Forgive and Let Go

Jesus instructs us to forgive our enemies and those who have hurt us. Here's how.

From "Prayer, Faith, and Healing," reprinted with permission of the publisher, Rodale, Inc.

It's in the Lord's Prayer. It's in the Sermon on the Mount.

We must love our enemies. We must pray for those who have hurt us. We must forgive those about whom we are embittered.

Why? Jesus said so. Why else? Here's a "selfish" reason. It's for our own good. We must be willing to love unconditionally, which is what forgiveness is, if we want to experience the blessings of God's love, says Vernon M. Sylvest, M.D., a physician with a prayer-based, holistic medical practice in Richmond, Virginia, and author of "The Formula: Who Gets Sick, Who Gets Well." If we want God to answer our prayers, then we must forgive those we feel have harmed us and we must ask God to bless them. It's the rule.

The Gospel of St. Mark quotes Jesus on this: "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in Heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses." (Mark 11:25-26 NKJV)


Before we can expect our prayers to be answered, we need to develop and maintain forgiving hearts, letting go of grudges, bitterness, hatred, or a desire for revenge and retaliation, says the Rev. Siang-Yang Tan, Ph.D., professor of psychology in the graduate school of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and senior pastor of First Evangelical Church in Glendale, Calif. What we hold against someone else will hurt us, hinder us, and stymie our prayer efforts.

Here's another good reason to forgive: If we are unwilling to let go of our anger toward another or ourselves, it becomes our block to God's love; thus we do not witness prayers answered, says Dr. Sylvest.

This sentiment is echoed by Catholic Scripture scholar Marilyn Gustin in her treatise, "What the Bible says about Forgiveness." She writes: "The capacity to love and receive love and the capacity to forgive and receive forgiveness are intimately bound to each other. Who could say which comes first in all the complexities of a human life. It is vital to see that both capacities move circularly."

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