“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25)
“Stand praying?” In Jesus time it was a common practice to pray while standing, but not just standing, rather with hands lifted up — holy hands. They would be “holy” if they were lifted as Jesus says in this verse with forgiveness in the heart. It isn’t that prayer from an unforgiving heart is not heard by God but that it is not pleasing to Him. And if it is not pleasing to Him how much of a chance is there that He will answer in a positive way? Though, this seems like prayer being answered by God is conditional, we dare not push that too far. We must remember that He sent Jesus to save us before we truly knew our sins.
The Lord taught us in the prayer He gave us about forgiveness. He said to pray, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Again, this sounds like our forgiveness is based on our forgiveness. That would mean we have to do something, a work of forgiveness, to be forgiven. The true text, however, reads, “forgive us our trespasses, as (we have already, indeed, forgiven) those who trespass against us.” We live day by day in the spirit of forgiveness because our Lord Jesus lives within us. It is our new nature to forgive as the Holy Spirit has more and more of us. We must forgive. Do we necessarily feel like it all the time? No. But we will and do forgive always by the Lord’s help.
Heavenly Father, overwhelm us with Your Spirit of forgiveness for those who hurt us. Take any bitterness and replace it with Your love. Take our hurt and heal us. Help extend the love of Your healing to our enemies. Help us spread the love of Your Son for us to the world.
In His name. Amen.
Pastor Robert Forsberg is retired from Light of Christ Lutheran Church in Fairborn.