"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."
There may be times where you continually pray only to see no apparent answer to those prayers. During these times it is important to look inward to see if you may be tarnished with some unresolved sin. In Matthew 5:23-24 Christ teaches us to make an offering to God only if we have no issue that is unresolved with another. Prayer would be that offering. He asks us to go and restore that relationship first before we begin to pray.
Is there some situation with a friend or family member that has marked your soul? Have you responded to someone in sarcasm? Harbor anger over something they did to you? Intentionally lied to protect yourself? Recently, someone said to me, "I need to know how to pray for someone who has hurt me deeply, who daily causes me pain." I pondered that one for a moment thinking considering the fact that they are the one who was offended apparently not the person saying it. If such an offense turns into bitterness then we must break the barrier even though we didn't initiate it. Jesus said, "When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." (Mark 11:25) This simply means we begin prayer with forgiveness. We forgive those who have hurt us so that when we confess our wrongdoings, God will hear us and forgive us.
Remember once this is done God has already forgiven us. Hebrews 10:10 teaches us that "we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." It is already a done deal with God. But, we must always restore our broken human relationships before we venture into prayer.
Forgiveness requires trust that God will take care of the other person and situation once it is offered. Forgiveness is a massive step of faith that God is bigger than our personal baggage. Joseph forgave his brothers for conspiring to kill him, saying, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20) On the cross Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34). We must model this prayer in our lives after Christ, we will not only see forgiveness of our sins, but we will also learn to forgive.
Next time you are in need of forgiveness trying saying this:
I was wrong when I __________________. Will you forgive me?
Be specific when you apologize! No generalizations needed at this time!