by Mary Mrozowski, adapted by Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler (adapted for Believers Church by Roger Nix)
During this season of confinement, you may have already had or will have a lot of opportunities for conflict and challenges, whether they be with the family members that you’re cooped up with, or with work situations. I’ve heard from a number different families, saying they’ve had some really great times but also some hard times. That much family time in quarantine means that at some point you’re going to hit the wall; our brokenness, our besetting sins, our personalities, and just the circumstances that we’re in will present us with the opportunity and the need to forgive. But oftentimes forgiveness is easier said than done.
Forgiveness is not just a mental exercise we go through, but a spiritual practice in which we experience the grace to both give and receive forgiveness. Forgiveness is a way of relinquishing and releasing the pain and impact of our brokenness and sinfulness. It keeps us from the bitterness and resentment that unforgiveness brings. Resentment literally means to “re-sent” or re-feel, to keep replaying and re- feeling an offense over and over.
Author Anne Lamott says that not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die. So how do we tap into the full work of the cross and the power of the blood to wash over us in a way in which we can actually experience the freedom of forgiveness? I want to introduce you to a simple prayer exercise called the Forgiveness Prayer that you can practice anytime you’re experiencing the pain of a relational breakdown. It’s a simple but powerful practice that can transform our pain so we don’t transmit it to others. So let me walk you through it. And remember, the goal is to let God guide you and be with you through the forgiveness process…
The first step is to get still in the presence of the Lord and to consent to whatever He wants to do:
Begin with a time of Centering Prayer, which simply means quieting your mind and your heart in stillness and silence, allowing yourself to become aware of God’s presence.
Stay there in silence for a few moments.
Close your eyes and gently ground yourself in your body; Notice where there’s tension or pain, tightness or soreness, and then relax each part of your body.
Rest and release any of the tension you are feeling, and breathe...
Focus on your heart and allow yourself to open up to God’s work within. Welcome the Holy Spirit into your life and heart.
Be open to whatever God wants to do. Continue to relax into your body...
Gently allow the Spirit to lead you into the welcoming presence of God.
The second step is to let God show you who you need to forgive and release:
Now, invite the Holy Spirit to bring forth a person, living or dead, whom you need to forgive.
Or, invite the Holy Spirit to support you as you call to mind a person that you wish to forgive.
Remain open to whomever appears in your heart or mind.
You may even want to welcome the person by name. Now comes the real work…
The third step is to articulate your pain:
Begin to share your experience of being in relationship with this person; share how you have been hurt, offended, traumatized.
Allow yourself to share your pain with this person.
Relax in the process and remain open.
The fourth step is to forgive and receive forgiveness:
When you feel ready, tell the person that you forgive them.
Gently say ‘I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you.’
Repeat as many times as needed until you feel ready to continue the process.
Now ask the person how you have offended, traumatized or hurt them.
Wait and listen. Remain open to the process.
When you feel ready, gently say, ‘Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me.’
Repeat as many times as needed until you feel complete in the process for now.
The fifth step is to close your time in reflection and prayer:
Observe your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Just be present with them.
Allow the person to leave your sacred, safe place.
Invite the person to return at a later time if needed.
Rest in the Spirit.
Take as much time in silence as you wish. Perhaps you will want to journal what you’ve experienced.
Gently open your eyes when you feel ready, staying grounded in your body.
Close with a prayer. You may want to pray the Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity Prayer, or a simple prayer of gratitude in your own words. Regardless, be assured that what you’ve just done is truly life changing. And you can do it as often as you need. Sometimes you may feel as if you’ve forgiven a person in the past, but something triggers those events and you find yourself needing to forgive all over again. Go for it. Some of the hardest and most traumatic events in our lives may take longer to uproot and release. But whatever it takes, it’s worth it.
Remember the words of our Master:
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. ~ Matthew 6:14-15