Forgiveness – The Key to Answered Prayers
Have you ever wondered if God is listening to your prayers? Or maybe you believe that God hears everyone’s prayers, but you aren’t sure if He cares enough to answer them or not?
What would change in your prayer life if you knew, for a fact, that God heard your prayers?
As a pastor for more than 30 years, I’ve heard the gamut of prayer ideologies, what people believe about prayer, and how they believe God answers prayer. There’s so much to be said on the subject, but I’d like to focus today on three areas of prayer, and hopefully answer some of the most often asked questions on the subject:
- How do you know if God hears your prayers?
- Why does God answer—or not answer—our prayers?
- What does forgiveness have to do with answered prayers?
The Bible tells us that God not only hears our prayers, but that He also loves to answer our prayers. Here’s what God told the prophet Isaiah about prayer:
“Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24 ESV)
To the prophet Jeremiah, God said,
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3 ESV)
Beloved, God hears your prayers.
We learn in the book of Genesis that when God created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, He walked and talked with them daily in the Garden of Eden that He had created for them. God wanted to have a relationship with them. And He wants to have a relationship with you, too.
Sadly, when Adam and Eve sinned and ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, they cut both themselves and all of humanity off from that close intimate relationship with God. Beloved, that’s what sin does. It separates us from God, and also from each other. When Adam bit into that fruit, something died inside of both him and Eve. Shame separated him from the spiritual life, the connection with God that we were all made for.
Speaking of sin and the cost of sin, the Bible says:
“For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
The book of Isaiah says:
“It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” (Isaiah 59:2)
Our sin separates us from God, and is sometimes the reason why it seems our prayers go unanswered.
Here’s the good news, Beloved. God loves you so much that He sent His only Son Jesus to die on the cross as a sacrifice. His blood was the payment for your sins, so that you could once again enter into a relationship with God the Father.
Jesus came to offer us the one thing that we could not get for ourselves: access back into the Father’s House. That’s because access into the Father’s House required a payment for our sins: the forgiveness of our debts, neither of which we could produce on our own. So Jesus paid the price for us.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
It is through this gift of forgiveness, this reconciliation, that Jesus said the following:
“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14)
Receiving the forgiveness that Jesus offers you—through His payment for your sins on the cross—gives you access back into the Father’s house, and gives you the right to pray like a son or a daughter, just like Jesus did.
Forgiveness is the key to answered prayers. It is the foundation of your relationship with God.
Prayer is one way in which we connect with God, and talk to him about what’s happening in our lives. Our hurts and worries, our concerns and joys, our hopes and dreams: God wants to hear it all. He loves to hear it all. And when we are forgiven in Christ, we are assured that He not only hears, but will answer our prayers.
But here’s the thing, Beloved: once we receive this powerful gift of forgiveness, it is imperative that we share this same forgiveness with others.
CS Lewis said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
Are there some people in your life that you need to extend forgiveness to? The Bible teaches that when we withhold forgiveness from others, we are actually hurting ourselves and hindering God from answering our prayers:
“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.” (Mark 11:25 ESV)
Jesus always links prayer with forgiveness, because forgiveness breaks the power of resentment, retaliation, and bitterness that can so easily dominate our hearts when we don’t forgive.
Roberto Assagoli wrote, “Without forgiveness, life is governed by… an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.”
When you forgive the inexcusable that someone has done to you—because God has also forgiven the inexcusable in you—you free yourself up to come to God knowing that your prayers are heard, and will be answered. Why? Because you are able to unite your heart with God’s in prayer, not allowing your sins to separate you from Him any further.
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Published on May 2, 2018.