The Lord Jesus taught us, “When you pray, say: ‘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 who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation’” (Luke 11:2–4).
Here in Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, the normal word for sin (hamartia) is used. The more familiar version in Matthew’s Gospel uses the word “debt” (ofeilēma), which is simply a synonym for sin. Sin makes us debtors to God. Beginning with William Tyndale, it has at times been translated as “trespasses,” since Jesus goes on in Matthew 6:14 to use this word (paraptōma) as a synonym for debts. Sin transgresses or oversteps the boundaries of God’s will, as expressed in his law.
If you pray the Lord’s prayer every day, then you ask for forgiveness of sin every day. Much of the church throughout history prayed the Lord’s prayer in their morning, noonday, evening, and compline (nighttime or end of day) prayers, which means that they asked for forgiveness of sin from morning until night.
In A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, John Wesley argues, “the most perfect have continual need of the merits of Christ, even for their actual transgressions, and may say for themselves, as well as for their brethren, ‘Forgive us our trespasses.'”
If you pray the Lord’s prayer every day, then you ask for forgiveness of sin every day.
At our church, we use Wesley’s Sunday Service for the Methodists in North America. Before the Lord’s Supper, we pray Wesley’s prayer of confession:
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Maker of all things, Judge of all men;
We acknowledge and lament our many sins, and our wickedness,
Which we have, from time to time, most grievously committed,
By thought, word, and deed, against your Divine Majesty,
provoking most justly your wrath and indignation against us.
We earnestly repent,
and are sincerely sorry for our misdoings;
The remembrance of them is grievous to us.
Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
For the sake of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
forgive us all that is past;
And grant, that we may ever hereafter serve and please you in newness of life,
To the honor and glory of your Name,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Lord built confession into the church’s prayer plan, and the church has included confession in its liturgy for centuries.
“When you pray,” individually or as a church, do you obey the Lord’s commandment to pray, “forgive us our sins”? I have met people who are suspicious about churches that build a time of confession into their regular corporate liturgy or private devotions, as though this will promote a sinning religion or undermine holiness. But we never undermine true holiness by obeying the plain teachings of Jesus. Our Lord built confession into the church’s prayer plan, and the church has included confession in its liturgy for centuries. We should do the same.