We all want our prayers to be answered. This evening, as I placed my two beautiful children down to bed, I prayed the same passionate prayer I ask almost every night, “God, give them REST.” I pray this meaning, “God, please make them sleep past 6:15 and if you really love me, keep ’em down till 7.”
We have so many small and large requests, and all of them are important on some level to us. There’s no way to say exactly why God answers some requests and not others but there are a few foundational truths that help point us in the right direction when we’re going to God in prayer.
As an aside, the end goal of prayer is ALWAYS to get more of GOD, not answered prayer. There is nothing more meaningful, valuable, or fulfilling than God himself. An answered prayer is a side dish to the beautiful entree that is knowing God more deeply.
A Foundation of Forgiveness
There is one request we could make of God that would cost his life: forgiveness.
He willingly gave this to us through his incarnation and crucifixion. God became human, Infinity wrapped himself in supple flesh. Then offered Himself to be stripped, beaten, and publicly nailed to wooden beams. His final breaths were drawn while crowds jeered and his own mother watched and wept.
This is what our forgiveness cost. The wretchedness of our sin could only be covered by the blood of God himself.
The amazing thing is, God did it. And we, as Christians, have received this forgiveness. And it is in this context, having received this unimaginably costly forgiveness, we offer up prayers to God. And God is looking for something in us… do we understand this?
Answered prayer has a surprising foundation, forgiveness.
In Mark 11 Jesus’ disciples have just discovered that the fig tree he cursed a day earlier has withered up and died. Jesus then launches into teaching on how to pray prayers that move mountains. It’s all super powerful stuff.
But then Jesus makes a funny turn in verse 25, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
What does forgiveness have to do with moving mountains? EVERYTHING!
Our forgiveness towards others is God’s ‘litmus test’ to seeing if we’ve understood his forgiveness toward us. When we understand the cost Jesus paid for our forgiveness, there is no way we can rightfully withhold it from others. If you’re not familiar with the parable of the unforgiving servant, I’d suggest you read it HERE it gets me every time.
When we pray, why would God want to give us more presents, more good things, more blessings, when the most costly gift he could possibly give is still left unopened, unused, and unappreciated. If God were to continue to answer prayers then he would not only be doing a disservice to us but to his own blood.
Here are a few indicators that you may not be walking in forgiveness:
- When you hear someones name, your stomach turns or you have an internal physical reaction.
- You avoid speaking with, relating to, or caring about someone because of a past event.
- You have mock arguments with people you disagree with in your mind.
If you know you’re harboring unforgiveness toward someone take some time to pray, releasing them from the judgment you hold over them. After all, Jesus has forgiven you for much worse, at a much higher personal cost (and it will help you pray).