Every weekday morning, I drive my boys to daycare and to school. On our way, we always pray the Lord's prayer out loud together. Of the prayer, no part consistently arrests me more than "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Hidden in the heart of the prayer of Jesus, is a phrase that, if prayed sincerely, keeps you locked into the flow of life through the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
When we pray "forgive us our trespasses," it has a few effects on us:
A) It makes us take into account our own failures, flaws and shortfalls. It causes us to take inventory of our sinfulness, our wandering hearts, our propensity toward pride and self-promotion, and the variety of ways our flesh wages war against the Spirit of Christ within us. It reminds us that our sin is an offence against a Holy God. We owe Him perfect worship with all of our lives, and have fallen far short of that. We are in His debt as it were.
B) It invites us to freely and boldly approach the throne of grace and find the never-ending, steady flow of fresh, new, daily mercies. He has forgiven us of our infinite shortfalls and transgressions against him. That is a price we cannot pay. How greatly we have been forgiven!
"Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace."
It is both humbling and liberating to pray this prayer, as it reminds us it's grace that has saved us from our sin, and it's grace that we need to live this life in the fullness God intended.
The Lord's Prayer daily invites us to receive from the flow of His unending fountain of mercy and grace. It keeps us humbly postured to receive the grace we need this day.
...but there's a catch. You can't receive new mercy if you're holding on to offence.
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
C) This prayer forces us to release grace as we have recieved it.
"He who has been forgiven much loves much."
Jesus builds into this prayer a failsafe around forgiveness. His assumption is that if you can receive new mercy this day, it's because you were faithful to let go of the offence and debts of others against you. In other words, you can't hold on to bitterness or what someone owe's you because of how they've hurt you or failed you, and at the same time, hold on to God's new mercy. You can hold anger or mercy, but you can't hold both.
Jesus invites us to take hold of his grace and to let go of other's debts to us, just as God has let go of our debt to him.
As we do this, we keep God's grace flowing in our lives. When we fail to forgive, or fail to release mercy to others, we limit our own capacity to receive grace from God. The grace which we eternally, infinitely, and desperately need.
Unforgiveness leads to stagnation and death and is a sign that we haven't grasped how greatly we have been forgiven by God.
For Jesus, not only is it true that you can't give what you don't have, but Jesus (rather chillingly) says you won't be given what you won't give to others.
This prayer is designed to keep us in the flow of the fresh, new, life-giving, liberating mercy and grace from God, which is the source of all lasting life. This prayer is meant to keep you receiving AND releasing a constant flow of grace and mercy.
Grace to you/grace through you. Mercy for you/mercy for others.
The other day as I was driving my boys to school, praying this prayer, we came to this part, and, to be honest, it was difficult for me to pray. I had been wronged and had to make a decision to let go of my offence. The question this prayer made me answer is, "would I rather receive new grace this day, or hold on to my anger?" Because this prayer will not let me do both. If I want to live, I have to receive grace and can't hold on to anger.
I chose grace that day, as did I today. I recommend you do the same.
Let go of all offence, and receive new mercy; it's the only way to live.
PS. If you find yourself having to let go of the same offence daily, that's ok; forgivenss is a decision, not a feeling. Let it go, and receive new mercy today. Do it again tomorrow, and the next day and the next day... and one day, you may just find that particular offence didn't find it's way back into your heart. Forgiveness is a decision we make to let go of what's owed; healing is a process that comes through God's grace and often, over time.
May you live this day and every day in the flow of God's unending grace and mercy.
"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. Matthew 6:9-13