Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone.
–Mark 11:25

In Mark 11:25-26 Jesus said, “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.”

Let me explain the scenario Jesus is describing in these verses. Imagine that you decide to set your alarm clock 20 minutes earlier so you can spend some time praying. Your alarm goes off, you kneel down, and you start praying to your heavenly Father … when suddenly an alien thought comes into your mind. You remember some hurtful words your mate spoke to you last week. At the time your mate spoke those words, you dismissed it. You thought you had forgiven it. But now you are praying and suddenly remember what your mate said to you. What is to be your response? Some people would say, “Jesus taught that you need to quit worshipping and go be reconciled to that person.” And it’s true; the Bible does teach that. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus said, “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

In this passage Jesus was emphasizing the importance of having a clear conscience. Paul talked about two necessities for the Christian life: “faith and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:19). A clear conscience is the knowledge that no one, including God, can accuse you of a wrong you have not attempted to make right. That’s not saying that people can’t accuse you, because anybody can accuse you of anything–believe me, I have experienced that. But you can have a clear conscience if you know that you have attempted to make right what people have accused you of. That’s why if you are trying to worship God and you remember that somebody has something against you, then you need to try to make that wrong right.

But that is not the situation Jesus was describing in Mark 11. He said, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive”–not if somebody has something against you, but–“if you have anything against anyone” (v. 25). See the difference? If you are trying to worship God and remember that you have something against somebody else, then what are you supposed to do? Drop everything and try to be reconciled to that person? No. Right there in the privacy of your bedroom, church pew, or wherever you are, from your own heart you are to forgive that person. You have the ability to forgive, to let go, to surrender what you have against the other person and to get on with your worship. It doesn’t matter what that other person does or doesn’t do. It doesn’t matter where that other person is. That person can be in the next room, in the next state, or even in the cemetery. Jesus said you have the ability in your own heart to begin and end the forgiveness transaction.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Forgiving Sorry People Who Aren’t Sorry” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.