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The power of forgiveness

I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…
— Matthew 5:44-45 (ESV)

When we think about our enemies (also known as the people who’ve hurt us), we often want to run as far away from them as possible. We don’t want to see them, hear about them, or think about them. And we definitely don’t want to love them or pray for them. When we’ve been wounded, we just want to heal from the hurt in our hearts that’s connected to them. If we decided to only follow our feelings, we’d probably never pray for our enemies…but that’s exactly what Jesus is asking us to do.

If you’re struggling to forgive someone right now, I have good news for you: Forgiveness is not a feeling, so we don’t have to feel like forgiving to forgive. It’s a choice we make because we want to follow Jesus, and it opens the door for our soul to heal.

Now, I want to be sure you understand what I mean—and don’t mean—about forgiving people. To forgive does not mean that we allow others to continue to treat us badly, that we never confront their bad behavior, or that we let them get away with walking all over us. What forgiveness does mean is that we choose not to stay angry with people or get even because of what they’ve done, but to let God take care of vindicating us. It also means that we’ll pray God’s best for them, and even have some compassion for them, because we know they’re only hurting themselves by mistreating others.

Read More: A bold approach

I believe one reason some of us struggle so much with forgiveness is that we don’t pray for our enemies; praying for them is a vital step toward being able to genuinely forgive and heal. If you’re wondering how to pray for someone who’s done you wrong, here are a few suggestions:

- Pray that they’ll know Jesus in a real, personal way.

- Pray that God will show them what they need to see about their behavior and how it has hurt others.

- Ask God to bless them.

As hard as praying for our enemies can be, know that being intentional to bless them and not badmouth them will do wonders in helping us heal. If you need to talk about it as part of your healing journey, please don’t share your situation with someone who’ll only feel sorry for you, then start gossiping all about it. Instead, choose to find someone who has the ability to truly help you, who’ll pray with you and for you, and who will keep it confidential. As you take these steps, God will give you the grace you need to forgive and heal the pain in your heart.

Prayer Starter: Father, please give me the strength I need to pray for ____, and to trust You to take care of justice. Thank You for providing the grace I need to forgive ____, and for healing my heart. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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