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Summary: Forgiveness enhances our prayers. Forgiveness enhances our faith. Forgiveness enhances our battle with doubt. Forgiveness enhances our fruitfulness. Forgiveness is powerful.

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Prayer Keys - Forgiveness

“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

In the last few days there was an item on the news about residents in a local neighborhood finding a bobcat in their yard. A story we sometimes hear is about an alligator being found in a drainage ditch. We haven’t heard that this year, with the drought, but sometimes we do. In Alaska, none of the cities are very far from the wilderness, so it is common to find bears roaming the streets.

The next time you find a bobcat, an alligator, or a bear in your yard, my advice is to keep your distance. Leave it to the professionals. The next time you find a wild monkey in your yard, I can help.

I have heard descriptions of two monkey traps based on the same principle. One is a vase with a neck just wide enough for a monkey to stick its open paw in. The other is a coconut with a hole cut in it that is just big enough for a monkey to stick its open paw in. Some nuts or pieces of fruit are placed in each. The vase is buried with just a little of the neck above ground while the coconut is tied or chained to a tree. Then the monkey hunter waits for a hungry monkey to come along.

The hungry monkey smells the treat and finds the buried vase or chained coconut. He reaches in, grabs his meal, pulls… and pulls… but can’t get his fist with the treat through the narrow opening. Now he is hungry and mad. As he continues pulling, he screams his displeasure, but he never lets go. He holds tighter, pulls harder, and screams louder.

The monkey hunter, who may be having lunch, or reading, or napping, hears the screams, walks to his trap, and throws a net over the monkey, who is still holding tightly to his treat.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him…”

The Greek word for “forgive” was also used in Bible days for loosening a ship from its mooring or for releasing an accused person. As I understand it, the root meaning is “to let go.” “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him…” Let go of whatever you are holding against him. Let go of your grievance. Forgive him.

Paul said, “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven – if there was anything to forgive – I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. We are not unaware of his schemes,” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11. 1 Timothy 3:7 and 2 Timothy 2:26 both refer to a snare, to a trap, set by the devil. When I refuse to forgive, when I refuse to let go, the devil becomes the monkey hunter and I become the monkey.

Mark 11:25 specifically shows that unforgiveness hinders prayer. But there is so much more.

Have you ever tried to find your way through one of those mazes drawn on paper? Do you know the kind I’m talking about? The maze has an arrow that says, “Start here.” You are supposed to find a path to the second arrow that says, “Finish.” Have you ever noticed that sometimes it is easier to begin at the “finish” and find you way back to the “start here?” It may not be very scholarly, but that is how my study went for this passage. I started at the end and worked my way back.

Notice the first word in Mark 11:25, “and.” Verse 25 is not the full idea, it is the end of an idea. Let’s back up and begin reading at Mark 11:20.

“In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!’

“‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘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 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.’”

Unforgiveness not only hinders our prayer, it hinders our faith. It hinders our battle with doubt.

The expression “move mountains” or “cast mountains into the sea” was a rabbinic figure of speech referring to something extremely difficult to do. For a 90 year old woman to bear her first child was unheard of when Sarah conceived, but God made it happen. There was no visible way for the Israelites to escape Pharaoh’s army when God parted the Red Sea. All through scripture we see that God not only does the difficult, he does the impossible. But God’s ability to do the impossible did not end with Revelation 22:21.

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