The Fifth Petition

belief bible book business

Day 7 | The Lord’s Prayer

Welcome to St Johns Papatoetoe studies. During Holy Week, we are examining portions of our confession relating to the Lord’s Prayer. This connects us to an historic faith rooted in the word of God. We have learned so far that The Lord’s Prayer has 

  • An Introduction
  • A Series of Petitions
  • A Conclusion

There are six petitions offered up to our Father in Heaven. We continue our studies with the question:

What do we pray for in the Fifth Petition?

IIn the Fifth Petition, (which is, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,) acknowledging, that we and all others are guilty both of original and actual sin, and thereby become debtors to the justice of God; and that neither we, nor any other creature, can make the least satisfaction for that debt: we pray for ourselves and others, that God of His free grace would, through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, apprehended and applied by faith, acquit us both from the guilt and punishment of sin, accept us in His Beloved; continue His favour and grace to us, pardon our daily failings, and fill us with peace and joy, in giving us daily more and more assurance of forgiveness; which we are the rather emboldened to ask, and encouraged to expect, when we have this testimony in ourselves, that we from the heart forgive others their offences. Larger Catechism (1648), 194

Alternate Wording

The Fifth Petition of The Lord’s Payer is “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”. It is at this point confusion enters into the wider church. The Confessions and Catechisms use Matthew’s formula. However, Luke gives a different wording for the Fifth Petition:

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. Lk. 11:4.

We will also discover in the last lesson Luke ends his formula with the Sixth Petition whereas Matthew provides a conclusion. The question then is “What are we to do with these apparent contradictions?”

The first thing we do is recognise that contradictions are not necessarily errors. When two parallel texts appear to contradict, we are being provided with complementary information. In other words, Luke is providing us another way of understanding what Matthew wrote.

“Forgive us our sins” is another way of expressing “forgive us our debts”. Our sins are debts requiring payment. We are praying to the Heavenly Father to forgive all debt our sin creates. Note how both gospels have basically the same explanation:

“As we forgive our debtors” Mt. 6:12.

“As we forgive every one that is indebted to us” Lk. 11:4

Comparing the two passages yields further light on the consequence of our sinful nature in our relationships.

There is no confusion there. However, the Church has attempted to merge the two passages together. The current version suggested for use in the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand is:

Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us
and deliver us from evil
for the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

In many ways, it is saying the same thing. For the purpose of this study, we are following the Matthew version solely as this is the version prompted in the original Catechisms. There was also no issue as Reformation translations of Scripture were used across the wider church for more than 300 years.

Around the year 1900, new versions of scripture began to emerge. Their adjustment in wording eventually changed the words of The Lord’s Prayer. This is more evident in the final lesson where the doxology has been removed from Matthew’s text (For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen).

Where does that leave us today?

Unnecessarily confused. New City Catechism, a new shorter catechism that remains faithful to the Reformers Confession, teaches:

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 evil.

It retains Matthew’s wording, and in its explanation, includes the doxology:

For yours is the kingdom and the power

We’ll leave the doxology for Lesson 9. 

Rest assured there are no mistakes in God’s Word. There are different understandings of scripture, however, and that is okay. Having different understandings ensures God’s word is protected and preserved.

The remainder of this lesson will give a brief overview on The Fifth Petition’s theme: forgiveness. There are three reasons why we need to pray for forgiveness every day.

Forgiveness Needed for Debt to God’s Justice

acknowledging, that we and all others are guilty both of original and actual sin, and thereby become debtors to the justice of God; and that neither we, nor any other creature, can make the least satisfaction for that debt:

The Reformers believed the debt was paid by Christ’s blood on the cross. They view The Fifth Petition as a prayer asking God to forgive us on the basis of Christ’s atonement. We are asking God not to “impute to us poor sinners, our transgressions” and that our depravity will one day come to an end (Heidelberg Catechism, 126). For further study, see Rom 3:9-22; Mt 18:24-25; Ps 130:3-4; 51:1-7; 143:2; 1 John 2:1-2; Rom 8:1.

Forgiveness Needed for our Daily Failings

we pray for ourselves and others, that God of His free grace would, through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, apprehended and applied by faith, acquit us both from the guilt and punishment of sin, accept us in His Beloved; continue His favour and grace to us, pardon our daily failings,

Notice again our prayer for forgiveness is made possible by the work of Jesus Christ. It is the faith of Christ, not the faith from ourselves, that enables us to seek and receive God’s forgiveness. We fail daily, but are confident in God’s help to continue our spiritual growth through those failings. For further study, see Rom 3:24-26; Heb 9:22; Eph 1:6-7; 2 Pet 1:2 Hos 14:2; Jer 14:7;

Forgiveness Needed for our Forgiving Others

and fill us with peace and joy, in giving us daily more and more assurance of forgiveness; which we are the rather emboldened to ask, and encouraged to expect, when we have this testimony in ourselves, that we from the heart forgive others their offences.

And finally, we need forgiveness to fill God’s grace working through us. God’s grace in us empowers us to forgive those who wronged us. By treating others as we would have God treat us when we fail, we are able to demonstrate God’s grace. For further study, see Rom 15:13; Ps 51:7-10, 12; Lk 11:4; Mt 6:14-15; 18:35

Published by St Johns Papatoetoe

Presbyterian Church, Hunters Corner, Papatoetoe, Auckland, New Zealand belonging to Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: