend they don’t exist.  It is too difficult to face, so they don’t.  This doesn’t work with financial debt and it doesn’t work with spiritual debt either.  We can ignore our debt to God, but He isn’t going to lose the paperwork on us.  And He always follows the terms of the contract.  In this case, Ezekiel 18:4 spells out the terms of the contract for us, “The soul who sins is the soul that dies.”

That sounds tough.  That doesn’t sound like love.  God wouldn’t punish debtors, would he?  Would you?  If you saw a child of yours breaking the rules around the house, or in the neighborhood.  Would you say anything?  If those rules were hurting, or risking the lives of others would it matter to you?  What if that child wouldn’t stop, and you found knives and guns in his bedroom?  What then?

When it comes to our money we don’t want our bank to go bankrupt.  When it comes to our own well-being, our peace and “justice for evil”, we want justice.  Now, can you begin to see why the Fifth Petition is such a bold prayer?  And how praying it can change our relationship with God and others?  

When we say, “Forgive us our sins,” we are walking into the office of the CEO of the only spiritual bank in the world.  We know how great the debt is that we owe Him.  We cannot deny it.  We cannot repay it.  We can only get on our knees and beg Him to cancel it.  

Now picture yourself there.  You’re on your knees… trembling.  If he doesn’t cancel your debt you’ll lose everything.  And so He says, “Wait here.”  He walks out of the office.  He soon returns.  But He is not alone.  Next to Him stands a thin, weathered man covered in blood with a crown of thorns on His head.  As you stare at Him, you cannot help but notice the scars on His hands.  “This is my Son, Jesus.” He says.  “He has paid your debt in full. You are free to go.”  You ask. “What have I done to deserve this?”  “Nothing,” is the reply from the thin, weathered man covered in blood with a crown of thorns on His head. “I paid your debt out of love for you.”  “How can I ever repay you?” You instinctively inquire.  “You can’t. You could never repay me.” He says.  He goes on… “But, you can thank me. You can thank me by canceling the debts that others owe you.”  And here we have one of the most difficult of God’s commands to obey.  Yet, it is a command that, if we obey it, brings the greatest answer you will ever get to any prayer. Your freedom will overflow into the life of another.  That’s right… You will pay forward what was paid forward to you!  And everything that is wrong in your life will begin to become right!

The devil and evil want you to believe otherwise.  They tell you to hold on to anger.  We have a right to it.  We have a right to it because of the wrong done to us!  And, if we don’t hold the sins of others against them, well, others will take advantage of us! But, as always the devil is a liar.  And evil’s purpose is to take you under.  When we fail to forgive we cannot be happy.  That’s because we are too busy being bitter.

I once had a neighbor that didn’t like me very much because I built a house on the neighboring property.  Her father once owned the land but had to sell it because of poverty.  I guess there was a verbal agreement that the land would return to my neighbor if he ever decided to sell.  Well, he did and she couldn’t afford it.  So, I bought it, and became the object of my neighbor’s resentment.  One day a storm came along.  The neighbor’s tree fell across the line fence that divides our property.  She was gone at the time.  So, I called the county officials who told me I could cut up the tree limbs that were on my side of the fence. So, I did, neatly piling the wood near the fence.  And then I fixed the fence.  When my neighbor came home she chewed me out for cutting the tree and fixing the fence.  In her anger, she used inappropriate language.  My kids were present… and heard them.  To this day my kids bring up that story whenever we see fallen trees due to storms and such.

We have come to realize fallen trees can make people “upset” and do things they shouldn’t.  Bitterness is never kind… and makes people to ugly things.  What fallen trees have crossed your fences?  Is there resentment and bitterness?  Our failure to forgive makes little sense when we know of God’s mercy.

We must look to our Lord Jesus.  The forgiveness we see in His eyes makes our eyes see things differently.  We are filled with the forgiveness He has poured out on us.  Only our Lord Jesus, and the forgiveness He has given, could move US to forgive the sins others have committed against us.

So, we are going to just the right person when we pray boldly and confidently, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Amen

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