God's Lightning: A Seminar on Prayer
FORGIVENESS AND EFFECTIVE PRAYER
Mark 11:25; Matt. 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-35; Eph. 4:32
Story: "The Hern House"
Thursday night we slept in the main bedroom of the Herns’ house. Jonathan and Jeanne, our younger children, were in an adjoining bedroom. As the shells exploded that night they kept getting closer and closer to the village of Mansouriyeh and the subdivision of Muntazah where the Herns lived.
The Hern family lived in Jordan early in their ministry. Bill traveled periodically to Egypt to oversee the work we were supporting there. Eventually they came to Beirut where he taught evangelism and other subjects at the seminary. They lived in Muntazah, just below Mansouriyeh. The seminary was about a quarter of a mile below them. During the war they left to spend some time in Egypt and invited us to stay in their house if things got too hot at the seminary. I believe it was during the battle of Tell-az-Zaater that the shelling around the seminary got bad enough that we thought we would be better off in Muntazah, so we went up there on a Thursday. That night we slept in the main bedroom. Jonathan and Jeanne, our younger children, were in an adjoining bedroom. As the shells exploded that night they kept getting closer and closer to us.
In the morning the shelling stopped so we went back home to get a few things and came back, but Friday night, the shelling got much worse and closer to where we were. We slept in the hallway on pallets, putting as many walls as possible between us and any exploding shells landing nearby. Jeanne slept with the top half of her body in the linen closet on the hall so the sound of the explosions was muffled to her. Jonathan, Maxine and I could feel the vibrations of the exploding shells through the hall floor as the explosions crept closer and closer. I slept with one ear buried in a pillow and an ear plug from a little portable radio in the other ear. It was one of the most harrowing nights of our time in Lebanon. Explosion after explosion shook the house the whole night long.
Saturday morning we gave thanks to the Lord that we were still alive and decided that we needed to seek shelter elsewhere. We considered our home on the seminary campus to be unsafe, so we called Ikie and Peter Manoogian in east Beirut and they invited us to spend the rest of the weekend with them. Their electricity was out and their freezer was full, so Ikie and Maxine canned the thawing meat until late that night. Sunday we went to Ras Beirut to the University Baptist Church as usual. Monday morning we decided we needed to check things out in Mansouriyeh. As we arrived at the entrance to Muntazah, a man stopped us and said, "Have you seen Mr. Hern's house?" When we said we had not, he said, "Well, you'd better go have a look."
FORGIVENESS AND EFFECTIVE PRAYER
Mark 11:25; Matt. 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-35; Eph. 4:32
Introduction.--God's Word makes it very clear that we cannot pray effectively if we fail to forgive others. Since He has forgiven us for so much it is only reasonable that we should forgive others.
Forgiving others is not an option, it is a command. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:24-25).
When Jesus gave his apostles the model prayer in Matt. 6:9-13 he taught us to pray: 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. This appears to be a paradoxical statement. It seems to contradict what we read in Eph. 2:8-9 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” If salvation is by God’s grace and not by our works, then why is salvation and the forgiveness of our sins dependent on our forgiving others? I think the answer is that, once we have been forgiven by God’s grace and the work of Christ on the cross, we are to be so overwhelmed by that fact that we naturally forgive others when they offend us. If we fail to forgive others, then that is a pretty good sign that we have not really experienced God’s forgiveness in our hearts. Immediately after the close of the model prayer Jesus emphasizes this point again: 14 For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins Matthew 6:14-15.
These verses relate forgiving others to God's forgiving us and answering our prayers. God's forgiveness is a part of the salvation process. It is received by faith on the basis of our sincere repentance and faith. This is clearly expressed in Ephesians 1:7, 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace. Since salvation is by grace and not of works, why is forgiveness conditioned on our forgiving others? It seems that our willingness to forgive others is living proof of our experience of God's grace and acceptance of His forgiveness of us. Failure to forgive others raises a huge question mark over our own experience of accepting God's forgiveness by grace through faith.
Matt. 18:21-35 gives Jesus' main teaching on this subject. “You wicked servant, he said, I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailors to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from hour heart” (Matt.18:32-35). His illustration is most graphic and His concluding statement is most emphatic. We cannot have God's forgiveness if we are not willing to pass it on and share it with others.
But let us explore the meaning of forgiveness a bit more. Forgiveness means restoration of fellowship on the basis of accepted suffering. When we are offended by anyone, then in order to truly forgive that one we must accept in ourselves the suffering which the offence has caused us and not seek either retaliation or payment of any kind. We have to “eat/absorb” it. This is what love does. This is what Jesus did for us. Because of our sins we deserved to die on the cross. He had no sin and did not deserve to die, but he accepted the pain and suffering of our sins in order to be able to forgive us. What marvelous grace is that? Our forgiveness from God, then, must be mirrored by our forgiveness of others (Mk. 11:25, Matt. 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-35). Ephesians 4:32 adds: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Forgiving others always involves a cross. There are three ways we may deal with a painful offense: condoning it or rejecting the offender or forgiving him or her. Condoning does not involve a cross. It says, "Never mind. It doesn't matter." That is NOT forgiveness! That is like sweeping the offense under the rug and ignoring it. Rejection also does not involve forgiveness. It says, "Get out of my life. You have hurt me and I don’t want anything further to do with you." That does not restore the relationship. Real forgiveness involves accepting in oneself the pain of another's mistake. It says, "I know you did wrong, but I will suffer with you to help you recover from your sin (mistake) and keep you from doing it again." This is what Jesus does for us as we read in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
True forgiveness really does restore relationships. God's forgiveness restores our personal relationship with Him. 1 John 1:6-7 says, “6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.)
Forgiving others restores our relationship with them. Matthew 5:23-24 tells us 23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Such a reflection of the love and forgiveness of God in us qualifies us for fellowship with God and for him to hear our prayers (Matt. 6:12, 14-15, Mk.11:25). Lack of forgiveness makes our hearts cold, breaks our fellowship with others and with God and disqualifies us for answered prayer.
The principle reason for lack of forgiveness is PRIDE! “I cannot forgive until . . .”
“He admits he was wrong and asks for forgiveness.”
“He makes up for the pain he has caused me.”
“She starts treating me right.”
Forgiving others means allowing our pride to be crucified with Christ so that we can accept the pain caused by others.
Forgiveness is necessary for the sake of one’s own health! Lack of forgiveness and the harboring of bitterness raises blood pressure, causes tenseness and stress, and sometimes headaches and sick stomach. The three major causes of tension in our daily lives are fear, anger, and guilt. Salvation in Christ potentially eliminates all three. Since Jesus has conquered death and is alive and we live in Him, we have no reason to fear death or any other opposition. Anger is reduced and often eliminated when we realize that Jesus is in charge of our lives and, although He allows angry situations to arise, He has a purpose for each one and we can demonstrate His love in that situation. Guilt is a huge problem for many people but when Jesus forgives our sins He takes away our guilt and fills us with His love.
It is good to recognize that lack of forgiveness does nothing to change the other person’s attitude or actions. Failure to forgive others hurts us, not them!
The motivating force for prayer is LOVE! It was God’s love which sent Him to the cross for us (John 3:16). Because Jesus had love and compassion for the people of this world He taught us to pray for the Lord of the Harvest (our Heavenly Father) to send out laborers into His harvest (Matt. 9:37-38).
Love is what motivated God to save us! Love motivates us to prayer for both our enemies and our friends. Love motivates grace and compassion. Our love for others is a reflection of God’s love for us.
Forgiveness opens the door for God’s grace to flow into us and through us to others. As our forgiven and cleansed hearts pray, God’s power is released through us to bring blessing to our world!
I like the Parable of the Tall Bamboo. There was once a beautiful oriental garden with wonderful flowers and shrubs, green grass and a babbling brook. In the far corner of the garden there stood a tall bamboo stalk which overlooked all the rest of the garden.
One day the gardener stood in front of the tall bamboo and said,
“Dear friend, I hate to tell you this, but tomorrow I must cut
you down.” “Oh, NO!” said the tall bamboo. “I
am the finest, greenest, most lush plant in the garden. Surely you
don’t want to cut me down. All the people see me from far away
and come to your garden to look at its beauty. Please don’t cut
me down.” But the gardener replied, “Friend, you don’t
understand now, but you will understand later why I must cut you down
and take my long sharp knife and cut your heart out.” The
bamboo trembled and cried, but the next morning the Gardener cut him
down and took his long knife and cut out the heart of the bamboo so
that it was one long tube. Then the Gardener took the long bamboo and
put one end in the spring at the upper end of the garden and directed
the water into little channels which sent water to all the other
parts of the garden! “Now,” the gardener said, you are
much more useful than you were. You are a blessing to ALL of the
garden and thereby a blessing to me, too. Thank you, tall bamboo!”
So by submitting to the knife of the Gardener, the tall bamboo became much more useful than he was previously, but it required him to give up his pride first. There is a lesson here for all of us.
The house had taken four direct hits on Saturday night. One shell exploded at the top of the five-foot long iron window frame in the bedroom where we had slept on Thursday night, laying it flat on the bed. Broken glass was everywhere. Strangely, the mirror on the dresser was undamaged!
A second shell had blown out the wall of the bedroom where the children slept on Thursday night which was straight down the hall from where we slept on Friday night. The entire hallway was strewn with chunks of cement from pea size to basketball size! Had we been there Saturday night we could NOT have survived.
One smaller shell went through the kitchen ceiling. Shrapnel cut up everything in there. The fourth shell came through the roof into the dining room and destroyed much of the furniture in that room. Evidently looters had come in on Sunday and swiped everything of value that was loose.
There was a little storage room on the flat roof of the house which had been an office for Jess Willmon, our music missionary. After they left, the Wilson Tatums lived there for awhile and then transferred to Yemen, but left a lot of their stuff stored up there. The shell which damaged the kitchen took a corner off of the storage room, but none of the stuff was looted because the shell that came into the second bedroom had blasted out much of the stairway up to the roof! However, there was an upright piano in there! We had quite a time getting it out and moving it across the roof and lowered by ropes along two long building timbers into a truck below! We had to wait several days before things were quiet enough to do that! We were able to rescue some of the Tatums and Hern's things, but the house had to be rebuilt.
How does all this relate to prayer? Prayer is what made us sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit regarding when to stay and when to leave our house and then the Hern’s house and when to ask the Manoogians for shelter in their apartment. Prayer combined with common sense is a great way to access the wisdom of God.
Why does God insist that we forgive others? Why does un-forgiveness hinder our prayers? Write your thoughts in your workbook.
How obedient are we to this command to forgive others?