When Jesus was entering Jerusalem, he cursed a fig tree. When he and his disciples returned the tree had withered away. The disciples were astounded and Jesus explained the role of faith as it relates to prayer. He said, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:23-24). Without getting into the specifics of what it means to move a mountain, one cannot miss the fact that Jesus was teaching that a doubting heart can make our prayers ineffective. James makes his profound instruction concerning prayers for wisdom dependent on faith as well. He writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:5-6).

But Jesus, looking back at the Mark passage, added another issue that would hinder our prayers as well. He says in Mark 11:25, the following verse, “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.” Forgiveness is connected with the effectiveness of our prayer lives. It further attaches our forgiveness of others with God’s forgiveness of us.

I’ve seen un-forgiveness destroy families. Spouses, ex-spouses have so embittered themselves that they’ve poisoned others in the family. Siblings have been so alienated that they store up offense after offense and will not even consider softening their hearts toward each other. They let a past hurt or offense seep deep into the core of their being and swill around as acid in the pit of the stomach. It eats away at their peace, confidence, contentment, as well as their sleep. As a Spiritual family, the Church can be destroyed by our failures to forgive each other. Personal vendettas and competitive strife in a church can destroy its effectiveness as well as the peace of its members. Paul usually addressed the churches as families and exhorted them accordingly. To the Church at Ephesus, as well as to your church family, and my church family, Paul writes, “Let all bitterness…be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).