Could you do that? Could you forgive someone for something terrible crime simply because they do not know God? This is the hardest prayer anyone can pray. To forgive someone undeserving of forgiveness; to forgive someone who does not even recognize their need for forgiveness.
Could you pray this prayer for racists, terrorists, bullies, for family members who hurt you deeply, for friends who stab you in the back, for people who use you, or people who do any number of things that cause you or someone you love pain?
On my own, I know I can't pray this prayer because I am very frustrated, disgusted, and angry by injustice, acts of evil, arrogance, and selfish deceit, especially today. But with the Holy Spirit as my Helper and my Advocate, I can seek to grow in this prayer.
John 14:15-17 NLT “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.
John 15:26-27 NLT “But I will send you the Advocate —the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.
With the Holy Spirit as my Helper I can grow to see people who are wrong and evil as not just wrong or evil but incredibly lost. With the Holy Spirit as my Helper I can pray that God will make Himself known to them, because ultimately, although they do things to others, it is God who they have wronged. As David said when we sin it is really against God.
Psalm 51:4 (HCSB)4 Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge.
Jesus Not Only Forgave But Prayed That God Would Forgive
Jesus forgave those who murdered Him. He saw their pitiful state and had compassion on His persecutors. Jesus looked down from the cross and he saw Roman soldiers gambling for His clothes;
John 19:23-24 HCSB When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, a part for each soldier. They also took the tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it, to see who gets it.” They did this to fulfill the Scripture that says: They divided My clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for My clothing. And this is what the soldiers did.
There were criminals on both sides reviling Him;
Matthew 27:44 HCSB In the same way even the criminals who were crucified with Him kept taunting Him.
The religious leaders were mocking Him;
Matthew 27:41-43 HCSB In the same way the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked Him and said, “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself! He is the King of Israel! Let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He has put His trust in God; let God rescue Him now — if He wants Him! For He said, ‘I am God’s Son.’ ”
Plus the crowd was "dissing" Him;
Matthew 27:39 HCSB Those who passed by were yelling insults at Him, shaking their heads.
Still Jesus prayed for them. He prayed, “Father, forgive them” is a prayer of unmatched mercy and love.
If Jesus is our example for living according to God’s will, then we can follow His example even in forgiving those who persecute us. This is what has happened over the years as descendants of slaves have forgiven those who have persecuted us. Let's us pray for our persecutors and our enemies that they might know the love of God and the freedom of forgiveness and grace.
Matthew 6:12 NCV Forgive us for our sins, just as we have forgiven those who sinned against us.
Colossians 3:13 NCV Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you.
Matthew 22:37-39 NCV Jesus answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’
Matthew 5:43-48 NCV “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong. If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends. So you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
I know this is very hard especially today with people not wearing masks to protect each other from COVID-19, police killing black men and women, racism, violence in the streets. I'm not there yet but I do want to follow Jesus' example in praying for those who do not know God. As Jesus did I want to see them saved because salvation is the beginning of the end of hate and do want to do my part.