Part 1 ~ Reconciliation
If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.
Obviously, it is right to pray. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. How can it ever be wrong to pray?
Let me suggest five situations or circumstances in which, according to God’s word, we are out of line when we pray.
In Matthew 5:23, 24 we read:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
It is wrong to pray when God is telling you to go and seek reconciliation with someone else first. When we are not in right relationship with others, we may want to act as if everything’s fine. We may honestly be seeking God and wanting to draw close to Him, but God is saying, “Wait a minute. There’s a relationship in your life that is broken. First you need to go and seek to make that relationship right.”
As a pastor, I’ve witnessed the sad spectacle of chronic “church-hoppers.” These are folks who go all over town from church to church leaving a trail of broken relationships behind them. These people don’t get along with neighbors, co-workers, family or anyone else, but they seem to feel that these other broken relationships should pose no problem in their relationship with God. However, God says if you’re coming into His presence in order to offer worship or to pray and He reminds you that you have a relationship with someone else that is out of joint, you need to leave your gift at the altar and go seek reconciliation in that relationship first.
You may have a person in your life who has rejected your attempts at reconciliation. This has happened to me. What then?
In Romans 12:18 we read: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. There are two enormously blessed qualifiers in this sentence. First, “If it is possible.” This clearly implies that sometimes it’s not possible. The apostle Paul, who wrote these words, didn’t get along with everybody all the time. Secondly, Paul says, “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
What if there’s a person who is absolutely disagreeable and refuses to be at peace with you? You can’t control the behavior of other people, but you must honestly seek to make peace. So, if you have come to worship God and are seeking to draw near to Him and He reminds you (perhaps even right now) of a relationship that’s out of joint, you must seek to make it right. Then you can pray unhindered.
As a pastor, I have had people request church membership who first needed to go and make things right with other people, sometimes with people at the church they had just left. The Bible is clear that covenant relationships should be taken seriously. Church membership should include accountability. If we really love people, we want them to do the will of God. The will of God in their relationships with others, especially their brothers and sisters in Christ, is for them to seek peace and pursue it.
It is wrong to pray when we need to seek reconciliation with another person or other people. Prayer is not the place to start. Prayer must wait, because God says go and seek reconciliation with your brother first, and His word tells us how to do it.*