Forgive us our sins, as we forgive who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
The Lord's prayer is trying to tell us something. Not only the individual petitions but also the order in which they're made shapes us as we pray. The last three petitions of the Lord's prayer seen above are closely connected. "Forgive us our sins" is a prayer that comes naturally, but we must be taught to pray to forgive those who sin against us. Why is the petition of forgiveness next to the petition, "Lead us not into temptation "? It is a common temptation not to forgive those who sin against us. It is a common temptation to see our sins differently than we see the sins of others. It is easy to let the sins of others provoke us to anger, resentment, or grudges. We're told in the Bible to get rid of all bitterness, malice, resentment and rage. These things are the outposts of evil in our hearts and minds. They are the cords with which evil binds us. We are told to throw off and cast behind us all the things that would hinder us from running the race which is set before us. But we find ourselves holding tight to the things which hold us down. I think that if we understood Jesus rightly about forgiving others as we ourselves hope to be forgiven, we would consider that in the case of our own sins we pray for our own forgiveness, and that we would be glad to see those we have wronged standing up and defending us as having done something that was unworthy of us at our better times. I think if we understood Jesus rightly, we would find ourselves in prayer standing before the throne of God and pleading for the forgiveness of those who have wronged us.
Have I gone too far? Consider that this is what Jesus did, and what Jesus is still doing. Consider this is also what the martyr Stephen did when he prayed for God to forgive the murderous mob that he knew would kill him. Consider that Jesus is the one who said we should pray for our enemies and bless those who curse us. When we pray for our enemies, for what should we ask? It is plain that we're called to bless and not to curse. We may ask for the renewal of their minds, for God's peace and truth, and all kinds of other blessings, but we cannot neglect to pray for their forgiveness and to be their intercessor before the Lord God. Especially in the case of those who do not yet pray for themselves, the job may fall to us as the only believers they know to take up their case before God.
I expect we could then laugh at the weakness and disarray of evil in our hearts. Our final petition is that God should deliver us from the evil one. This follows the petitions of forgiveness and safety from temptation. And the refined that this prayer which Jesus gave us, when we pray as he taught us to pray, shapes our hearts so that we are more and more delivered from the evil.