This year we are focusing on forgiveness. Jesus unconditionally calls us to forgive, “seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:22. As part of our focus, I am inviting our church to take 14-21 days to pray The Compassion Prayer, printed in this newsletter.
What does forgiveness really mean? I invite you to take this forgiveness quiz, borrowed from Rick Warren’s Daily Hope:
1. A person should not be forgiven until asking for it. T/F
2. Forgiving includes minimizing the offense and the pain caused. T/F
3. Forgiveness includes restoring trust and reuniting a relationship. T/F
4. When you see somebody hurt, it is your duty to forgive the offender. T/F
5. Forgiveness is once for all. T/F
Let’s consider these one at a time.
First, “a person should not be forgiven until asking for it.” This is false. Colossians 3:13, NLT: "Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." There is no caveat for people who don’t repent or don’t seek your forgiveness.
Next, “forgiving includes minimizing the offense and the pain caused.” This is also false. “I, the Lord, invite you to come and talk it over. Your sins are scarlet red, but they will be whiter than snow or wool” (Isaiah 1:18, CEV). God doesn’t sugar-coat our sin, and we should not sugar-coat the pain others have caused us. An important part of forgiveness is naming and acknowledging the pain.
“Forgiveness includes restoring trust and reuniting a relationship.” This is false. Jesus told His followers, “Do not throw your pearls before swine.” Matthew 7:6. Abusive situations are a good example of when forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation. In that situation, to restore the relationship would be to enable sin. Forgiveness in an abusive situation means praying for the person, wishing them well, and letting go of the hurt, but it does not by any means mean returning to the relationship until it is safe to do so.
“When you see someone hurt, it is your duty to forgive the offender.” This too is false. Forgiveness belongs to the person who is wronged and not to anyone else. “And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive” (Luke 17:3–4 NRSV). “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” To usurp another person’s ability to forgive is to minimize and dismiss their pain. Take inventory of your own resentments and don’t worry about those of others.
“Forgiveness is once for all.” That’s false; forgiveness is truly a process. When Jesus says we forgive seventy times seven, I think He’s referring to a process. We rarely forgive in one big dramatic moment, but rather, over and over, each time we feel ourselves harboring negative thoughts or emotions toward another.
Whatever rituals you use—prayers, writing down the pain and journaling forgiveness, or calling the person to say “I forgive you,” forgiveness means letting go of the pain and loving a person who has hurt you. I wish you forgiveness today.
You are invited to make this prayer part of your prayer life for 14-21 days. Research has demonstrated this prayer to be 80-90% effective in forgiving and feeling compassion for others.
Daily Compassion Exercise
(Printed with permission from Greater Impact Ministries)
…to be prayed slowly to God in the morning and in the evening. Feel free to adapt the prayer to keep it sincere. Results are based on using over 50% of the content daily.
Directions: Please read this prayer aloud to yourself first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. Be thoughtful and allow the mind He gave you to slowly take in the images.
Lord God, King of Kings, Creator of the Universe, I humbly come before You, eager to grow in intimacy with You.
I declare Your presence always here, and ask that Your Spirit quiet my mind and often troubled heart.
I humbly invite You to join me during this time. I know You are here, Father – I simply mean that I need Your Spirit’s revelation.
Father, I collect distracting thoughts and put them on paper, so that I can come back to them later and not let them interfere with our time together here now.
Father, I confess I’m short-sighted and have difficulty tuning my heart to Yours to receive encouragement and blessing from You. Sometimes it is a struggle to focus on the blessings in my life, how I am grateful for You, how You’ve created me, and those in my life. If I am struggling with what to say to You in prayer, Oh God, help me just sing praises to You, dwelling on the many blessings in my life until the time is up. Help me see them.
Now, Lord God, I ask You to help me as I intentionally choose to renew my mind. Your Word says in Ephesians 4:22-24 that, in reference to our former manner of life, I lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that I be renewed in the spirit of my mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.…
Your Word says in Romans 12:2 that we are to not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind. Then we will be able to test and approve what God's will is--Your good, pleasing and perfect will.
We are told in Lamentations 3:22-23 that it is through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because Your compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 2:16 when he quotes from Isaiah, “As the scripture says, ‘Who knows the mind of the Lord? Who is able to give him advice?'” … and then he says at the end of that - "We, however, have the mind of Christ.”
We are told multiple places in the Bible that we are to put on compassion, to be kind, gentle, tender-hearted with one another, to bear each other’s burdens. We saw over and over again in the Bible how Jesus’s compassion consistently preceded miracles. Lord, I pray for Your Holy Spirit to fill me in this way, that I would be able to obey and follow Jesus into compassion.
And so, I come at this time, seeking to have the compassion of Christ, just as You do for us. I let my mind dwell now on a vision of our Savior, bloody and bruised, dragging His cross up Calvary’s hill…
I see Him being nailed to the cross, and as the soldier places each nail, I hear the hammer strike, I feel the vibration of screaming pain through His nerves, and I remember that He does this for me. I sit in wonder at His great compassion and love for me…
I am in the crowd, watching His death. I hear Him cry out to You, “Why have You forsaken Me?” as the greatest pain tears through His soul, as He is separated from God.
I hear His words, “forgive them, they know not what they do,” and I sense His love for me as warm light from His heart to mine, emanating from the cross, and this warmth fills me. His love is like a sweet, warm, comforting light that fills me…
I think of a few of my recent sins… a lie I have told, a critical remark I have made, when I didn’t do my best, harsh words I spoke to others and myself…
And I know I am responsible for each nail, for His sacrifice…
Father, forgive me…
And I see Him in my mind, however I picture Him, smiling at me, arms open to receive me, and his great love once again like a warm bright yellow light comes from His heart to me, bathing me in warmth, love, comfort…and I step into his embrace, I feel His arms wrap around me, His hand on the back of my head, stroking my hair…I feel His breath on my neck, the warmth of His strong arms and chest… I feel safe… Loved… known… accepted…
And I receive this Love, accepting it, closing my eyes, taking it all in, knowing I am known, loved, cherished, prized…
And I pray back to God aloud,
“Father, thank You for Jesus,”
‘Thank You for blessing me
Thank you for loving me this much
Thank you for forgiving me
I receive and accept Your Great Love and Grace
Lord, help me love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Help me love my neighbor as myself.’
And now I think of that person with whom I struggle, and I bring that person into my vision with Christ. I sense Jesus inviting me to share His compassion, His love, with this person. The three of us stand there, and looking at Christ, I receive God’s hand. He smiles at us. And He begins to glow with His light of love. The light grows and the warmth spreads, and I am encompassed by it. He looks to the person standing there with me, and Christ’s love flows out of both of us onto them. The warmth and glow of His light of love surrounds the three of us.
I say these things aloud to our Lord, and with each one, I see a surge of even greater love come from Christ, envelope us, and wash over the person.
I pray for this person as I stand there in this Great Love, “Father, will you bless _________? Will you bring joy to __________? Will you comfort and ease _________’s suffering?”
“Father, will you bless _____________?” Will you bring joy to _____________?
Will you comfort and ease _____________’s suffering?”
And now I think of a suffering this person has endured, a time of struggle. If I don’t know of one, I think of one they may have gone through because of their circumstances. I dwell on what happened, vividly imagining the struggle as if it were happening to me.
Lord, will You help me have compassion for this person the way You do? Help me focus for a few moments on what that struggle must have been like for _________, how __________ must have been afraid,
how __________ must have worried, felt out of control, been hurt, been angry…
I sense Jesus inviting me to share His compassion, His love, with this person. The three of us stand there, and looking at Christ, I receive God’s hand. He smiles at me. And He begins to glow with His light of love. The light grows and the warmth spreads, and I am encompassed by it. Jesus continues to look at me this time, as Christ’s love flows out of both of us onto the other person. The warmth and glow of His light of love surrounds the three of us.
I say these things aloud to You Lord, and with each one, I feel a desire deepening for Your blessing for _________. The desire for blessing grows stronger with each word I pray. I see a surge of even greater love come from Christ, enveloping us, and then washing over ____________. I pray for this person as I stand there in this Great Love, “Father, will you bless _________? Will you bring joy to _________? Will you comfort and ease ________’s suffering?”
“Father, will you bless _________?” Will you bring joy to _________? Will you comfort and ease ________’s suffering?” Will You give me Your compassion for __________ and help me wish the best for _______?
Thank You Jesus, for this time with me.
Lord, will You reveal what is true in my heart now? What is different about me compared to when I started this today? Is my heart softer? Did I resist Your love or extend Your compassion to this person? Reveal to me anything that is blocking my reception and acceptance of Your love for me, my compassion for myself, and my compassion for __________. Thank You Father, for being gentle and truthful with me.
In Jesus’ Name I pray.