“Forgive us our…” -trespasses, -debts, -sins: the Lord’s Prayer has been translated so that all of these senses are used.
In the Lord’s Prayer we seek God’s forgiveness of our sins: known and unknown, intended and accidental. Whether the sin is something we’ve done or simply by living without a sense of God’s presence, we desire forgiveness.
“Debts” is the mostly likely word Jesus used in the prayer. Most crimes, at the time, were punishable by death so the prisons were filled with people whose only fault was unpaid debt. The analogy in this petition of the prayer was that we are all in a kind of debtor’s prison and God can forgive our debts and free us from this prison.
I like the word “trespasses” because it evokes a sense that our sins can impinge on others. Forgiveness of sin and acknowledging the seriousness of sin becomes a matter of seeing that “my” sin doesn’t just affect “me” but trespasses on God and others.
It doesn’t really matter which word we use, sin is a serious matter. So too, is God’s forgiveness. In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The word “as” is used in the sense of “like.” We are not, according to the Lord’s Prayer seeking any forgiveness beyond what we are willing to show others. This is a serious matter: I don’t know exactly how much God will forgive, but I do know that I shouldn’t expect to be forgiven any more than I can forgive. This is not an easy thought, but it is an important consideration. Perhaps, my willingness to forgive others carries with it a direct benefit to me.