Many of us desire to be rid of unforgiveness but have no idea how to go about it. For years, we have held on to our bitterness, which has now turned into the bitter poison of unforgiveness. Although we are tired of it, the unforgiveness is comfortable to us, much like an old security blanket. However, we can discover the key in how to let go of the unforgiveness in our lives by listening to what Jesus said:
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. . . . Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
—Luke 6:27-28,36, nasb, emphasis added
Remember, you and I need to model our lives after Christ’s life. Praying for those whom we have bitterness and unforgiveness against is the key that will set us free. As we see from the life of Jesus, even as He was being crucified He prayed over and over again. Luke 23:34a tells us “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’” (NKJV).
The tense of the verb “said” indicates that Jesus repeated this prayer. As the soldiers nailed Him to the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them.” When they lifted the cross and placed it in a hold in the ground, He prayed, “Father, forgive them.” As He hung on the cross between heaven and earth and heard religious people mocking Him, He repeatedly prayed, “Father, forgive them.”[i] We, too, need to pray like Jesus prayed.
If there is bitterness and unforgiveness in your heart, Satan, will use this as a stronghold in your life. He will shoot fiery darts aimed at the poisonous infection of bitterness and unforgiveness. When this happens, use prayer as a weapon to extinguish the fiery darts. Every time you are reminded of the past hurt, instead of dwelling and brewing on all the thoughts and feelings associated with it–pray. Pray just as Jesus taught:
Pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:28, NASB
Or, as the English Standard Version puts it:
Pray for those who abuse you.
No matter how horrendous the hurt you suffered, God calls you to let it go so that you may go in peace! If the person who injured you is not saved, pray for his or her salvation. If the person is saved, pray for him or her to draw closer to God. Now, it is true that you will not feel like praying this prayer. You may feel like Jonah felt—he did not want God to spare the Ninevites. You, too, may not want those who have caused you pain to be forgiven. However, forgiving that person is a step of obedience, not a feeling.
I have learned over the years that every time I was reminded of a past hurt, the key to forgiveness was to pray for the person who hurt me. As I was obedient to pray for that person, forgiveness came. Soon, I came to a point where I realized that whenever I thought of the person who hurt me, I really was praying from my heart for his or her salvation or for that person to draw closer to God. When this happened, I knew that the forgiveness in my heart was complete. In 2 Corinthians 10:4, Paul teaches:
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
Use prayer as a mighty weapon to demolish the stronghold of bitterness and unforgiveness in your life. Never forget, who you are in Christ. Allow this knowledge to strengthen you for the task. For you are more than a conqueror! You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
I’m looking forward to your comments. Is there someone who hurt you deeply whom you have forgiven? Was there a key to forgiveness that helped you through the process? Please share what you learned in a comment to help others let go of their pain as well. Also feel free to share this blog post with your friends or pin it to a board.
(c) 2011 by Cherie Fresonke
Adapted from two of my books. Go in Peace for Teens and my updated and expanded edition of Go in Peace.
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[i] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Cross of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), p. 53.