Forgiveness can be easier when we forgive those we love, or the insult is minor. But learning how to pray for forgiveness can be hard when the pain runs deep, or the person who hurt us doesn’t feel remorse.
Scripture tells us forgiveness is not optional- no matter the circumstance. Let’s see what the Bible says on how to pray for forgiveness.
What is Forgiveness and Why is It Important?
Forgiveness is a deliberate decision to put aside feelings of anger, resentment, and/or revenge and replace them with pardon and mercy- granting the offender an “acquittal” or release. It shows genuine kindness, mercy, and compassion- exactly what Jesus did for us. Even if someone hurts us.
Forgiveness does not hinge on whether the other party deserves forgiveness or asks for it. Neither does it deny the seriousness of the offense committed. Forgiveness is not forgetting, condoning or excusing the behavior.
Related Post: Is it Possible to Forgive and Forget?
What did Jesus say about Forgiveness?
He spoke many times about forgiveness; he knew how hard it would be for us to learn how to pray for forgiveness!
Peter came to Jesus and asks,
“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22.
Jesus was explaining to Peter that forgiveness has no limits. We are to always forgive, no matter the hurt.
“This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28
Jesus’ sacrifice is the cornerstone of forgiveness. He came to earth to die in our place so that our sins could be forgiven.
Possibly the most important words He spoke about forgiveness were His own words spoken as a perfect example for us:
“Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34.
Modeling the utmost in grace and mercy, He asked His Father to forgive His executioners. He experienced unspeakable pain and abuse and still prayed for those who inflicted it upon him.
Guidelines for Prayer
How Do We Ask for Forgiveness?
We know that as Christians, God looks at us and sees Jesus instead of our sins. He isn’t mad at you, nor does he want revenge.
If you mistakenly believe your sins are too great, consider the forgiveness of two significant men of the Bible: David (lust, adultery, murder) and Paul (led a viscous persecution of the early church.)
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
When God rejected Cain’s careless offering, Cain became furious. (Genesis 4:3-7) God’s reaction to Cain’s anger was not condemnation or retaliation. God calmly and lovingly tried to help him work through it. He wants to do the same for you and me.
Step One: Own your sin. Think about the areas of your life where you have hurt or failed others. Be honest with yourself. Then admit them plainly to God. I lied. I gossiped. Call your sin what it is and confess it to God. (He already knows about it; it doesn’t take him by surprise!)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
Step Two: Turn Away from your Sin Behavior. Admitting your sin is the first step, but we must go further. We need to do a 180-degree turn from these sin behaviors and move towards God. That’s true repentance. Anyone can feel sorry for their sins, but we need to express genuine sorrow and regret for our words or actions, and then commit to change.
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Acts 3:19 (NIV)
Step Three: Ask for Forgiveness. If you’ve done steps one and two, then your prayer for forgiveness will not be a catch-all phrase (“Forgive me for anything I’ve done wrong this week.”) God will not force you to feel sorry, repent, and ask for forgiveness.
Ideally, your prayer would come pouring from your heart in a heart-felt conversation with your heavenly Father. But here’s a general prayer of confession that can get you started. Fill in the details and pray whatever comes to your mind.
I come to you now to confess my sin to you. I know that you shower me with your grace, and your mercies are new to me every morning. Thank you for loving me enough to send your Son as an atonement for my sin.
Lord, I try to live my life for you, but every day I fall short. I don’t love as you do. I lost my patience. Lord, I spoke unkindly. The good things I want to do- I don’t. The hurtful things I want to stop- I continue to do.
Forgive me Lord and please convict me of my sin. I pray for the strength to turn from my sin. Thank you for your forgiveness that you so freely give.
In Jesus’ name I pray,
Prayer to Forgive Others
Because God has forgiven us, we too must forgive others. We can’t pick and choose whom to forgive.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
I know there are situations that are very difficult to forgive. I was sexually abused as a child, and struggled for years with the concept of forgiveness. I wanted to forgive my abuser; but wasn’t sure I had.
I asked questions, I read books, I prayed about it. But in the end, it was Jesus who changed my heart to truly forgive. He asked me to put my abuser in His strong, capable hands and let him be the judge and jury.
And I did. It was my choice, but I “handed him over.” I immediately felt covered by Jesus’ overwhelming love and care for me.
God has filled us with the power of the Holy Spirit who can do anything. That Holy Spirit power allowed me to bless/love my abuser just enough to forgive him and pray he will repent and be saved.
Can I suggest a prayer to forgive others; no matter the hurt inflicted? I found this to be effective in all situations. It can be a simple “Jesus, please bless ______.”
Each time you feel angry, hurt, or a tiny seed of bitterness taking root, replace it with this prayer. It’s hard to feel revengeful thoughts as you offer up a prayer. Your focus turns to God and His excellent plan for your healing and spiritual growth.
Healing from hurt can take time. Here’s another prayer to soothe your soul:
You see and hear all things. You know me full well. I’m struggling with forgiving ________. I find myself critical and complaining about them. Give me your eyes to see them as you do. I pray for your direction and guidance in my situation and a heart to love and forgive.
Soften my heart. Soften theirs for conviction of the ways they hurt. You alone are the mighty Judge and King. I place them in your hands. Give me your strength and patience. Protect me from the Enemy who loves to see your children at odds with each other. Empower me with your truth, Word, love and protection. Give me the wisdom to respond as you would.
I ask all these things in the precious name of Jesus,
Benefits of Forgiveness
Learning how to pray for forgiveness is important because it can be the healing balm that repairs a relationship. It also brings us peace of mind. When we let go of anger, resentment, and pain, we can heal and move forward.
Refusal to forgive can cause anxiety, sleeplessness, a bitter and angry spirit, and affects those who we love and care for. Paul says it best in Hebrews 12:15b (NLT) “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”
True forgiveness takes a spirit of humility and a lot of courage. But the benefits of forgiveness far outweigh the difficulty.
I love these words of Jesus: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
Experience his peace in your soul and in your relationships by practicing forgiveness.