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A black and white image of a man kneeling down praying to God for forgiveness.

One of my favorite board games growing up was “Sorry!” For some reason, I really enjoyed knocking someone’s piece off the board and saying, “Sorry!” with a big smile on my face. Unfortunately, in real life, saying sorry and extending forgiveness isn’t as easy (or fun). 

Some pains go so deep that they become like wounds on our hearts. A flippant “Sorry!” won’t heal that wound. What’s really needed is a prayer of forgiveness that allows you to release your pain to God. Because if you can’t forgive, that wound will end up doing major damage to your mental, spiritual, and even physical health.

Many people misunderstand forgiveness. They think it means excusing someone’s bad behavior or pardoning the person that hurt you. But that’s not what forgiveness is all about. 

The Bible has a lot to teach us about forgiveness. After we dive into the Bible verses on forgiveness, I will help you create powerful prayers of forgiveness.

 

What the Bible Teaches about Forgiveness

 

We can divide the Bible’s lessons on forgiveness into two categories: vertical and horizontal. 

Vertical forgiveness is between God and us. We all need God’s forgiveness “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin causes all sorts of terrible damage, including separating us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Thankfully, God is so generous with His forgiveness. We can rest assured that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Here is an encouraging passage about vertical forgiveness: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19).

Horizontal forgiveness is between other people and us. When someone wrongs you, it can be really tough to forgive them, especially if they don’t even apologize. But many people don’t realize that God actually commands us to forgive each other. Forgiveness isn’t optional for a Christian. 

Here are some of the many Bible verses about horizontal forgiveness:

  • “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
  • “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).
  • “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).

Obviously, forgiveness is important to God. So, let’s look at some prayers of forgiveness.

 

Prayer for God’s Forgiveness

 

When you approach God to confess your sins, remember that nothing you did could change His love for you. Plus, He already knows exactly what happened! He’s been waiting for you to talk to Him about it so that He can forgive you and heal you. 

Take a few deep breaths before you say this prayer. Imagine that you are on your knees before God’s throne. Your sin is in your hand, and you are asking for God to forgive you. 

Dear God, 

You are holy and perfect, and I am flawed and human. I’m feeling the weight of my sin right now. I feel so terrible about ________________ (tell God what happened). And I desperately need your forgiveness. I repent of my wrongdoing. Please forgive me, Lord.  

(Imagine that sin in your hand dissolving away and the light of God’s love surrounding you.)

Thank you for this beautiful gift of forgiveness! I am so grateful for this healing. It is like a burden has been lifted. Now by your grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will do my best to follow your command to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Amen.

 

Prayer to Forgive Others

 

If you are wrestling with unforgiveness, it’s time to turn it over to the Lord. Start by closing your eyes and relaxing your body from head to toe. Bring to mind how that person hurt you and picture it causing an actual wound on your heart. Get a clear picture in your head of what that wound looks like. Now offer it to God in this prayer:

Heavenly Father,

You know how deeply I’ve been hurt. You were there when ________ (person’s name) did ________. Honestly, part of me wants to hold on to anger and pain because I feel like they don’t deserve my forgiveness. But then I remember how you forgive me and command me to forgive others. 

So, in faith and obedience, I declare that I forgive _____ (person’s name) for what they did to me. I turn them over to you, Lord, to convict them, heal them, and help them not to hurt anyone else like this ever again. 

Please also heal this painful wound on my heart, Lord. I know it will take time, and I entrust the process to you. Amen.

 

Final Thoughts on Prayers of Forgiveness

 

Forgiveness is an amazing gift that God gives us. But it definitely takes courage to ask for forgiveness and grace to forgive others. In the moments when forgiveness is tough, remember these encouraging words:

 

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:8-12).