“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,”
Biblical prayer involves confession and compassion. Though we have been forgiven of our sins, we are still to ask for forgiveness of particular sins so that our consciences may be cleansed. Also, in the same way that we seek and receive compassion from God, we should be extending compassion to those who sin against us.
Confession is not a sweeping apology that makes us feel better on the outside while making no impact on our hearts. We must be specific as we pray this prayer throughout the day, making the petition personal. This allows the Holy Spirit to bring areas of sinfulness to mind that are hindering our relationship with God and with others.
It is impossible to maintain a spirit-empowers life without a consistent pattern of daily confession and repentance. For confession to be genuine, it must be thorough. The psalmist says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24). This implies thoroughness. So many times we ask Him to search our hearts and then give Him about 10 seconds to do it.
We must also confess all sin specifically. It is not enough to confess sins in generality. We are to specify which sins we are guilty of and ask for forgiveness. These could be sins of thought or attitude, sins of speech, sins in our relationships, sins of omission (not doing what you should do), or sins commission (doing what you should not do). Wherever we fall short of God commands, we must confess it specifically.
Verse 14 also tells us that the proof of our sins be forgiven will be in our forgiveness of others. If we think that our sins are forgiven by God and we refuse to forgive somebody else, we are making a mistake, we have never been forgiven.
Martyn Lloyd Jones has said, “The man who knows he has been forgiven, only in and through the shed blood of Christ, is a man who must forgive others. He cannot help himself, If we really know Christ as our savior and Lord our hearts are broken and cannot be hard, and we cannot refuse forgiveness. If you are refusing forgiveness to anybody, I suggest that you have never been forgiven. True forgiveness breaks a man.”
As we ask for God’s forgiveness and forgive others, we can look to the ultimate example of this compassion. When Christ was on the cross, making atonement for our sins, He was asking God the Father to forgive the very ones who were carrying out His execution. Though Christ did not need to be forgiven as he had never sinned, he was receiving the punishment that we deserved so that we might be forgiven. Even in the midst of this, He was seeking God’s compassion for others. This is our model.