From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 14 – How to forgive people in practical terms – some advice on what to do and how to go about it
Another very helpful approach, which can help to get you to the place where you become capable of forgiving, or even to be ‘willing to be willing’ to do so, is just to begin to pray in general terms for the overall benefit of the person who has wronged you. It is possible to do this as a sheer exercise of yourwill, before you have managed to forgive them at all, even in the narrow sense.
It is something which you can make yourself do, even while your emotions are very raw. For example, pray for God to bless the wrongdoer, and their family and to bring him to a place of repentance and salvation. Also you could ask God to forgive the wrongdoer, even if you do not yet feel able to forgive him yourself.
There is nothing hypocritical about that. It is good preliminary ground-work and will help to make your own forgiveness of the wrongdoer achievable. The point is you cannot control how you feel, but you can control what you say and do.
Thus you can pray like this for the general benefit of the person who has harmed you, even if you are still unable to forgive them and/or if you keep falling back into unforgiveness and bitterness. If you pray for the person who has wronged you, or is still wronging you, then it has the following beneficial results:
a) It changes you on the inside. It also gradually alters your attitude to the wrongdoer.
b) It also brings emotional healing such that, eventually, it will bring you up to a place where you can manage to forgive.
c) It changes the way God deals with you. When God sees you praying for the wrongdoer and showing such mercy and grace towards him, then God will show equivalent mercy and grace towards you, as we saw above.
God is also particularly pleased when He sees us doing something from sheer obedience, as an exercise of our will, even when we do not feel like doing it. He knows how we feel inside. Therefore, that sacrifice on our part makes our obedience all the more precious to God. Accordingly, one can see that praying for one’s enemies and persecutors is not idealistic, unrealistic or silly.
It is actually hard-headed common sense and it is entirely in your own interests to do it. In short, if you show grace towards others, you will receive God’s grace towards you in return. That is a certainty. Part of that grace will be that He will give you the ability to forgive others in circumstances where you are currently struggling to do it.