Noticeably this petition begins with “And”, serving to connect it to our prayer for daily bread. The “And” reminds us that just as we daily need bread to survive, so we daily need forgiveness from our Father. So every day we pray, “Give us…and…forgive us.” Daily life requires both bread and forgiveness.
Some of us pray for forgiveness of “trespasses”, some for forgiveness of “debts”, and some for forgiveness of “sins”. Which is it? Anyone one of these works. In Matthew’s recording of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches the word “debts” (Matthew 6:12), and a few verses later (Matthew 6:14) talks about forgiveness of “trespasses”. Luke’s recording of the Lord’s Prayer has the word “sins”, so that whether we use “debts”, “trespasses”, or “sins”, we are using Jesus’ language with different nuance. For instance, the word “debts” (Greek: opheilema) acknowledges that we owe something to God that we cannot pay back. “Trespasses” (Greek: paraptoma) indicates that we are lawbreakers and violators of God’s command. “Sins” speaks of our missing the mark or goal of God’s purpose for our lives.
Christians of the Reformed tradition tend to pray “debts” and “debtors”, based upon John Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible in 1395. Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists and Anglicans tend to pray “trespasses” and “those who trespass”, based on the 1526 translation of Scripture by William Tyndale. Recent non-denominational movements tend to pray forgiveness for “sins”. Whether we ask our Father forgiveness for “debts”, “trespasses”, or “sins”, we are acknowledging to Him that: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.” (Book of Common Prayer)
Daily asking Father for forgiveness, no matter which translation we use, is as important as daily asking for bread, because, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Happily, Scripture speaks of God’s free and full forgiveness of all our sins: “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25). And it is all because of Jesus that we are forgiven: Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). God wants our sins gone! So, we are bold to pray: “And forgive us our sins.”
PRAY THE LORD’S PRAYER (MORNING-NOON-NIGHT)