In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount is a model Prayer which the Lord Jesus taught His disciples (Mt 6:9-13). We call this the Lord’s Prayer. Notice what Jesus said immediately after teaching this Prayer: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (vv 14,15).
Here is an interesting observation. There are totally seven requests in the Lord’s Prayer. And the fifth request refers to forgiveness. Isn’t it something that of all the seven requests the Lord picked up just that one which refers to forgive-ness? But these days there is an overemphasis on faith but very little is talked about forgiveness. But the consistent Biblical teaching is otherwise.
In the 11th Chapter of Mark’s Gospel we come across the incident where the Lord cursed a fig tree because it had lot of pretense and no fruits. And the next morning when they came that side one of the disciples exclaimed, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that You cursed has withered away” (v 21). Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God,” and He added, “Assuredly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be removed and be cast into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” Without stopping here He went one step further, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in Heaven may also forgive your trespasses” (v 25). Having spoken about the power of faith (vv 22-24), He went on to stress the absolute necessity of forgiveness. The two sides of the coin are faith and forgiveness. “Whatever” we ask must be with faith. “Whenever” we pray it must be with the spirit of forgiveness.
Prophet Isaiah thundered this truth in the ears of the people of his generation: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear” (Isa 59:1,2).” What were those sins? “Your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth” (vv 3,4). This passage speaks about interpersonal relationships. That’s what’s meant by “hands full of blood” (1 Jn 3:15). If our interpersonal relationships are not proper, our prayers will not be answered. Isaiah stresses on lips and tongue (Isa 59:3,4). What we speak to men and what we speak to God are interconnected. If we are not right with men, we cannot be right with God.
Apostle James advocates this truth strongly. James 3:8-10, “No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so!” We need to be extremely cautious about the words of communication. Do we use abusive language? Are our words angry? Do we make accusing statements? Do we pass arrogant comments? Unless we set these matters right, we cannot be effective in prayer life. That’s why the admonition: “Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed” (Js 5:16). Confess to “one another.” There is a mutuality of confession. Only after such confessions, our prayers will be effective. The latter portion of the same verse says, “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Our prayers become effective and avail much only when we confess our faults to one another, and set right our relational problems. Here is a call for reconciliation and restitution. Sit down in the presence of God, make a list of people whom you should forgive and to whom you should apologise, and act on it. Then your conscience will be clear. “If our heart condemns us God is greater than our heart and knows all things. If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence towards God. And, whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 Jn 3:20-22).
If we should keep our conscience clear, we must obey His commandments, which are twofold— “Believe on Him,” and “Love one another.” Faith and forgiveness are inseparable. Beloved, unless we take a serious view of this matter, our praying will actually be losing ground. After clashing with someone we usually pray, “God, protect me as the apple of Your eye.” We fail to remember that as much as we are precious to God as the apple of His eye, the other person is also the apple of God’s eye—may be the next eye! All the children of God are various organs of the Body of Christ. If a particular part or an organ becomes defective we don’t immediately amputate it and throw it away. We often forget how patient God has been with us. Let us be so patient with people. Don’t take this teaching lightly. It is a priority.
Turn again to the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:23, 24, “If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and
go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” When God says “first,” He means “first.”
Contextually speaking, “something against you” refers to abusive words. Verse 22, “Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgement. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hellfire.” Did you notice the word “danger” comes thrice in one single verse? Danger of the judgement, danger of the council and danger of hellfire.
Everybody today is talking about revival. By improving a programme, revival does not come. By inviting a more popular preacher, revival does not come. By increasing the number of musical instruments, revival does not come. Revival will come when every member in the Church begins to set things right with one another. Don’t wait for it to start with the other person. You take the first step. Don’t argue in your mind about who should take the initiative. You who come to the altar, you who want to pray, you go and get reconciled and then come and offer the gift.