“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.” (Mark 11:25 ESV
We are meant to live out our Christian lives as channels of God’s forgiveness. We receive mercy from God and offer mercy to those who wrong us. We pray for the whole world to receive from God’s fountain of mercy.
Sin must be confessed, so that God can forgive us.
‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9 NIV).
What distinguishes the Christian religion from other religions is this emphasis on forgiveness. Christ offered His own blood to make forgiveness available to us. We do not come to an angry God who wants to destroy the sinner -but to a Father who knows our every weakness and longs to be merciful to us. This is easy to forget, because human nature is very different. When we come to God acknowledging our sins, He gladly extends His right hand of mercy and friendship to us.
Equally, we need to forgive others and get things right with them.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13 NIV). It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, or who started it all. Unforgiveness blocks the flow of God’s mercy in our own lives. Besides the inward pain that both parties suffer, when there is conflict, we experience separation from God.
‘Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26 NIV). Resolve conflicts early. Just because we do not agree with someone is no reason to stop being kind to them. When we harbour grudges, bitterness takes root in our souls. We experience a lack of the inner quietness, so necessary for prayer. In contrast, a merciful heart will receive much mercy from God.
Wholesome relationships are the secret to answered prayer. Sometimes, we don’t feel like forgiving someone who has treated us badly. I read somewhere, years ago, that forgiveness is an act of will – so we must choose to align our will with God’s and forgive those who have wronged us. As we remain steadfast in an attitude of forgiveness, our feelings will soon fall in line. So we should be quick to forgive – take the first step. As we humble ourselves in this way, we will enjoy the constant sunshine of God’s fellowship.
We must pray that others will receive God’s gift of forgiveness.
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20 ESV).
We need to constantly lift our friends (and enemies) before God’s throne – so that they may be forgiven. When we meet people who do not acknowledge God or we see a fellow believer falling away from His grace, we must plead for them. The Bible is full of examples of God forgiving and restoring the wayward. His forgiveness for the stubborn and wicked King Manasseh of Judah, after he repented should be a source of great hope to us as we intercede for souls (2 Chron. 33:9-13 NIV).
“Father, we come before Your throne of mercy, knowing that You are a loving and forgiving God. Please forgive us our sins and help us not to sin. Give us forgiving hearts, so that we may pray for our enemies and do good to those who have hurt us. Thank You that the blood of Jesus, Your Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7).”