24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
In 2016, there was a devastating forest fire in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. Reporters dubbed the inferno, a Hellscape. More than one hundred homes and thousands of acres of woodlands were destroyed. Ultimately, mountain roads were closed and there was no way for folks to get home. How helpless and frightened they must have felt.
Sometimes our prayers hit roadblocks; dead-ends that cause us to feel as if God has abandoned us. After all, we stepped out on faith, prayed expectantly and fervently, but yet our prayers have been left unanswered.
In Mark 11:24, Jesus promises to answer our prayers on the condition we pray in faith. “… believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” But if we miss the following verse, we miss the roadblock, the chink in our spiritual character that can rob us of many blessings from God.
Standing in the way is unforgiveness. If you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you. And without God’s forgiveness, you remain in sin. As a result, the Lord doesn’t hear your prayers. (Psalm 66:18)
It’s like when your son wanted money to go to a movie with a friend. But you refused to hear his request until he cleaned up his room. “Obedience first. Then we’ll talk.”
Forgiveness from the heart doesn’t hold grudges or express itself in bitterness. Off-handed, ugly, cutting, and demeaning remarks about the person you say you have forgiven reveal an unforgiving heart. That spiteful spirit must be resolved before genuine forgiveness can exist.
I mentioned Colossians 3:13, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” When you’re struggling to get over the hurt caused by someone, meditate upon how God has forgiven you. He sent His Son to die for you, forgave your sins, and then gave you a place in His heaven to spend eternity with Him. He forgave and holds nothing back from your inheritance. And He’s definitely not badmouthing you after forgiving you.
Back to that illustration of your son cleaning his room. You withheld answering his request until he obeyed. You didn’t stop loving him, and he didn’t cease to be your child.
The same is true in your relationship to God. You’re still His child, saved by grace, and forgiven unto salvation. This is that interim cleansing we’ve talked about. The foot-washing bath that takes away the daily sins that hinder your walk with God. This post-redemption forgiveness God expects from you is an act of obedience as you endeavor to be more like Jesus. In so doing, the Lord is teaching you how to give grace and mercy which are at the heart of forgiveness.
In the Matthew 6:14-15 focus text, Jesus clarifies the objects of our forgiveness. “Other people” means everybody. Not just other believers, family, or friends. Everyone.
Now, unforgiveness is not the only roadblock to answered prayer, but it’s a big one. We must also pray in God’s will, keep sin out of our lives, and pray in faith without doubting.
Is there someone you need to forgive? In your heart of hearts, you know you still harbor ill feelings toward that person. Sometimes, possibly often, you have bitter thoughts or express hateful comments about them. Then it’s time to extend grace and mercy. Grace that gives them the good they don’t deserve, and mercy that withholds the wrath they do deserve. Forgive that person as God forgave you. Forgive from the heart and then take your prayer concern back to the Lord because you have removed the roadblock.
For more on this topic, check out this article: How to Insure God’s Guidance in Your Life
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.