It’s just a little word, the word “as”, but everything hangs on this small word in our petition to the Father. When Jesus directs us to pray “as we forgive…” He indicates a comparison between the way we forgive and the way our Father forgives us. Jesus draws a connection, a link, between our forgiving those who have wronged us, and our Father forgiving us. When we pray this petition, we are actually asking Father to treat us as we treat others.
Forgiveness is at the very heart of the Gospel we believe and proclaim! Because we have been so freely and extravagantly forgiven by our Father, so we are able to forgive others in turn. The apostle Paul picks up on the little word “as” in his exhortation to Ephesian Christians: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, AS God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). Nothing can so inspire us to forgive as our beginning to grasp how much God has forgiven us.
Having served in pastoral ministry for more than 40 years, I have sadly watched people wounded in ways David Seamonds describes in his book, God’s Healing for Damaged Emotions:
“Many years ago, I was driven to the conclusion that the two major causes of most emotional problems among Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness; and the failure to give out that unconditional love, forgiveness and grace to other people…We read, we hear, we believe a good theology of grace. But that’s not the way we live.”
We saw earlier that the Greek word translated in this petition as “forgive” is a word meaning “to let go”, “to send away”, and “to release”. When we choose to forgive the one who has sinned against us, we are releasing, letting go that person to God’s wise and loving hands. We let go to God any right we might have imagined to get even. “When we genuinely forgive, we set the prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner set free is us.” (Lewis Smedes, The Art of Forgiving)
As we pray this prayer, we fix our eyes on Jesus, who prayed forgiveness for His unrepentant tormentors. Just as Jesus let go, releasing them to the Father, so we forgive, releasing those who have sinned against us. In doing this we set ourselves free, praying, “And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”
PRAY THE LORD’S PRAYER (MORNING-NOON-NIGHT)