While Jesus was in Jerusalem for his third Passover of his public ministry, he taught his disciples how to pray for the Kingdom of God. What we sometimes call the Our Father is that prayer, and we have come to its final four clauses, which probably should be taken together. In Luke 11:4 Jesus tells us to pray for the Father’s forgiveness over the sins that we have committed. At first this appears like a contradiction with respect to what Christ intends to do later. Aren’t our sins once and for all forgiven when we receive Christ as our Savior? Why, then, do we need to pray for forgiveness of our sins (Luke 11:4) whenever we pray to our Father (cf. Luke 11:2)?
In a previous study I mentioned that the work of God cannot be done in the power of the flesh, but needs to be done according to the will of God. However, what happens, while I am working in Christ to that end, if I foolishly allow myself to take credit for what Christ is doing through me, as though men repent because of **my** words etc. I need to take this immediately before God and ask for forgiveness. Otherwise, there are consequences for such foolishness, as we shall see below.
Moreover, I believe the need for forgiveness has to do with the kind of work we are doing and praying over. If, indeed, we are praying for the advancement of the Kingdom of God, and working in Christ to that end (Luke 11:2-3), we need to be aware of the fact that, working with those who are spiritually unclean can affect our own behavior as well. In his Parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus told of a man who helped a dying man, despite the fact that in doing so he normally would have made himself ceremonially unclean (Luke 10:33-34). Dealing with sin inevitably has its consequences, so we need to be aware of those consequences and ask God to forgive us (Luke 11:4; cf. Jude 1:23).
For example, one of my spiritual interests lay in apologetics. However, I often come to a point where I need to admit the critic’s argument is persuasive. This is especially so when confronting a demonic stronghold that has proved very effective in the world. Entering into the critic’s argument in order to defend the integrity of God, often requires admitting that the power of the critic’s words are able to legitimately persuade an unaware victim. I say legitimately in the sense that he espouses worldly wisdom and the victim isn’t aware of how to defend himself against the critic’s tactics.
The victim is overcome in the critic’s sin. In the process of developing an argument against the critic’s stronghold, there comes a time of appreciation of his argument that defiles the believer’s own conscience. He, too, is tempted to yield to the critic’s point of view. It is this appreciation, though necessary in developing a defense for the victim who is overcome, that needs to be forgiven. My white garment given me upon receiving Christ as my Savior, has become spotted. I need to be washed / cleansed, not in the sense of a new baptism, but in the sense of having one’s feet washed of the dust of world, hating the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude 1:23).
The consequences of dealing in the sins of others, but not being of a forgiving nature ourselves, will tend to bring us into the very circumstances we won’t forgive. There but for the grace of God, go I (cf. Galatians 6:1). It is necessary, if we are to represent Jesus to others and forgiving them their sins through preaching the Gospel, that we also forgive anyone who has or even still is offending us (Luke 11:4; cf. 6:37; 17:3-4; Ephesians 4:32). We need to be known to others as one who acts out the image of God (Genesis 1:27) in the matter of forgiveness. Otherwise, our preaching is nothing more than hypocrisy.
God does not tempt us to sin. He simply will not do that, ever! Nevertheless, if we are caught in a sin unawares, neither will he allow us to continue in our ignorance. He will bring us into circumstances that would accentuate our sin and bring it to our intention, so that it may be confronted and repented of (Psalm 39:8-11). However, if we acknowledge our weakened position and our vulnerability in the matter of temptation that has resulted from working so closely with man’s sinful nature, God won’t have to bring us into circumstances that will bring about our defeat. Asking for forgiveness, and all the while pointing out that we are, in fact, imaging our Savior in the fact that we are forgiving everyone who has offended us (Luke 11:4), then leading us into circumstances that would expose our weakened state would be unnecessary. Rather our prayer is that God would deliver us from the evil that would tend to correct our weakened state (cf. Jeremiah 2:19).