I, Cheryl, have found forgiveness prayer to be powerful and freeing. For an example of how forgiveness prayer has affected my life, read this excerpt from my memoir:
Excerpt from ReTested: The Story of a Post-Abortive Woman Called to Change the Conversation
I was bitter, but I didn’t think my bitterness was from the abortion. I started delving into bitterness, beginning with scripture:
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God;
that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble,
and by it many be defiled.
(Hebrews 12:15 NASB, emphasis added)
I did some internet searches and found that bitterness is a form of anger. One website says it is the result of not dealing with hurt. One thing I already knew, to get rid of anger I need to forgive. Ephesians 4:31-32 says that, too:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other [emphasis mine], just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
The Lord’s prayer says, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In the Matthew version, Jesus goes on to say:
For if you forgive others for their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
(Matthew 6:14-15 NASB)
I wanted to be forgiven! I began writing to the Lord asking Him to bring up all my bitterness, to show me why I was bitter. One by one, I prayed through the source of each source of bitterness and forgave each person I held responsible for whatever went wrong. I spent a whole afternoon just forgiving people. Among them were all the Christians who didn’t seem to welcome me after I gave my testimony.
Then I thought about every story of bitterness I had ever heard from my parents and my grandparents. I realized I had agreed with their bitterness, so I identified the people whom I blamed for each instance, and I forgave them. I even forgave my pastor grandfather, who died almost 40 years ago, for not teaching my mom to study the bible or pray at home. Then I realized that his parents hadn’t taught him to study and pray at home and neither did his seminary, so I forgave all of them, too.
I wanted my joy back so badly that every time I forgave someone, I asked the Lord to replace the space that bitterness had left with joy. By the end of the afternoon, I felt lighter!
Although I felt like I had thought of everything and everyone against whom I had harbored bitterness, I wanted to make sure I was completely clean of unforgiveness. I asked the Lord again to reveal to me any root of bitterness.
Search me, O God… and see if there be any hurtful way in me,
and lead me in the everlasting way
(Psalm 139:23a, 24 NASB).
Before bed, I prayed that the Lord would teach me in the night. A few days later, I woke up at 5 am from a dream in which I was really mad at Russ. I didn’t want to be awake, but the Lord whispered to me to go pray. I was going to sit in the recliner when I felt He was telling me to kneel. I probably would’ve fallen asleep in the recliner, but I wouldn’t fall asleep on my knees. I forgave Russ. Back to bed I went and got another three hours of sleep! Oh, how I love summer’s easy schedule. When I woke up, I couldn’t remember why I had been angry with Russ in the dream, and I still don’t remember today.
Heavenly Father, You are patient (2 Peter 3:9), but I am hurting. You are love (1 John 4:8), but I struggle to love. Father Abba, I am angry. Please help me to forgive ____________ (person's name). Lord, I want to be free of bitterness. I forgive ____________ (person's name) for ____________ and for making me feel ____________. In the name of Jesus, bless ____________ (person's name) with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) and replace my anger with the fruit of the Spirit, specifically (pick one or more of the following: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control [Galatians 5:22-23a]).