Today’s Reading: Mark 11
Sometime ago, Dave Hagler, who works as an umpire in a recreational baseball league, was pulled over for driving too fast in the snow in Boulder, Colorado. He tried to talk the officer out of giving him a ticket by telling him how worried he was about insurance and how he’s normally a very safe driver, and so on. The officer said that if he didn’t like receiving the ticket, he could take the matter to court.
At the first game in the next baseball season, Dave was umpiring behind the plate when the first batter approached. And can you believe it, it was the policeman. As the officer was about to step into the batter’s box, they recognized each other and offered a long pause.
Finally the officer asked, “So how did the thing with the ticket go?”
Dave said, “You’d better swing at everything.”
Someone once said, “‘I can forgive, but I cannot forget,’ is only another way of saying, ‘I cannot forgive.’”
I think Dave couldn’t let it go. And all of that affected a recreational softball game.
Unforgiveness is underestimated. Marilyn Hickey tells us that a person who lives in unforgiveness does three things:
1. Curses the offense.
2. Nurses the offense.
3. Rehearses the offense.
In today’s reading, we focus on unforgiveness—and Jesus tells us there is a lot at stake when someone won’t forgive. It’s bigger than a softball game; instead, it infects the most powerful weapon we are given on this planet: prayer. Listen to what Jesus instructs us about prayer and unforgiveness:
Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25-26)
Today’s Scripture mentions one of these problems that breaks the communication line. It’s similar to a circuit breaker in a house. A circuit breaker in your house is an electrical device that interrupts the flow of electricity from one site to the other. Prayer circuit breakers are things in our lives that interrupt or hinder our communication with God. So when prayer is not working, something broke the circuit.
There are two commanding moments in this chapter on the power and importance of prayer. In verse 17, Jesus says that His house should be called a house of prayer. I think this is really missing today. Today, His house is a house of worship, preaching, teaching, serving, but not many believers have placed the importance on prayer on their church.
Jesus also tells us in verses 22-24 the power of prayer:
Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.”
One little thing can hinder mountains being put into the ocean—and that is unforgiveness. Jesus said all things for which we pray, we must believe we have received them and they will be granted—except when we don’t forgive our spouse for disrespecting us yesterday. Or a friend for breaking a confidence. Or a supervisor for yelling at us in a staff meeting, which embarrassed us.
The bigger question is this: is unforgiveness really worth it?
If my not forgiving people stops me from seeing God answer my prayer and short circuits my prayer, I need to let my unforgiveness go. There’s too much at stake.
Don’t try to ask big when unforgiveness is big in you. Every time you want to hold on to an offense, just think, If I do this, I get no mountains in the ocean.
Norman Vincent Peale related how that, as a boy, he once bought a large cigar that he began to smoke. He was feeling bold until he saw his father approach him on the street. He tried to hide the cigar behind his back. Searching desperately for something to say, he made a certain request of his father. “My father’s voice wasn’t harsh when he answered; it was simply firm. ‘Norman,’ he said, ‘one of the first lessons you should learn is this: never make a petition and at the same time try to hide a smoldering disobedience behind your back.’”
Next time you go to God in prayer and you realize you are harboring something that you need to forgive, do it quickly and get those mountains thrown into oceans. Nothing is worse than asking our Father for something with the glaring disobedience of unforgiveness holding on.