The Fifth Petition
“Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.”- Psalm 143:1–2
Food, clothing, and shelter do not exhaust the most basic needs of human beings. We have a need even more fundamental than the aforementioned physical necessities—reconciliation with our most holy Creator. In short, we must receive forgiveness from God, for though we may have everything we need physically, it will profit us nothing on judgment day if we have not enjoyed the Lord’s pardon. “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Prov. 11:4).
This, then, is the key question: How do we find the forgiveness and righteousness we need to enjoy our Creator’s favor? When we ask in the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer for God to forgive us, on what basis do we stand? Are we asking for our Father to forgive us because of what we have done?
Scripture’s response to these questions is really quite simple: The basis of the Lord’s forgiveness is never found in ourselves but is grounded in what another has done for us. Today’s passage, for example, tells us that “no one living is righteous before” God (Ps. 143:1–2). Augustine of Hippo, the great fourth-century bishop and defender of God’s sovereign grace, points out the futility of trying to find righteousness in ourselves. He comments, “Who are willing to enter into judgment with Him, save they who, ‘being ignorant of the righteousness of God, go about to establish their own?’” (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, first series, vol. 8, pp. 651–652). Only those with a thoroughly inadequate view of the Lord’s perfect holiness would dare to think that they could trust in themselves for their own righteousness.
As the Heidelberg Catechism tells us in question and answer 126, we come to the Father for forgiveness based on the shed blood of Christ alone. This blood symbolizes both the perfect righteousness that He earned for us and the final atonement He provided for our sins (Heb. 9:11–28). If we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and in no one else, we can rightly ask the Father to forgive us not only at the moment of our conversion but every day of our lives. Moreover, we can expect Him to forgive us when we ask Him humbly for pardon, for being faithful and just, He cannot do otherwise but forgive His people when they come to Him in Christ (1 John 1:8–9).
When we ask the Father to forgive us in Jesus’ name, we are asking Him to do something that He has promised to do. Therefore, we can be confident that He forgives us when we seek His face. This is all of grace, it is not something we can demand based on ourselves but only something we plead for because of the Lord’s gracious promises. Let us seek each and every day to recall and confess our sins that we might be assured anew of God’s forgiveness.
Passages for Further Study