Lessons from the Ministry Frontlines: Things Learned Through Prayer

by Sara Flynn
Jul/Aug 2009

Bitter Root Judgements

As I was preparing for my talk on Blessings and Curses for the School of Healing Prayer Level III recently, I was also part of a team praying with someone suffering from stage four lung cancer. I mentioned the great results we were seeing to another prayer minister and she suggested I ask the prayer recipient about the existence of bitter root judgments. She also recommended I read Doris Wagner’s book, How to Minister Freedom, specifically the chapter by Cindy Jacobs on bitter root judgments. I did so. I had heard of bitter root judgments in the past and read John and Paula Sandford’s book, Transformation of the Inner Man1, twenty years ago but I had never prayed for release from bitter root judgments for myself or anyone else. How I wish I had!

Bitter root judgments usually originate in our families of origin and are often expressed in close relationships later in life. Children judge their parents and/or siblings for wounds suffered during the course of life together. Sometimes, as in cases of child sexual abuse, for example, the injuries are great and judgment seems justified. While we are permitted to judge behavior, we are not permitted to bitterly judge the heart or motivations of another person. When we do, we plant a seed of bitter judgment in our own life which operates like a curse pronounced over ourselves.2 Thus, we are not only injured by the original offense but also by our response to it. With the passage of time the unconfessed sin develops into a root system in our hearts. As we continue to judge bitterly, we strengthen that root system and it becomes more powerful and persistent in its quiet growth. Of course, we don’t see the roots in this stage of development – they’re well hidden - but later, we see the poisonous fruit that springs forth from the mature plant that has been nourished by the bitter roots of judgment. We wonder how on earth the unwanted fruit grew in our lives. We may blame someone else and continue in ignorance, reaping a harvest of bitterness in relationships that are very important to us.

God has set a law in motion which demands that we eat the fruit ourselves (Gal. 6:7). While most Christians realize the need to forgive others, most of us do not go the extra step of examining our hearts to see if we made a bitter judgment (perhaps long ago) at the time of the hurtful offense. If we did, we need to expose the root and take an ax to it! But how? The answer is surprisingly easy. The habit of judging others is part of the old sin nature to which we die daily. Jesus died to remove from us the consequences for all sin, bitter root judgments included, but we have to confess our sins, repent and, in this case, stop judging bitterly to receive the full benefit of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.   

Let me give you an example from my own life. When I was a child, my father made a financial decision regarding an inheritance my grandfather provided for my brothers and me. His decision made the money available to us during childhood and was used to pay for various items, all of which were very enriching and beneficial to us as children. In hindsight, I respect my father’s choice. Nonetheless, at the time, I wanted to defer receipt of my inheritance until adulthood and was thus very angry at my father and resented his decision on my behalf. I judged him bitterly in my heart.

In adulthood, I have struggled financially. While God has been very gracious to me throughout my life, I could never get ahead of the seemingly inevitable money problems. I married a man who was not financially responsible. When we were in the process of divorcing I discovered that he had taken out a credit card in my name and run up a $10,000.00 debt for which I was fully responsible. He had also failed to pay taxes on his business for two years and I had to pay half of that debt as well. When we divorced, my portion of the marital assets was allotted to me in our home which I had to sell. The first sale of the house fell through. The house finally sold nine months later but just a week shy of foreclosure. How unfair it all seemed. I wondered what I had done to deserve such difficulties. If only I had known!

When I reread the Sandford’s chapter on bitter root judgment, I realized how deeply this simple truth of sowing and reaping was affecting my life. I had long since forgiven my father and he has forgiven me. But I had never asked God to forgive me for bitterly judging my dad. The seeds I sowed in ignorance during childhood had sprung up in full flower in my adult life and caused serious trouble for me and my children. So I confessed this sin against my father and repented. Then I asked the Lord to cancel the sowing and reaping cycle, and to bless my dad in every possible way, giving back to both of us everything that we lost as a result of my bitter root judgment. Lastly, I prayed the Lord would heal every wound in our relationship that came from my sin.

Before I came to CHM, I worked part-time from home as a mitigation specialist. I still periodically consult attorneys preparing for capital trials, or representing their clients on death row. After I prayed to be released from the effects of this particular bitter root judgment three weeks ago, I have had so many job offers I have had to turn them down.  I have more simultaneous opportunities to earn money than in the previous five years!

The woman for whom we are praying for cancer is breathing better than she has since her diagnosis two years ago. Her lungs are free of fluids and she is suffering no side effects from the chemo. And yes, she also prayed to be released from the effects of bitter root judgments. Praise God!

1While both books are excellent resources, the Sandford book is the seminal source for Wagner’s chapter on the topic.
2The foundational scriptures for this teaching are Deut. 5:16, Matt 7:1-2, Gal. 6:7 and Hebrews 12:15.

Sara Flynn Sara Flynn is the Ministry Program Director at CHM. Jul/Aug 2009 Issue