Summary: : In Mark 11:25 Jesus makes a powerful link between our forgiveness of others and our effectiveness in prayer. Sermon discusses five keys to getting relationships healthy so that our prayers are effectual.
I want to begin this morning by asking you a question you’ve probably never been asked.
Do you need a prayer coach?
A professional golfer knows there are times that he needs an objective voice to help him move to the next level. People at the top of almost any profession hire coaches to tell them what they can do to go to the next level in their game. I remember a conversation with a CEO in the church I pastored in Iowa. He told me how beneficial it was to hire someone to come in and coach him as an executive so that he could improve his leadership skills and take the company to a new level. Actors, Speakers, weight lifters, you name it, use coaches to point out weaknesses and ways to improve their effectiveness. Do you need a prayer coach?
We are in a series entitled “Effective Prayer.”
What lessons did Jesus teach about prayer that would help us be more effective in our prayer lives?
A couple of weeks ago we examined one of those lessons in Mark 11. We focused on the importance of faith when we pray. In Mark 11:22 Jesus said to the disciples, “…Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them….”i
How many remember the context in which Jesus gave that instruction? The previous day Jesus and the disciples were walking from Bethany into Jerusalem. Bethany was about two miles east of Jerusalem.ii During their walk Jesus saw a lush, green fig tree in the distance. He was hungry and expected to find figs on the tree. But the tree was barren. Then Jesus said a prayer in the form of a command. He said to the tree, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” Nothing visible happened at that moment. Jesus went into Jerusalem; drove the money changers out of the temple; and that evening went back to Bethany for the night. On their journey back into Jerusalem the next morning, Peter saw the tree in a withered condition. He is surprised at how quickly Jesus’ prayer was answered. That’s when Jesus gave His lesson on faith. Let’s go back to Mark 11:24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” That’s where our previous study on that text ended. But Jesus then gave an addition lesson about the necessity of forgiving others if we want our prayers answered.
Verse 25 “And whenever you stand praying,iii if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
That is our text this morning.
I. Notice the connection between answered prayer and forgiving others.
It is an indirect connection. An unwillingness to forgive others is directly connected with an inability to receive forgiveness from God. To stand rightly before God in prayer, I must receive forgiveness on a daily basis for my own shortcomings. If that is blocked; then I cannot function effectively in prayer. The context is Jesus’ instruction on being effective in prayer. In that context Jesus is therefore saying that we must forgive others if we want to get answers to prayer.
Just to make sure we see that connection, let’s read Mark 11:24-26. “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."
I have always been surprised at the emphasis Jesus puts on forgiving others.
In the Sermon on the Mount, He gave The Lord’s Prayer. Five major themes in that prayer (Matt. 6:9-13):
(1) Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
(2) Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
(3) Give us this day our daily bread.
(4) And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
(5) And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.
The doxology follows. “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
Then Jesus put further emphasis on only one of those five phrases. He immediately followed in the next verse with this warning. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).