We must live a lifestyle of loving others unconditionally for our faith to work and remember faith (1) is essential for our prayers to be effective. This is because by loving others when they do not deserve it, we cause our own spiritual hearts to believe that God loves us enough to help even when we do not deserve it. The result is our having the confidence to ask God for what we need, want, and desire independent of our circumstances. However, loving others must not be just words alone but rather with actions that are done without false pretense and conditions.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him?If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? (James 2:14–16 NET)
This principle can also be seen in the hindrance of our prayer life when we do not walk in love with our spouses.
You also do this: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears as you weep and groan, because he no longer pays any attention to the offering nor accepts it favorably from you. Yet you ask, “Why?” The LORD is testifying against you on behalf of the wife you married when you were young, to whom you have become unfaithful even though she is your companion and wife by law. No one who has even a small portion of the Spirit in him does this. What did our ancestor do when seeking a child from God? Be attentive, then, to your own spirit, for one should not be disloyal to the wife he took in his youth. “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and the one who is guilty of violence,” says the LORD who rules over all. “Pay attention to your conscience, and do not be unfaithful.” (Malachi 2:13–16 NET)
Husbands, in the same way, treat your wives with consideration as the weaker partners and show them honor as fellow heirs of the grace of life. In this way nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7 NET)
Why is this true? Because faith works by love.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight—the only thing that matters is faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6 NET)
Remember, without faith, we cannot receive anything from God, including healing.
But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed around by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a double-minded individual, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6–8 NET)
Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you ill? He should summon the elders of the church, and they should pray for him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up—and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness. (James 5:13–16 NET)
As Christians, we are to be willing to die not only physically but have the attitude of dying spiritually, without Christ, so that others might attain salvation.
“I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34 NET)
No one has greater love than this—that one lays down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 NET)
For I could wish that I myself were accursed—cut off from Christ—for the sake of my people, my fellow countrymen, who are Israelites. To them belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 9:3–5 NET)
The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a very serious sin, but now I will go up to the LORD—perhaps I can make atonement on behalf of your sin.” So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has committed a very serious sin, and they have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin …, but if not, wipe me out from your book that you have written.” (Exodus 32:30–32 NET)
We will never be asked to do this, nor could we (1), but this must be the attitude of our heart. This is how the world will know that Christians are different – by God’s love in our lives – not by anything else.
Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 NET)
The definition of this unconditional love of God (1) can be found in these verses:
Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends... (1 Corinthians 13:4–8 a NET)
Furthermore, this describes God, for He is love Himself.
The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8 NET)
We cultivate this lifestyle of loving others by learning the Bible by spiritual heart.
But whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him. (1 John 2:5 NET)
But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5 NET)
Then the Holy Spirit will keep our spiritual hearts full of the unconditional love of God so that we might give it to others.
And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5 NET)
“But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.” (Luke 6:27–38 NET)
Furthermore, this love of God in our spiritual hearts will result in our generous giving to others.
Each one of you should give just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, because God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 NET)
When we give generously to others, our hearts (1) will be ready to receive our answers to prayer generously.
Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith. (Galatians 6:7–10 NET)
We have more to do with the forgiveness of others and ourselves than we have ever realized. For example, if we refuse to forgive – others or ourselves – then God will not forgive us.
“For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins. (Matthew 6:14–15 NET)
Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25 NET)
Furthermore, in this condition, there is nothing others can do to help you, as evidenced by God’s instructions to not even pray for a fellow Christian in this condition of un-forgiveness:
If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that. (1 John 5:16)
Why? Again, because we stop our own forgiveness from God when we fail to forgive others!
Then Peter came to him and said, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times! “For this reason, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves.As he began settling his accounts, a man who owed ten thousand talents was brought to him. Because he was not able to repay it, the lord ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, children, and whatever he possessed, and repayment to be made. Then the slave threw himself to the ground before him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you everything.’ The lord had compassion on that slave and released him, and forgave him the debt. After he went out, that same slave found one of his fellow slaves who owed him one hundred silver coins. So he grabbed him by the throat and started to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe me!’Then his fellow slave threw himself down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you.’ But he refused. Instead, he went out and threw him in prison until he repaid the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were very upset and went and told their lord everything that had taken place. Then his lord called the first slave and said to him, ‘Evil slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me! Should you not have shown mercy to your fellow slave, just as I showed it to you?’ And in anger his lord turned him over to the prison guards to torture him until he repaid all he owed. So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21–35 NET)
Without living to forgive others, we walk in condemnation and fear of judgment; therefore, we lack the confidence and faith to go to our Heavenly Father in prayer.
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth. And by this we will know that we are of the truth and will convince our conscience in his presence, that if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience and knows all things. Dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, we have confidence in the presence of God, and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing to him. Now this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he gave us the commandment. And the person who keeps his commandments resides in God, and God in him. Now by this we know that God resides in us: by the Spirit he has given us. (1 John 3:18–24 NET)
Forgiving and accepting others simply means that we won’t hold them accountable to us for their failures. We continue to respond to them with grace, mercy-love, and compassion. It does not mean we become doormats for everyone to walk over or ignore their actions.
Forgiveness frees us from the destruction others cause. We can forgive someone abusive without continuing to subject ourselves to that abuse. Furthermore, forgiveness does not mean we should keep silent if that person seeks to hurt others.
Forgiveness does not absolve people of their responsibility to us. Forgiveness does absolve people of their accountability to us. However, they are still accountable to a merciful and just God for what they have done.
Forgiveness protects our relationships from the damage of the past. It frees us from the demand for perfection as it overlooks faults and offenses. If we are constantly receiving God’s forgiveness, we will naturally stop holding others to a standard they cannot meet by themselves.
Remember that hurting people hurt people, and they are easily hurt by others. Be quick to forgive, realizing that love melts pain.
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21–22 NET)
Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19–21 NET)
In Bible times, an oriental needed to keep his heart fire going all the time to ensure fire for cooking and warmth. If it went out, he had to go to a neighbor for some live coals of fire. These he would carry on his head in a container, oriental fashion, back to his home. The person who would give him some live coals would be meeting his desperate need and showing him outstanding kindness. If he heaped the container with coals, the man would be sure of getting some home still burning. The one injured would be returning kindness for injury.(2)
Be ready to accept others where they are. Be willing to walk with them on their journey. Accept people as they are – trusting God will change them. This does not mean we condone their behavior or beliefs. It means you respect their humanity enough to let them work through the process. People run from those that are always trying to change them into what they think they should be. People open their lives to those who accept them the way they are. People do not need us to fix their problems. People simply need us to be there with them. Realize forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things: Forgiveness frees others from my judgment, vengeance, and desire for retribution.
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1–5 NET)
Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14–21 NET)
Forgiveness frees me from bitterness and overcomes the hurts others have caused. However, forgiveness does not absolve sin. Forgiveness does not have anything to do with future trust. Consequently, the offer of forgiveness does not mean that trust has been restored. In most cases, trust has to be re-earned. Consequently, a forgiven person may still be an untrustworthy person. Reconciliation is a process of healing between the offender and the offended. Reconciliation demands that the offender recognizes their offense, understands the pain it caused, offers restitution, and assurance that the offending pattern will change. Reconciliation is not always possible; however, we can and must still forgive.
Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 NET)
Do not be discouraged when forgiveness does not come easily. Forgiveness is less of a choice than a process. We must choose to forgive; however, God must work in our hearts to remove the bitterness and pain which may be hidden in layers (like an onion). Consequently, our choice to forgive may be contrary to our real, deeply buried feelings. Therefore, we must choose to forgive every time one of these memories surfaces. If we, by faith, choose to forgive each time the memory returns, God will cause the memory of the hurt to fade until it is gone.
Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, saying, “Certainly God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s house.” (Genesis 41:51 NET)
But Joseph answered them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day. (Genesis 50:19–20 NET)
Not forgiving is like swallowing rat poison and waiting for the rat to die – Anne Lamott
Nevertheless, if we see a fellow Christian commit any other sin than unforgiveness or someone sins against us then we must intercede for God to give them an opportunity to repent.
If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that. All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not resulting in death. (1 John 5:16–17 NET)
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.And to all these virtues add love, which is the perfect bond. (Colossians 3:12–14 NET)
Above all keep your love for one another fervent, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8 NET)
My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, he should know that the one who turns a sinner back from his wandering path will save that person’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19–20 NET)
Lastly, we need to follow the example of our Lord Jesus, who, after being mistreated and while dying on the cross (1), made asking forgiveness for those crucifying Him a priority.
So when they came to the place that is called “The Skull,” they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. But Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Then they threw dice to divide his clothes. (Luke 23:33–34 NET)
Heavenly Father, cause us to suffer long and be kind; to not envy; to not parade ourselves, to not be puffed up, to not behave rudely, to not seek our own, to not be provoked, to think no evil, to not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoice in the truth, to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things, to never fail. Amen. (Based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Discover Prayer Series:
- We Must Ask
- Seek Only Our Heavenly Father’s Glory
- Pray the Promise, Not Just the Problem
- Pray in Faith
- Live a Lifestyle of Unconditionally Loving Others
- Have an Attitude of Gratitude
- Be Persistent
- Power Dressing for Prayer
- The Lord’s Prayer: The Outline for Prayer Given to Us by Jesus
(Security, Wholeness, Success)
Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. (3 John 1:2 NET)
(1) Select the link to open another article in a new tab with additional information.
(2) Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Volume 1, Romans p. 220, Kenneth S. Wuest, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids Michigan 49502