Matthew 6:12 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 6:12, NIV: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Matthew 6:12, ESV: and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Matthew 6:12, KJV: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Matthew 6:12, NASB: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Matthew 6:12, NLT: and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

Matthew 6:12, CSB: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

What does Matthew 6:12 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jesus' model prayer for His disciples—often referred to as the Lord's Prayer—now comes to the second of three requests. This plea uses terminology that literally implies debt, but is used as a reference to wrongdoings. The forgiveness we're taught to pray for, here, implies something mutual. It suggests that being forgiven and forgiving others are closely tied together in our own spiritual lives.

This reference to sin and forgiveness, in fact, is one reason some commenters dislike calling this passage the "Lord's Prayer." Strictly speaking, these are Jesus' instructions on how to pray (Matthew 6:9), not something He was actually praying, Himself. More importantly, as one who was tempted but without sin (Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21), the request made in the verse is one Jesus would never have prayed. What we call this passage doesn't really matter; however, it's worth remembering that the "Lord's Prayer" is the Lord's model for our prayers, not a prayer the Lord prayed.

The Greek word translated in the ESV as "debts" is opheilēmata, which most literally means a person's "dues" or "obligations." In practice, this refers to sins or "transgressions." This phrasing would have been especially meaningful to Matthew, who at one point was a tax collector (Matthew 9:9) who made a living by coercing people to pay what they owed the Roman Empire.

This statement is meant both as both a request and a declaration. It asks God to forgive the one praying, and states the one praying has forgiven those who wronged them. Jesus is instructing believers to pray for forgiveness (1 John 1:9–10). He is also declaring the necessity of extending forgiveness to other people. Both are critical needs for every person: to be forgiven of sin by God and to follow God's example by forgiving others.

Jesus came to earth to make it possible for those who trust in Him to be fully forgiven by God for their sins once and for all (John 3:16–17). He will do this by paying the price for sin, giving His life as the final blood sacrifice and then defeating death through His resurrection (Philippians 2:8). Confronted with such a sacrifice, God's expects born-again believers—who have received the unfathomable gift of forgiveness—will turn and forgive all who sin against them. This idea is important enough for Jesus to re-emphasize after this model prayer is complete (Matthew 6:14–15).