29th July 2022

“Lord, teach us to pray”. These words introduce the reader of Luke’s gospel to one of the most well-known passages of scripture – the Lord’s Prayer, as it is usually known, although an alternative title may be more accurate – the Disciple’s Prayer. The words of the prayer in Luke chapter 11 are not quite the familiar words we share each Sunday – those words follow closely Matthew chapter 6. Luke’s version is not only shorter than Matthew’s, but the phrases are subtly different.

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.” (Luke 11.2–4, NRSV)

It is that penultimate phrase that caught my attention – “for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us”. Here it is not about forgiving “sins”, or “trespasses” as the old translations put it, but “debts”. What sort of debts might people owe you? There is an obvious one, perhaps – financial debt – but what else do people owe you?

Respect, perhaps. “Young people have no respect for their elders these days”. Have you ever said that? If you think someone owes you respect – forgive them that debt. Say to them, “you owe me nothing”.

Or what about “my rights”. Popular notions of justice often seem to revolve around asserting my right to something. But whenever I assert myself, it invariably places a debt on others. I take, you give. Why not rather say, “you owe me nothing”.

Ian Waddington