Even the Unforgiven can be Forgiven. Hindrances to Prayer, Part 1

I receive many emails from people wondering why they cannot hear from God. The tone of the email is always filled with despair and confusion. Once these people begin, with the help of God, to dig down to the root of God's "silence", they are often amazed to find hidden strongholds that are deafening their ears.

There are many such strongholds; however, there are four that stand out as being the most common, and the next four devotionals will be focusing on these each of these in turn.

The first, most common stronghold is usually unforgiveness. Try to imagine the following prayer conversation:

Us: "Why don't you answer me Lord?"

God: "How can I, when you cannot even hear the cries of your very own brothers?"

Us: "But they are evil, Lord! They do terrible things. They have hurt me and the ones I love! I don't even associate myself with them."

God: "I died for them so that they could be forgiven. I am the One who justifies them; who are YOU to condemn them?"

That puts it in a slightly different perspective, doesn't it? Jesus tells us that: ". . . God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will." (John 9:31 NIV). Another time He reminds us that we need to forgive to be forgiven! "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." (Matt 6:14-15 NIV)! He even gave us a story to illustrate this truth, the story of the wicked servant: "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 'This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.'" (Matt 18:32-35 NIV)

Okay, it's important because God told us to do it. But let's be real here. Forgiving those who have deeply hurt us is a human impossibility.


So how can we forgive if it isn't humanly possible?

The answer lies in blending our humanity with His divinity. Only by depending solely on Jesus can this humanly impossible endeavor be made possible. It is not surprising that those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus are unable to forgive, no matter how small the offense.

Always remember: unforgiveness is in direct violation to His directives to love, and when we choose to not forgive, we are living in rebellion to His authority: "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Col 3:13-14 NIV). Also remember that what keeps God from hearing our prayers is not God, but us! "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59:1,2 NIV) Only when this channel of unforgiveness, by the grace of God, is broken, will we be able to enjoy open communication with Him.

Is it any wonder that we are reminded again and again in the New Testament to forgive?

While at work one day, I received the order to prepare my class for a Christmas concert. The problem was that I only had seven school days to prepare! Quite naturally I grumbled and complained, quite dissatisfied with those who had authority over me. Only by God's grace was my part of the concert a great success. It was even used by God to provide a blessing for the entire audience.

Nevertheless, bitterness had already invaded my soul, and my prayer life had already been turned into a one-sided grumbling session. I couldn't hear God's voice. What was wrong? I couldn't think of anything I had done that was wrong. I had cooperated with the people who were in authority over me. They are the ones who deserved blame! Then I realized that my bitterness had turned my soul into a tidal wave of unforgiveness that was already reaching out to destroy. I repented, and through God's grace I was able to approach my vice-principal the next day. The conversation went something like this:

"I have a confession to make. I have been upset with you these last couple of weeks. I wasn't content with your last-minute decision to put together a Christmas concert. In fact, I was pretty bitter. Please forgive me. I was wrong. You really try to care for our school…"

My vice-principal turned around and gave me a big hug. I had been forgiven. And as a result, my prayer life, as well as my workplace, took a turn for the better!

"But," you ask, "what if she had not forgiven you?"

The following story illustrates this scenario:

Jane (this is not her real name) had been physically abused by her father since she was seven years old. Once her dad was apprehended, she found herself abandoned by all of her friends. But God had better plans for her. She was adopted by one of her family members who lived in a different country. There she slowly began to heal from the abuse, and she eventually became a Christian.

As she went through her life, however, she realized that bitterness still held a stronghold over her. She decided to call her dad and forgive him.

At first the conversation went very well. This changed however, when she started to share her faith with him. He began to swear at her, and eventually he hung up on her. Unfortunately, communication between the two of them was never repaired.

Jane had forgiven her father, but he had rejected her forgiveness. But it didn't matter. She had still done her part. Jane now knew how Jesus must have felt when He was cursed and spit at, when His gift to mankind was not accepted.

Although her dad rejected her, Jane continues to pray for him. She is at peace, and she enjoys a profound relationship with her Maker.

Remember this if you have tried reconciliation negotiations, but the offender or the offended has turned on you: You are the one in the middle of God's will. You've done what you need to do. The changing of the other heart is God's domain!

Never forget that the first step is for each of us to forgive. We cannot expect to be forgiven when we cannot forgive others. And we can't expect God to hear and answer our prayers when we cannot reach out in love to those who have hurt us.

Is there a possible stronghold of unforgiveness in your life? Come to Jesus and learn from Him. The One who willingly died for his enemies will help you be victorious. His blood of forgiveness will transform you into a beautiful butterfly; for the first time, freedom will be found, freedom from unforgiveness.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt 11:28-30 NIV)

Rob Chaffart

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