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.
God wants His grace to transform the way we relate to people. Grace isn't just about healing our lives with God's power. It's about healing hurts with other people right now. And it is to be as constant in our hearts as our prayers are to be. Jesus instructs His disciples to offer forgiveness to people who don't even ask for it! How hard is that to do? I find it really difficult. I have to stumble through all kinds of self-justifying sinfulness to repent of pride and do so. Yet Jesus links forgiveness before prayer with effectiveness in our own prayer lives, indicating that we cannot pray well if we harbor an unforgiving attitude toward any other person.
How many of us want God to answer our prayers? I'd think all of us do. So according to Jesus, we better first pray with an attitude of forgiveness toward anyone we may be harboring resentment toward or anyone with whom we have a current conflict. Gracious forgiveness must flow into our most difficult relationships if we expect to find God's answers to our prayers. And really, aren't a lot of those prayers about our relationships? It makes sense that when grace does this, our hearts change, our God works in us, and the answers come. To find grace we must also release God's grace to change our hearts as we pray forgivingly. Christians have to be forgiving people. We can't be bitter. We can't be fighters. We must be people whose relationships pour out grace. And that starts with the hardest kind of prayer: forgiving prayer.