“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Matthew 18:22).
There are two poisonous and deadly attitudes that the Christian can harbor: guilt and bitterness. Guilt is the result of our failure; however, bitterness is much more subtle. Bitterness is the result of the actions and words of someone who has failed us. Guilt is the result of our wrong, but bitterness is the result of someone else’s wrong.
The man of prayer must deal with both deadly sins. Both are opposed to the throne of heaven. And grace cannot flow into the heart that acts on the principle of performance.
In Matthew 18:22–35 Jesus explains the principle of grace and forgiveness. In His parable there were two slaves. Although the first slave owed his master approximately $10 million, the master forgave the first slave his debt. The first slave then found his fellow slave, who owed him approximately one day’s wages. The first slave refused to live by grace and would not forgive his fellow slave of his debt. When the master heard that the original slave was no longer living by grace, he turned the slave over to the tormentors.
The master in Jesus’ parable represents God. God is a God of grace, and He is willing to forgive. The follower of Jesus is like the first slave. He has been graced by God—forgiven a debt that would be impossible to repay. When the follower of Jesus refuses to forgive his brother in Christ, however, he ceases to live by grace. His heart is tormented. The tormentor many times is called “bitterness.”
Bitterness is evil and destructive. It has caused many murders and wars. It has broken marriages and divided churches. Bitterness has separated the believer from the power of God. True power is not in Moscow or the White House; true power is in the throne room of heaven. And God’s throne is a throne of grace. Bitterness cannot walk into the presence of grace. Consequently, bitterness renders the prayer life of the disciple ineffective.
Father of Grace, how easily I forget what You have done for me on the cross! My flesh is so weak when it comes to those who have damaged me. Sometimes I even feel that I deserve to be bitter towards certain people, but You call me to quick and complete forgiveness. Give me strength to be unoffendable, and to love those who fail me. Fill my heart with compassion and not wrath. Make me quick to be a grace-filled light in my family, my church and my community.
Praise the meek and gentle Christ, who has power to demolish strongholds (2 Cor. 10:1, 4). Thank God for his truth and power, which are so different from the world’s. Confess times of placing ultimate reliance in mere human resources. Commit to putting your confidence and pride in the Lord (10:17). Ask God to guide you to live in such a way that you receive his commendation, no matter what the world says (10:18).
Pray for your households to be founded upon the principles of God rather than the mere “wisdom” of this world. Ask God to guide and protect your home with his truth.
Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend.