I encourage you to read Matt 18:21-35 carefully. We find in this story a very important teaching on forgiveness. This must be considered when it comes to answered prayer. We may not be receiving answers to our prayers, because we are not forgiving. It is a very real hindrance.
We are told in 1Co 11:1 to follow Paul as he follows Christ. So, how is God concerning forgiveness? (Psa 86:5) “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” (Jer 31:34) “....... for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Luk 23:34) “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” We see here our God is a forgiving God. We are to also be forgiving.
We are instructed clearly by Jesus on the importance of forgiveness in praying (Mt 6:12, 14-15, Mk 11:25-26). We cannot expect our prayers to be answered if we live in unforgiveness, bitterness, and hatred. Unforgiveness will torment us (Mt 18:34). It will make us physically sick, emotionally sick, mentally sick, & spiritually sick. Besides the effects on us, it affects those around us. We can become envious, bitter, angry, depressed, and miserable to live with. Most importantly, unforgiveness is a sin. As per the story in Mt 18:21-35, we have no right not to forgive since we have been forgiven everything - an unpayable debt - by God
We are told to forgive as Christ did. (Eph 4:32) “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” (Col 3:13) “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
So how did Christ forgive us? Unconditionally and completely. Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Psa 85:2) “Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah.” (Col 2:13) “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;” (1Jn 2:12) “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.” (Eph 1:7) “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Rom 4:7) “Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”
There are two types of forgiveness. Restorative forgiveness (reconciliation), and general forgiveness (intercessory). Let me explain. Just because we forgive someone, doesn’t mean we have to be reconciled to them. Restorative forgiveness only comes when the offending party confesses, repents, and is truly sorry for their actions. For instance, the above paragraph lists verses talking about Gods forgiveness towards us. That is His unconditional part. However, it does not profit us if we do not repent (Act 2:38, 3:19, 26:18) and in humility ask for it. The same goes in our relationships with people. Jesus explained this in Lk 17:3-4.
Another example: If I have hurt my wife‘s feelings, she offers me general forgiveness in prayer. She prays as Jesus did on the cross, “Father, forgive him”. She does not take up the offense. She refuses to be bitter. However, restorative forgiveness (reconciliation) will only come when I take responsibility for my actions, repent, and in humility ask her to forgive me. As a Christian, she is to forgive when I do so. By the way, a flippant “Well, I’m sorry!” doesn’t count. That’s not true repentance. Though our covenant relationship was still intact, our fellowship was broken until I repented.
This is the meaning of 1John9. Judicially, we are spiritually forgiven of our sins when we are born again. However, after salvation, we still sin in soul and body. When we do so, we ask God’s forgiveness, so our fellowship may be restored on our end. I would term this parental forgiveness. My child doesn’t cease to be my child when they sin, but they hurt our fellowship on their end, until they, in humility, ask forgiveness. When they do this, I forgive and fellowship is restored. God does this with us.
We must accept responsibility for what we have done. We must in humility repent and ask forgiveness. We also must never refuse to give forgiveness when it is asked for in truth and humility. We do unto others, and we would have them do to us. Take it to the bank: If you are harboring unforgiveness, your prayer life is hindered. You are cutting off the faucet of God on your end. You are also allowing the Enemy to come in an create havoc in your life. Get rid of unforgiveness! But how, you ask?
1. Understand that forgiveness is a choice, an act of the will. Don’t go by feelings. Feelings will be healed over time as you continue to choose forgiveness. 2. Understand that forgiving someone does not mean you are saying what they did was ok. It does not justify their actions. 3. Do not allow thoughts of the hurtful action to replay in your head. When they pop up, cast them down immediately, pray for and bless the person if they are alive (Mt 5:44). If they are deceased, just thank God that you are forgiven, and for giving you the grace to forgive. With thoughts come emotions. If you want the painful emotions to stop, you must refuse to allow the past hurts to take up even a few seconds in your brain. You have the power, by the grace of God, to do this. 5. This is just a practical work, but it may help. Write down all those nagging hurts that you are refusing to forgive. Purposefully forgive each one. Then burn the paper, and never look back. Forget those things which are behind as Paul did. Forget the past! Don’t let your future be ruined because of your past! Put your foot down, and say “No more!”. Until next time, rejoice in The Lord!