I started praying differently a couple of months ago.
You see, there’s been this “situation” bothering me for a while. It’s like a bad cold, and just when you think you’re over it, it knocks you down again. You think you’re feeling better, so you go back to work, but by the end of the day, you’re completely drained and in bed by 6:30 pm. You’re in denial that you’re sick thinking that if you keep telling yourself and everyone else that you’re better, that eventually your body will catch on and get with the game.
After realizing that ignoring the problem wasn’t improving the circumstances and feeling absolutely and utterly done with this emotional “bad cold” issue, I decided it was time to take care of it. But I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of it. I knew that there was something that I was or wasn’t doing that was keeping myself locked up in this prison I had built for myself and stepped right into shutting the door behind me. I knew I held the key to unlock the door, but all my efforts to use the key amounted to little progress. I needed to forgive and move forward, and I thought I was forgiving, but it wasn’t getting better.
I see a lot of power in involving God in the process when you find yourself needing to forgive another person. In the past when I would turn to God in prayer to forgive, I always said something like: “Heavenly Father, please forgive this individual for…”
But then it hit me, why am I telling God to forgive that person when it is I that needs to do the forgiving? I was approaching God and saying, “Hey, so this person was a jerk to me, will you please forgive them?” But it’s not my responsibility to tell God who and who not to forgive. He’s not just sitting up there waiting for me to give Him the green light go ahead so that He can exercise His love and mercy on behalf of another person by offering them His forgiveness. It’s not my job to tell God who to forgive. And furthermore, we can hold back our forgiveness until the day we die, but it will not prevent that individual from receiving God’s forgiveness. It just won’t.
That’s when I started praying differently.
I started praying: “Heavenly Father, I forgive that person for doing what they did. I forgive them for the way they treated me. I forgive them for what they said.” It’s a small change, but it’s a huge difference, and it made all the difference. It’s my responsibility to forgive someone who has hurt me; it’s not my responsibility to get God to forgive them.
This change was healing because I was taking responsibility for doing the forgiving. It was also healing because I was honest with myself about how I felt in that situation. Sometimes we will downplay or minimize circumstances to make the issue small enough to manage. But not being honest with yourself about how you feel limits you from healing.
So if there is someone in your life that “hates you” and “despitefully uses and persecutes you” pray for them.
When Christ said: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:44)” He’s not instructing us to be doormats to those who will push us around. And He’s not suggesting that it is better to be a doormat than it is to be a jerk. He said this to show us how to free ourselves from the paralyzing poison that can slowly spread darkness in our heart and mind.
So if someone meant to be rude and offensive and you feel hurt by their actions, talk to God about that and tell Him that you want to forgive that person for how their actions hurt you. And even if that person didn’t mean to be offensive and rude, but you still felt hurt by their actions; talk to God about that and tell Him that you want to forgive that person for how their actions hurt you.
Taking responsibility and being honest with yourself about how another’s person’s actions affected you makes you free. Holding back forgiveness and distorting the truth will keep that lousy emotional cold alive for a long time.
photo: I took this while in Oregon attending a retreat/workshop.