Forgive us . . . as we forgive.
Last week's prayer for forgiveness is not a stand alone prayer. It comes as a duet. We pray for forgiveness and are forgiven as we forgive others.
Here is where we get off the train at our own undoing. It’s easy to feel that lots of people owe us the gift of asking for our forgiveness. We want them to own the hurt or wrong they committed. When it doesn’t happen, we nurse that hurt. Some of them run so deep they damage our hearts and close them.
It’s true that when someone asks for our forgiveness, it brings healing. However, the more serious the wound; the more unlikely you will never hear those words from the one you keep wanting them from. But that doesn’t mean there is no resolution. Perhaps the most costly forgiveness we ever give is when we have to initiate it.
Forgive us as we forgive.
Don’t get the order wrong here. First we ask forgiveness for our part in the disconnect even when it is nothing more than withholding our forgiveness until someone asks for it. We need the healing and empowering forgiveness of God first or we have nothing to give to another person. My husband says it this way, “God always gives us enough forgiveness to give away.”
Forgiving someone for something they should be asking forgiveness for feels unfair, unreasonable, and just backwards. But it is the only model Jesus showed us. He went to the cross forgiving his accusers, his tormentors, his executors. He took no grudges and wanted no revenge. Jesus shared this message in so many ways. He reminded us that if there is something between us and another, we must reconcile before offering our gift or prayer, even if the only place the reconciliation can happen is in our heart.
I can’t count how many times I’ve had to do this. For me the prayer has to be a bit more tangible. I have written down hurts my heart carried. Then one by one carried those offences to God and asked Him to forgive my hoarding them, forgive what I didn’t understand about another, forgive how I valued holding onto my hurt more than receiving His forgiveness. Then, I burn the list or shred it or bury it or crumple it for trash. Because that’s what it becomes to me when God clears my heart with his forgiveness.
An amazing thing happens when the work of this prayer is accomplished. God replaces the memory of the hurt with the memory of His freeing grace. That doesn’t mean I don’t remember it at all or redefine it as something good. It simply means His forgiveness frees me from carrying the weight of the pain. It means that where I nursed hurt, He bathed me with His love. And I understand in a new way how he shoulders my griefs and carries my sorrows so I can live free.
Don’t miss the peace and healing of this tandem prayer. Make this week your week to let God clear your heart. Allow Him to help you understand in a new way how forgiveness is always undeserved grace, whether it is for you or your offenders.