The Disciples’ Prayer
“If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (v. 14). Matthew 6:9–15
After Jesus tells us not to pray like the hypocrites, He teaches us how to commune with God properly. This passage contains what is traditionally called the Lord’s Prayer, though this title is bit of a misnomer. Properly speaking, our Savior cannot pray this prayer in the same way we can because He has no need of forgiveness (Matt. 6:12; 1 Peter 2:22). The Disciples’ Prayer is probably a more accurate title, commentators note, since Christ’s followers pray it. In any case, these words from our Lord are among the most beloved sections of Scripture, and our study can offer only the barest glimpse of their meaning.
First, it is significant that Jesus teaches us to pray our Father, not my Father (v. 9). This prayer is meant to be prayed corporately; Christian piety is not an individualistic affair. If God is our Father, then all followers of Christ are our siblings. We come together as a family, especially on the Lord’s Day, to call on His name, learn His will, and offer thanks for His salvation. The privilege of addressing God as Father is available only to those who serve Jesus (John 1:12–13) and helps us understand our Creator’s loving care for us. This love is a holy love that is willing to discipline us for our own purity (Heb. 12:3–11).
Second, as we pray for God’s will to be done and His name to be hallowed (Matt. 6:9–10), we know that we are to be agents through whom He accomplishes this request. His will includes forgiveness, and only those who forgive can pray this prayer sincerely. Only an arrogant person asks God to do for him that which he refuses to do for others, and our Father will not pardon the unforgiving person (vv. 14–15). By no means, however, do we merit God’s forgiveness. He who forgives knows his own wickedness and sees that he is no better than anyone else. He cannot hold a grudge against other sinners since the holy Creator has forgiven him, a sinner. An unforgiving person has not really seen himself as a transgressor undeserving of God’s love and in need of forgiveness. Not having truly repented, he does not really know the Lord’s pardon and is unable to forgive other sinners. Matthew Henry comments, “He who relents toward his brother thus shows that he repents toward his God.”
Lack of forgiveness, we learn in this passage, may prove a lack of faith. No matter how hard it may be to forgive others, we simply cannot call ourselves followers of Christ if we do not forgive those who have offended us. Few of us find it easy to pardon those who have hurt us, but pardon them we must. Are you nursing a grudge or thoughts of revenge against another person this day? If so, you have not forgiven him. Go and forgive him today.
Passages for Further Study
- Psalm 103:13
- Isaiah 29:22–24
- Matthew 18:21–35
- Luke 11:1–4