Forgiveness can be tough. C.S. Lewis said, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.” Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation – where the relationship is restored. Forgiveness is letting go of the burden in your heart, so that you can be free.
God forgives us, and expects us to forgive others. In fact, Jesus goes so far as to say that if we don’t forgive from the heart, we won’t be forgiven (Matt 18:35). This doesn’t mean (though it seems like it) that our forgiveness is conditional; God can forgive anyone for anything – if they are willing to receive it. A heart that can’t forgive is too hardened by anger and pain and hate to be truly forgiven. When we realize how much God has forgiven in us, our hearts can be healed, and we can learn to forgive others.
” ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ That isn’t a bargain we make with God. It’s a fact of human life. Not to forgive is to shut down a faculty in the innermost person, which happens to be the same faculty that can receive God’s forgiveness.” NT Wright (Surprised by Hope, p.288).
The Lord’s Prayer is the pattern of what we should be praying every day, many times a day. The Prayer is a routine in our lives – we should be praying every day for our sins and selfishness to be forgiven, and we should be praying every day to forgive those who have hurt us. This means we have to do something that most of us don’t like – evaluation.
Too much of our prayer time is taken asking for what is needed for ourselves and others. Too little time is spent in self-reflection and evaluation – and asking God for forgiveness. If we did this, every day, we would sin less. Speaking out loud the ways where we have sinned takes away the secrecy of sin, takes away its power.
This is the way Jesus taught His followers to pray. As we pray His Prayer we will be shaped and changed. We will ask for forgiveness and become more aware of our own sins and selfishness. We will be less surprised to find selfishness in the lives of others because we are so keenly aware of how much is in ourselves. We will have more grace and be more quick to forgive.
“We do not have to make God willing to forgive. In fact, it is God who is working to make us willing to seek His forgiveness.” Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline, p.153).
Pray for forgiveness every day, and let God shape your heart to be closer to His.