During his ministry on earth, Jesus often spoke directly to those with him with words of instruction intended specifically for those individuals. Less frequently he spoke to all who would listen to him, using words of universal importance. Over these few weeks we reflect on some of the instructions from the Gospel of Mark that Jesus intended we too should receive and obey.
Gospel of Mark 11: 20-25 (NIV)
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig-tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig-tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 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 him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
The preceding reflection addresses the statement with universal application in verse 24. This reflection addresses the statement with universal application in verse 25.
It may seem odd that verse 25 begins with the conjunction “and” as if the command that follows is directly connected to the preceding one.
The link is to do with praying. In verse 24, Jesus had referred to effective prayer. There is no point in praying to the Father from an attitude which is unforgiving towards another. An unforgiving heart disqualifies one from knowing the mind of God and from praying in accordance with God’s will and purpose. This is why Jesus said, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus taught his disciples, “This, then, is how you should pray.” He taught them what we now refer to as “the Lord’s prayer”. Then he emphasised one part of that prayer, and only one part (Matthew 6: 14-15):
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
We do well to see what great importance both Jesus and the Father place on our willingness to forgive and our commitment to do so. For any of our prayers to find acceptance with the Father, they are to come from a heart that has already forgiven.