Why does Jesus suggest asking God to forgive us?This part of Jesus’ recommended prayer clarifies the relationship between us, the Supreme Being, and the Supreme Being's children - our spiritual family.
Jesus is stipulating that we can directly ask the Supreme Being for forgiveness. That is, forgiveness for our offenses - which also relates to the common phrase, forgiveness for our sins.
Such a notion - asking God directly to forgive us - contradicts the teachings of some who claim the only way our sins can be cleansed - forgiven - is through Jesus' crucifixion.
To be clear, this verse lies within Jesus' recommended prayer to the Supreme Being. This means that Jesus is requesting his students directly ask the Supreme Being for forgiveness.
This clearly means that the Supreme Being can cleanse our sins directly, simply by asking him in prayer. If this weren't so, then Jesus would not have included this in his prayer. He would have stated that all they have to do is accept that he died for their sins and they'd be forgiven.
But Jesus never said this. He never taught this. That was not part of Jesus' teachings.
What does Jesus mean by 'debts'?
The word "debts" here is being translated from the Greek word ὀφείλημα (opheilēma), which means "that which is owed" when referred to literally, but also means "offense, sin" when referred to metaphorically.
This is why other versions have used different translations. The NLT version translates this word to "sins."
This would mean that Jesus is using terminology that could be interpreted as all of the above - sins, offenses or debts. This is also confirmed by Jesus' following statements in Matthew 6:14-15, which confirm that Jesus is referring to sinning.
This is also confirmed by the word "forgive" - translated from the Greek word ἀφίημι (aphiēmi) - means "to let go" - refers to forgiving something that has been done against someone.
Jesus is primarily speaking of offenses, which is also what sins or transgressions are: Offenses against the Supreme Being. How so?
Because the Supreme Being is a Person. He is not a vague force or shining light or burning bush. He is a Person who can love and forgive. Only a person can love and forgive.
And the Supreme Being loves each of us unconditionally. He cares for us and wants us to be happy. But we have all but forgotten Him. We have been living our lives while ignoring Him. We've been chasing our self-centered dreams around while we have been forgetting Him and His love for us.
This forgetfulness - this ignoring of the Supreme Being - is offensive.
Let's use an example. Let's say that we have a teenage son whom we care for and have raised and bought all his clothes, and we have fed him and made sure he got to school every day and put a roof over his head and everything else. Suddenly he starts ignoring us. He doesn't even say 'good morning' or 'good night' to us. He acts as though we don't even exist. Then on top of that, he begins doing all the things we have asked him not to do. How would we feel? We would feel insulted, right?
This is almost exactly what we have been doing, and this is how the Supreme Being feels. Yet He still loves us unconditionally and He is always ready to forgive us.
As to the example above with the teenager, what would remedy the situation? If the teenager acknowledged our existence and came to us and asked us to forgive him for ignoring us.
This is what Jesus is recommending to his students: That they - and we - ask the Supreme Being for forgiveness.
What is Jesus' requisite for forgiveness?Notice that Jesus adds a requisite to this request for forgiveness: That we also forgive others for their offenses against us: "as we also have forgiven our debtors."
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15)
Rather, the Supreme Being is the Original Person, and He is our Master and Creator. We are thus subservient to Him. He is not our servant. We are His servants.
But the Supreme Being also wants to exchange love. He enjoys loving relationships. And He enjoys being part of others' loving relationships.
For this reason, He is pleased when we acknowledge Him and reach out to Him because He wants to exchange a loving relationship with us. But He is also pleased when we are kind to each other. He is pleased when we care for each other. He is especially pleased when we care for each other because it pleases Him.
These elements - the elements of God's personal side - are typically missed by some institutions that teach of religious activity as something done to achieve a self-centered purpose.
This is because the sermons and teachings of some teachers focus upon what our religious activity will do for us - in order to increase their followers. They promise that worshiping God can make us rich. They promise that worshiping God will heal our sicknesses. They promise that worshiping God will bring us salvation - and escape from hell.
What is the real purpose of worshiping God?The real purpose of worshiping the Supreme Being is to re-establish our innate loving relationship with Him. It is to resume our natural position as one of His loving servants and friends - rejoining our spiritual family in the spiritual realm.
But this spiritual family is not the type of family where everyone is out for themselves. Where everyone is trying to take advantage of each other. Where the ultimate purpose is to achieve what I want to achieve - self-centeredness.
The spiritual family Jesus wants us to rejoin is the family where everyone is looking to please the Supreme Being. This is a different sort of family. It is a family where the foundation is love.
Just imagine two dinner tables. At one, everyone wants to make sure they get enough to eat. People are grabbing at the food being brought in. As a result, the stronger people get more to eat than the weaker members. And some don't get anything to eat.
At the other dinner table, everyone is wanting to make sure that everyone else has enough to eat. At this table, no one goes hungry. Everyone gets enough to eat.
The first table is like the physical world, where there is scarcity. The second table is like the spiritual realm - where everyone is thinking about each other in relation to the Supreme Being.
This is the environment - the second table - that Jesus is inviting his students to. In such an environment no one would even think of asking forgiveness from the Supreme Being unless they had forgiven others.
This expectation is not a requirement for forgiveness. Certainly, the Supreme Being, who loves us unconditionally, will forgive us of our offenses against Him. But He wants us to also partake in a relationship with the rest of His spiritual family - our spiritual family.
This means immediately forgiving others for their offenses against us - regardless of whether they ask for our forgiveness or not.
By doing that we rejoin our spiritual family, and begin to taste the loving relationships the spiritual realm is made of.
God wants us back. He wants us to resume the relationship we once had with Him and His children. That relationship where we love Him and His children with all our hearts. That relationship where our lives are centered around Him.
How can we build our relationship with God?According to Jesus' teachings, it is not as if by simply caring for others we will be accomplishing our revived relationship with God. That relationship requires effort.
Every relationship is built upon effort. Effort is what a boy does when he shows up at the girl’s door with a corset before the dance. Effort is what a husband does when he purchases a house that his wife likes, or takes out the trash. Effort is the process of giving and receiving, which builds relationships.
It is this process of effort that is required for us to build our lost relationship with God. When we rejected God we began to look out for our own interests.
If we seek God's embrace we must rebuild that relationship. This means we have to begin to look out for His interests again. This means finding out what He wants from us and beginning to do those things.
Jesus is clarifying here that the key to rebuilding our relationship with God is love and compassion. Compassion for others and seeking God's compassion for us.
This is the purpose for prayer to God and the praising of God's Names. These outreach activities focus our attention upon the Supreme Being and our spiritual family.