The Stumbling Block of Unforgiveness

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4).

Scripture is very clear that sin is a hindrance to answered prayer. Isaiah 59:2 states, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” In Psalm 66:18 we read, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened…”

One of the most pervasive, tenacious sins in the Christian culture today is unforgiveness. It is disobedience to Christ, and it renders our prayers ineffective and powerless. Many times, an unforgiving spirit comes from a heart filled with pride. We often feel justified in our unforgiveness because of the wrong done to us. Or, the sin against us was so grievous in our own mind and heart that we cannot possibly forgive.

Probably the most common stumbling block in this area is when we say that we have forgiven someone outwardly, while still harboring the resentment or anger in our hearts. Jesus effectively illustrates God’s viewpoint on this matter in Matthew 18:23-35 when the king’s servant, who had been forgiven his debt, turned around and refused to forgive the debt of a fellow servant. The king turned his anger towards the man, threw him in jail and ordered him to pay back all that he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

If you are struggling with your prayer life, could an unforgiving spirit be one area that is keeping you from effectively touching the heart of God with your prayers? From time to time, each of us must take a deep look into the dark places of our hearts, asking the Lord to reveal our sin to us. We can find healing from the sin of unforgiveness in the Scripture, for when we truly understand how strongly God feels about forgiveness, we can seek to be more like Christ in our response to those we need to forgive.

–Adapted from the article, “The Prayer of Forgiveness” by Kim Butts

Gracious Holy Spirit, teach my heart to be quick to forgive those who sin against me because that is what the Father commands! My flesh wants to hold onto the hurt I have experienced and to lash out or speak ill of those who have wronged me. Yet, Jesus demonstrated a better way. Whenever I am tempted to hold onto my unforgiveness, please take my heart to the cross where I can see the Lord forgiving those who condemned Him to death. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Prayer Points

Praise God as the one who loves you like no one else can. Thank him for loving you “with an everlasting love,” drawing you to himself “with loving kindness” (Jer. 31:3). Confess times of presuming upon his love. Commit yourself to reflecting God’s love as his image-bearer. Ask him to love others through you, knowing that you can do all things through Christ (Phil. 4:13).

Pray that love for God’s ways will prompt you to love mercy (Mic. 6:8) in your societal involvements. Ask God to overcome hatred, violence, and prejudice in your area.

–Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend.