There was a time when invited to pray the Lord’s Prayer, I’ve wondered, “Why do we pause between the statement, “Forgive us our trespasses/sins (pause) as we forgive those who trespass/sin against us?” Perhaps we were conditioned to say it that way or perhaps our church hymnals put a comma between the two statements. That may be a dangerous comma, indicating a hesitancy on our parts to forgive or seek forgiveness, all the while expecting God will forgive us. Now, I am compelled to pray, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. No more pause, no more hesitation. If I expect God to forgive me, then I must forgive others, no matter what.
I suspect that our refusing to forgive someone or our unwillingness to ask for forgiveness may well be a root cause of the horrible brokenness we experience in our family, church organizations, and communities. Jesus understood and taught us the prayer that reminds us, “If you and I expect to be forgiven, we must likewise forgive one another.” Matthew 6:14
Dr. Robert Enright, professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, writing in Forgiveness Is a Choice, says “The Christian Faith holds a life-transforming gift that sadly is not often used nor extended. Inviting his clients to forgive and ask to be forgiven, Enright offers these guideposts:
First, “Uncover and admit to your anger.” It is oh so difficult to admit we are wrong
Second, “Decide to forgive.” This is one huge but vital step.
Third, ‘Work on Forgiveness”; then say, “Will you forgive me?” Or, “I forgive you for that moment.”
No one said this is easy.
Fourth, “Discover the release from resentment’s burden, release from our emotional prisons.
Finally, through prayer ask for God’s leading and the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us through the dark valley into the sunlight of hope beyond. Remember, forgiveness is truly transforming.
Rt. Rev Paul A. Graf
Bishop of the Moravian Church
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin