“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” — Matthew 6:14-15
When reciting the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), we always stop short of verses 14 and 15. But Jesus took the time to elaborate on forgiveness at the end of the prayer, and we must not overlook it. Forgiveness should be a part of our prayer time. As citizens of God’s kingdom we understand the forgiving, saving grace of God, and likewise should extend that same grace to those who have wronged us.*
It’s interesting that this mandate from our Lord on forgiveness, spoken as part of His Sermon on the Mount, is usually treated as an appendage to “The Lords Prayer,” rather than an integral part of it. But is Jesus saying that if we have unforgiveness in our hearts toward anyone, that it will hinder our prayers?
Our Lord makes a similar admonition in Mark 11:24-25: “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
I would suggest that the possible cause and effect that unforgiveness has on God answering our prayers is immense and overlooking it may have everything to do with His reply. The apostle Paul understood this very clearly as expressed in his letter to the Ephesians: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). To the church at Colossae he wrote this, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:13).
I believe that forgiveness of others is not only tantamount to God forgiving us—as Jesus very clearly stated—but our lack of obedience may very well determine hindrances to our prayers as well. Is there someone that we need to forgive today? The success of our prayer life may be dependent on it. Perhaps Proverbs 19:11 will help speed up the process: “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger and his glory is to overlook a transgression.”
We all have experienced offenses against us—just as we have committed sins toward others, as well. That’s because we all have fallen natures. Jesus modeled forgiveness from the cross (Luke 23:34) and His was for a lifetime of our sins—past, present and future. How can we do any less toward others? Maranatha!
Coming Up: Principle Number Six: “Babbling Or Praying?”