Did you know the “Our Father” prayer actually contains a curse? That’s right. People who pray this prayer are calling down a curse on themselves.
Wait. What? How can the most beloved prayer in the history of Christianity be a curse? Well, consider the phrase: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It is a conditional statement. Every other part of the Our Father is either an expression of praise toward God or a straightforward request for God’s blessing.
But the “Forgive us our trespasses” line is more of a challenge or a proposal for God. We are saying, in effect, “Hey God, here’s the deal: you forgive me for the bad things I’ve done in the exact same way I forgive other people when they do bad things to me, OK?”
If we routinely show mercy toward others who sin against us, if we “forgive and forget” and do not harbor resentments and grudges, then we’re in good shape. God will forgive us with that same level of generous mercy.
However, if we’re in the habit of getting offended easily and holding grudges, and if we take delight in spreading nasty gossip about anyone who has ever done us wrong, then that is the exact same level of mercy and forgiveness God will show toward us—in other words, not much.
So if we’re the type of person who rarely forgives others and who holds grudges and carries resentments for many years, then by praying the “Our Father,” we are indeed calling down a curse onto ourselves. We are saying to God, “I don’t forgive others, and I don’t want you to forgive me either!”
Now, of course, no one actually thinks that when they pray the Our Father. Actually, when most people pray the Our Father, there’s no thinking involved at all. C’mon, admit it. You were forced to memorize the prayer as a child, and now many years later, whenever you say the prayer you just recite the words from memory without pondering what the words really mean. We all do it. And God doesn’t really mind too much, as long as once in a while we do contemplate the deep and profound meaning of the prayer.
Regardless of whether we recite the Our Father mindlessly or truly think about the words, I’m pretty sure few people are aware the prayer contains a potential curse. We ask God to forgive us, but only in the same way we forgive others. And to tell you the truth, that scares the heck out of me. You see, like most people, I suffer from “Disproportionate Slack Cutting.”
Ever hear the expression, “Hey, cut me some slack”? Of all the people in the world, who do we always cut some slack for? Ourselves! Whenever we screw up and hurt someone, we immediately have an excuse, an explanation, a rationalization of why we did what we did in this particular situation, but it of course doesn’t make us a bad person. In other words, we cut ourselves some slack. We forgive ourselves quickly and fully.
But whenever others screw up and hurt us, do we immediately cut them some slack? Unfortunately, most of the time we turn into aggressive prosecuting attorneys, and forcefully make the case of why they are guilty and deserve severe punishment. In other words, we don’t cut them any slack. We employ “Disproportionate Slack Cutting.”
So, the next time you pray the Our Father, think about the “Forgive us our trespasses” line. Realize you are making a deal with God. Realize that if you don’t cut other people some slack, God will treat you the same way. And that definitely is a curse.