One of the challenges of prayer is striking the proper balance between physical and spiritual petitions. How much good is accomplished if your prayers are focused primarily upon daily bread and other things which do not endure to everlasting life? What benefit is it to God and His spiritual kingdom if you are so earthly minded in prayer that you are of no heavenly good?
Clearly, there is a proper time and place for including petitions in prayer for your daily bread and physical concerns (Matthew 6:11). Equally clear is the fact there is a proper time and place in your daily petitions for spiritual needs (Matthew 6:12-13).
“Forgive us our debts” soberly states several salient truths about your spiritual needs. Consider these:
- “Forgive us our debts” recognizes the fact of my responsibility to God. In the Greek language, the words “debt” and “duty” come from the same root. This is most instructive: I have a duty to obey God; it is not optional. It is a genuine debt which I—the created one—owe to God—my Creator. Doing God’s will on earth in my life as it is done in heaven is not doing God a favor; it is paying a lawful debt I owe. Even if it were possible for me to live my life without ever being disobedient to God, in the end He would owe me nothing. I would have only done what is my duty to do (Luke 17:10).
- “Forgive us our debts” recognizes the possibilities of sin in my life. Sin occurs when: 1) I choose to not pay my debt of obedience (i.e. I fail or omit to do the right thing), or 2) I decide to do something that is not my duty (i.e. I act in the wrong way). I incur debt before God by acts of omission and acts of commission.
- “Forgive us our debts” recognizes the enormity of my sin and its guilt. Every sinner has a spiritual obligation to God that must be paid. Every sinner is spiritually bankrupt. No spiritually bankrupt sinner can meet his obligation to God; he is like a man who owed his king ten thousand (the largest possible number in Roman numerology) talents (the largest amount of Roman currency), and he could not pay a penny of his enormous debt (Matthew 18:23-27).
- “Forgive us our debts” recognizes the only possible remedy for my sin. Jesus’ triumphant declaration “It is finished” (John 19:30) can also be translated “paid in full”. Though I cannot repay my sin debt, Jesus paid it in full. Now God can demonstrate the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us by forgiving us our debts because He can legally declare them paid in full in Christ Jesus.
Clearly, prayer ought to be focused on more than just our daily bread.