I want to briefly discuss one of the major hindrances that we can face to answered prayer, and that is unforgiveness.
As I was writing this article, a strange thing happened, as the Holy Spirit brought to my remembrance an incident that happened to me over 40 years ago.
I was single and a couple of months away from getting married and working for a Christian man, who shortchanged me about $800 in salary.
The Christian boss basically ran off with the company’s money, ending the business.
That was a lot of money back then, the equivalent of about $2,790 today. And for a soon-to-be wed couple, my wife and I could have really used it.
Though this man left the city, he subsequently turned back to God. Several years later, I actually ran into him when he returned to the city and visited our church.
He was now retired, quite poor, and it would have been useless to press the issue.
I forgave him, and moved on with my life.
But there is a vital connection between prayer and forgiving others.
We see the first hint of this in the Lord’s prayer, which Jesus used to teach us how to pray in Matthew 6.
Jesus started off by saying, “This, then, is how you should pray” and in verse 12, the Lord says that we are to ask God to forgive our debts “as we have also forgiven our debtors.’
In other words, Jesus said we are to enter our time of prayer having already forgiven those who have offended or hurt us. We need to enter prayer with an attitude of forgiveness.
And then in Mark 11:25, the Lord tells us if we haven’t forgiven, we need to do that first before we start praying.
25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
We need to be proactive and ask the Holy Spirit if there is anyone that we are still holding a grudge against before we pray? Is there someone we need to forgive?
This brings me back to my former boss, who showed up in my mind as I was writing this article.
Even though the man has been dead for several years, and I had previously forgiven him, I believe the Holy Spirit had brought him to my remembrance for a reason.
We need to compare forgiveness to an opinion. As we forgive and peel off one layer, there may be another layer or two left where we need to forgive again before it’s finally dealt with once and for all.
In this case, I chose to forgive him one more time, because I believe the Holy Spirit allowed this memory to resurface, because there was still unsettled business.
As we enter a time of prayer, our first prayer should be asking the Holy Spirit if there is anyone we need to forgive.