Praying for forgiveness is a vivid reminder that God frees us from debilitating guilt and forgets our past. No sin is written with indelible ink.

Albert Haase, Living the Lord's Prayer

We seek replenishment of "our" debts—the debts of all the Father's children. I do not just pray for my sins and you for yours. We pray for our Father to forgive us.

Telford Work, Ain't Too Proud to Beg

Muckraking is not gospel work. Witch-hunting is not gospel work. Shaming the outcast is not gospel work. Forgiving sin is gospel work.

Eugene H. Peterson, Tell It Slant

He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself, for every man had need to be forgiven.

Edward Herbert, The Life of Edward Lord Herbert of Cherbury

Failure to forgive … wasn't a matter of failing to live up to a new bit of moral teaching. It was cutting off the branch you were sitting on. The only reason for being Kingdom-people, for being Jesus' people, was that the forgiveness of sins was happening; so if you didn't live forgiveness, you were denying the very basis of your own new existence.

N. T. Wright, The Lord and His Prayer

Jesus is not saying that God's forgiveness is conditional upon our forgiving others. In the first place, forgiveness that's conditional isn't really forgiveness at all … and in the second place, our unforgivingness is among those things … that we need to have God forgive us most. What Jesus apparently is saying is that the pride that keeps us from forgiving is the same pride that keeps us from accepting forgiveness, and will God please help us do something about it.

Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking

Einstein's E=MC2 is an extraordinary concept. So radical: matter and energy are two phases of the same sort of general stuff. There's only one other idea that radical: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Kurt Vonnegut, in Will the Circle Be Unbroken? by Studs Terkel

[F]orgiveness has two necessary elements. The first is that we give up the notion of revenge ("turn the other cheek"), and the second is that we come to desire the well-being of our injurer ("pray for those who persecute you").

Roberta C. Bondi, A Place to Pray: Reflections on the Lord's Prayer

To pray for forgiveness without repenting from the wrong will be mere babble. To repent without righting the wrong is hypocritical.

Michael H. Crosby, The Prayer That Jesus Taught Us

In the "our father," then, Jesus is not simply recommending vaguely that we might pardon those who have bothered us or made us trouble, but tells us purely and simply to erase the debts of those who owe us money; which is to say, practice the jubilee.

John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus

Related Elsewhere:

Previous Reflections columns are available on our site.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.