Pray for your enemies? Who prays for their enemies? Only those who have forgiven them can do that! Praying is a great gauge of our forgiveness or the lack thereof. Praying for those who have offended us can be a great litmus test on three levels.
1. Praying for our offender implies that we have truly forgiven
First, if we have truly forgiven, then we would have no problem praying for the one we have forgiven. Actually being capable of asking God to bless them in all sincerity is a great indication that we no longer feel anger or malice towards them. Jesus said to pray for those who abuse us; it is only possible to obey this request through forgiveness.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:44)
Jesus is preaching forgiveness right here. If we do not think twice about praying for an offender, then we have most likely forgiven them.
2. Reluctance to pray for our offender shows we have not truly forgiven
On the other hand, if we cannot or refuse to pray for our offender, then we know we have not forgiven them. Our refusal or inability to pray shows we still hold something against them. We are not yet appeased, as it were. Realizing this is a good thing, for it allows us to realize that we still must forgive them. Deciding that we are reluctant to pray for an offender is a form of diagnosis that evidences our forgiveness was shallow.
Stephen, the first martyr of the church, was not reluctant to pray for his murderers because he did not hold their transgressions against them.
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:60).
Our Lord Jesus Christ was not reluctant to pray for those who were crucifying Him.
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots (Luke 23:34).
Reluctance and refusal to pray for our offenders is the hallmark of an unforgiving heart. When we realize we haven’t forgiven an offender, we go back to the drawing table, as it were, and we persist in our decision to forgive them. We ask God, our loving guide, to help us forgive, and then we go on to the next step.
3. Praying for our offender softens our heart towards forgiveness
Thirdly, the act of prayer that determines the level of our forgiveness is equally effective in enabling us to forgive. In praying for our offenders, a beautiful transformation begins to take place within us: our hearts begin to soften. While we may not mean the prayer in the beginning, we still expose our mind, our will, and our emotions to God, allowing him to better carry out His work.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou [art] the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day (Psalms 25:5).
The man who forgave his wife
I once counseled a man whose wife took his children from him without leaving a sign as to where they would be. He was so hurt. He loved his children dearly and now he could not find them. I told him to pray for her. At first, he could not do it. He said he felt hypocritical, because he did not mean the words that came out of his mouth. I told him not to stop; he should continue praying even if he did not mean it. He followed my advice and began praying for her again.
One day, he called mehe was on top of the world. He was so happy. He said he was healed. It was as if praying for his wife who had taken their children from him was the miracle drug he had always needed. No counseling could have achieved this. No medication could have ever been so effective. But forgiveness was up to the task!
Before our Father in Heaven who commanded us to forgive, we pour out our pain, our anger, and our hurts. Yes, we may writhe in pain from the consequences of our offender’s actions. As we pray, our emotions cry out, and we become even more aware of them. They may go into convulsions, so to speak. We do not want to pray for this person who has hurt us so much. But we must continue. We are fighting on the grounds of a battlefield. At the end of the warfare is victory. We would never want to go back to unforgiveness after we have tasted victory that can be found in forgiveness.
In conclusion, carrying out the commandment of the Lord by praying for those who hate us, or have offended us, or have hurt us on various levels has proved to be most useful. The God of grace is always there to strengthen us in all areas.
Dr. Tai Ikomi is an author of over 30 books .and a conference speaker. She conducts seminars on the Names of God and forgiveness after forgiving the drunk man who killed her entire family. She is the founder of Forgiveness Discipleship.