— The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

Forgiving and Forgiven – Prayer and Forgiveness

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25 NKJV)

Look at that first phrase again; “And whenever you stand praying”

Standing was often the Jewish posture in prayer but this verse is not about our physical posture. This passage applies to our communication with God no matter what our physical posture. Be it standing, sitting, kneeling or lying down; God is less concerned with our outward posture in prayer and more concerned with our inward posture.

It’s like the little guy who was standing on the seat of the car while traveling with his momma and she told him to sit down because it wasn’t safe to stand. He sat down and got a sour look on his face. When his mother asked him what was wrong he said, “I may be sitting down on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside.”

It’s what we are doing on the inside that matters most to God because, ultimately what happens on the inside will show on the outside. What we are like on the inside is what we will be like on the outside. We know, don’t we, from 1 Samuel 16:7 that God looks at the heart. God knows the posture of the heart.

And so when we come to the Lord in prayer it’s important to do some spiritual inventory. The passage says, “if you have anything against anyone.” Why would Jesus say this? We Christians never have anything against anyone, do we? Jesus knew better. He knew that those who need forgiving would also need to forgive.

Jesus says forgive. When you come in prayer and you have something against your wife, or your son, or your father or your neighbor or your boss — forgive. The passage says, “that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” God’s forgiveness in our lives depends on our forgiving others.

Our human nature goes against this teaching of Jesus doesn’t it? Our old nature says, “wait! I’ve been wronged. They can’t do that to me! That’s not right!” But we must forgive. Remember verse 24?

“Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24 NKJV) And then we have Mark 11:25 that tells us to forgive others so that we may be forgiven our sins. It may seem like an abrupt change from verse 24 to verse 25 but the two thoughts are closely connected. Do you want God to hear your prayers? Do you want His forgiveness in your life? Then forgive others. For our prayer lives to be effective, not only do we need faith in God but also a forgiving attitude to others.

When it comes down to it wouldn’t it be better to be wronged and forgive and move on, right with God, unhindered in our communication with Him than to be hurt and unforgiving and bitter? 1 Peter 4:8 tells us to have a fervent love for one another because love covers a multitude of sins. Wouldn’t we be better off to just cover the offence, forgive, forget and then fellowship with the Creator God in prayer?

Remember the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount?

Oswald Chambers noted that “We hear it said that Jesus Christ taught nothing contrary to common sense. Everything Jesus Christ taught was contrary to common sense. Not one thing in the Sermon on the Mount is common sense. The basis of Christianity is neither common sense nor rationalism.”

The world around us says, “Forgive – you must be kidding! That’s not even common sense. You’ve got to look out for yourself.” The world has what J. B. Phillips called The People’s Beatitudes:

Happy are the pushers for they get on in the world.
Happy are the hard-boiled for they never let life hurt them.
Happy are they who complain for they get their own way in the end.
Happy are the blase for they never worry over their sins.
Happy are the slave drivers for they get results.
Happy are the knowledgeable men of the world for they know their way around.
Happy are the troublemakers for they make people take notice of them.

But Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount in what we call the Beatitudes something very different. Look at Matthew 5:3-12.

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12 “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12 NKJV)

There are a multitude of blessings for those who go against what common sense tells them. We could replace the word blessed here in the Beatitudes with the word happy but understand that this happiness is from God and unlike any other happiness we tend to salve ourselves with.

The poor in spirit and those persecuted for righteousness sake experience God’s happiness because theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Or, more plainly is that the poor in spirit or the one who realizes his need for God and he who suffers for doing what’s right has the privilege of God’s reign in his heart and life.

Those who mourn and look to God in their mourning are comforted with God’s happiness.

Those who are meek or gentle in strength or have self-control have God’s happiness because they will inherit the earth (or more appropriately the new heaven and earth in the future).

He that hungers and thirsts for God’s righteousness will have his fill of God’s happiness like a fattened calf.

Those who are merciful are shown mercy.

Those whose hearts are unclouded by sin will see God.

Those who make peace will be children of the perfect peacemaker Jesus Christ.

And God’s happiness is promised to those who are insulted and persecuted and accused of evil falsely for Jesus sake. It is because of all this we can say with verse 12 “rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven…”

George Adam Smith says that he was once climbing the Weisshorn above the Zermatt Valley in Switzerland with two guides on a stormy day. They had made the ascent on the sheltered side. Reaching the top, and exhilarated by the thought of the view before him, Smith sprang to the top of a peak–and was almost blown away by the gale. The guide caught hold of him and pulled him down saying, “On your knees, sir! You are safe here only on your knees.”

And so it is with our posture before God when we pray. What is our internal posture? Are we looking out for No. 1? Are we defensive and unforgiving and even bitter toward those we feel have wronged us? Or do we take joy in the beatitudes and share in God’s happiness? Let your hearts attitude be one of forgiveness. We must know that we are safest on our knees.