While there is no set forgiveness formula, the following steps are helpful.
Tell God the truth. Admit resentment, grudges, bitterness and pain to Him. He already knows when these are hidden in our hearts but acknowledging them brings them to the forefront.
Admit that forgiveness is beyond your ability. Some offences wound so deeply that it’s impossible to even consider forgiving without special help from the Lord.
Ask Jesus to help you follow His example of forgiveness. Stephen, as he was dying from stoning, fell to his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” His prayer echoes the words of Jesus from the cross – “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Surrender the whole matter to Jesus. He may prompt you to speak or write to the offender. He may simply take the sting out the offence, heal your wounds and send you on your way with a clean heart.
Trust God to change your feelings about the person who caused the injury. Often we want desperately to forgive but when bitter feelings don’t disappear immediately, we conclude that we haven’t really forgiven. God allows time for the work of forgiveness to be completed in our hearts.
Ask God to remove the sting. The sting is the soul-pain that accompanies offences. It’s a shattered heart, a broken spirit, a wounded personality. God’s in the business of soul surgery and He will remove the pain.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, because it’s your will for me, I forgive those who have injured me in spirit, soul or body. Forgive me for hating and resenting them. The strength to forgive comes from you. I trust you to give me Your gentle spirit of forgiveness. I want to honestly be able to say that I have nothing against anyone. Lord, heal the pain in my heart.
A Word of Caution . . .
Relate wisely to the person you forgive, particularly in an abusive or controlling relationship. Forgiveness is always possible because it’s between you and God but reconciliation is not always possible because it depends on the cooperation of a third party whose heart may not be tender before God. Forgiving an offence doesn’t mean we set ourselves up for more abuse.