Thursday, September 15, 2011

How unforgiveness hamstrings prayer

2 Corinthians 2:10-11

Want to know a secret? Forgiveness has a big part in spiritual warfare prayer. Unforgiveness and prayer are like oil and water. They don’t mix well. There’s a reason for that. Holding on to an offense (2 Cor. 2:10) rips the power out of our prayer. Forgiveness or the lack thereof, is an issue not just between us and our offending party, but between us and Jesus, too. Unforgiveness blinds us to the enemy’s strategies (schemes NIV/devices NKJV) against us (2 Cor. 2:11; same word in Eph 6:10-11).

How the strategy of unforgiveness works

Forgiveness is a vital element of spiritual victory. Unforgiveness horribly hamstrings our intercession. Here’s why. Unforgiveness puts us on the wrong side of God’s hearing and answering our prayers. At least twice Jesus taught about the relationship of unforgiveness to prayer (Mark 11:25; Matt. 6:12-15). Jesus even draws a direct correlation between forgiveness and the acceptability of our worship (Matt. 5:23-24). He instructs us to stop, drop, and go. Stop (your worship). Drop (your gift), and go (be reconciled, then come and worship.)

There is more, and it is sobering. James, that straight-talking half brother of Jesus, wrote, “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful” (James 2:13). Unforgiveness places us with those who have fallen under the spirit of the last days, with a form of godliness but denying its power, manipulative, loaded down with sin, swayed by sinful desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth (2 Tim. 3:16), liars (1 John 4:20-21). Worse, Jesus said that the Father turns over the unforgiving to tormentors, unless we forgive from our hearts (Matt. 18:23-35).

Jesus set the standard on forgiveness

Just before his suffering on the Cross, Jesus said, “The ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (John 14:30). What was he talking about? Nobody was more wronged that our Savior who prayed, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34) “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3-4). 

How many times should we forgive? Jesus said seventy times seven times (Matt. 18:21-22; Luke 17:1-4). Paul reminds us to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Eph. 4:31-5:2). “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Col. 3:12-13).

Are you being defeated by your own unforgiveness? 

Unforgiveness serves victory to the devil on a silver platter. Repentance and forgiveness makes you right with the Lord. Forgiveness has no substitute as a weapon of victory. Mark it urgent: Forgive everyone and every offense (Eph. 4:20-24, 30-33).

PRAYER: Cry out to God, “Come, convict me of unforgiveness. Forgive me for my unforgiveness and for holding accounts against others. Cleanse me of the defilements of bitterness and resentment (Heb. 12:15; Gal. 5:16-21; Lev 19:17-18). Give me the victory of freedom in Jesus, who forgave me.”

Adapted from Sylvia Gunter, Prayer Essentials for Living in His Presence (Birmingham, AL: Father’s Business, 2000), vol. 1, 201-296.