Matthew 6:9-15 (NIV)
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:9-15(NIV)
In Matthew 5 and the first part of Matthew 6, Jesus has just talked to the people about sins against others: murder, adultery, divorce, promises, vengeance, loving our enemies and giving to the poor. Jesus is attempting to teach his disciples about their relationships to their ‘neighbors’.
After these instructions, the disciples ask how they are to pray. So Jesus gave them a model to use in their prayers.
In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus gives us a model for prayer.
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.Matthew 6:9-13(NIV)
First, Jesus tells us to honor God, Our Heavenly Father for who he is, what he has done, and will do. He is talking about our relationship with God. In Christ’s ministry, He taught that the Greatest Commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37(NIV))
Second, Jesus is addressing the second greatest commandment. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39(NIV)) Just as God loved us enough to forgive our sins, we must also love our neighbor enough to forgive them of their sins against us.
It should also be noted that in the model prayer, the act of forgiving our neighbor is in the past tense. It is not something that needs to happen in the future but rather something that has already taken place prior to praying. We cannot properly worship God if we have not forgiven our neighbor.
Just prior to Jesus giving the disciples the model prayer, Jesus was talking about forgiving others, which is an act of worship, he said:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24(NIV)
Immediately after giving the model prayer, in verse 14 and 15, Jesus emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. It needs to be noted that in these verses when Jesus is talking about forgiveness, he is talking about the forgiveness of the sins (debts) between us and other people. If we want God to answer our prayer, we need to forgive others.
Jesus goes on to say that if you don’t forgive others, God will not forgive your sin. In other words, He will not hear our prayer if we have not forgiven others. We cannot expect God to forgive our sins if we are unable to forgive others of their sin against us. We cannot demonstrate our love for others until we can forgive others.
In the model prayer, we are asking God to forgive us just as we have already forgiven others. In other words, if we haven’t forgiven others, we are asking that God not forgive us. When we continue to live in sin, our relationship with God is weakened.
God also knows that we are going to be tempted not to forgive others. Therefore in the model prayer, Jesus says that we are to ask for God’s help in protecting us from those situations that cause sin; those situations where Satan would interfere with our relationship with God.
The model prayer was not given to everyone, it was given to the disciples and, followers of Jesus. It was given because the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Because they were followers they already had a relationship with God, the reference about forgiveness is not talking about a prayer of salvation but a prayer of a believer or person that is already a follower of Christ. In other words, this prayer is not about losing one’s salvation if they don’t forgive others. But rather it is a prayer about maintaining a closer relationship with God by forgiving others.
The Lord’s prayer takes us in a complete circle. The goal is to have a relationship with God. For us to have a relationship with God, we must (1) worship him. For us to worship God, we must first (2) forgive others. Because we have difficulty forgiving others, we must (3) trust God to keep us from sin. When he keeps us free from sin, we are free to worship him.
Note: All scriptures used in this article have been downloaded from http://www.biblegateway.com/?version=NIV unless otherwise noted.