Earlier this week I was working on writing the congregational prayer for my church for Abuse Awareness Sunday. I have cerebral palsy—which affects my arms and legs—so often I will have someone else type for me. On this day, my friend happened to be a seminary graduate who had written many more prayers than I have. In the prayer, I talk about trust and abandonment, quoting Psalm 22:11, “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near, and there’s no one to help.”
I won’t describe the whole prayer, but as we were finishing up, my friend asked, “Are you going to pray about FORGIVENESS?” Yikes! I hadn’t seen that coming! But I actually had no problem responding “Yes, we are.” Personally, I have forgiven my perpetrators after many long years of therapy and reading The Shack by Paul Young.
The word “forgiveness” has sent my mind in a thousand directions. Those who have survived abuse are all in different stages of healing. Will my prayer to help survivors forgive those who have abused them make them angry or set them back in their journey towards wholeness? For many years, when people brought up the subject of forgiveness, I was convinced that they did not understand my pain and were just giving me a pat answer. Did I feel pressure to add forgiveness to the prayer? Would I have added it on my own? Yes, I felt pressure. Yet, isn’t asking for forgiveness, or for help with being able to forgive, a part of every good prayer?
Is there a right time to bring up the subject of forgiveness? Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24). Of course He was perfect, we are NOT! All I know is that with me, when it was not in God’s timing and in his way, when it did not come from above, being pushed toward forgiveness by others hurt my own journey.