Prayers Of Forgiveness
(Raising Merciful Children)
By Kim Butts
One of the most amazing attributes of our loving Father is His capacity to be merciful in forgiveness! Because this blessing is extended to us as we cry out to God from the depths of our repentant hearts, we should also extend the mercy of forgiveness to others. It is important to teach children how to pray for forgiveness. Once they understand the concept of a forgiving Father, it is important to teach them how to be merciful by forgiving others as God forgives them.
First of all-- parents, grandparents, Sunday School teachers, pastors, or others who desire to teach mercy through forgiveness, must themselves be godly examples to children of these godly attributes. You must first examine your own life. Do you harbor unforgiveness against someone else? Is there a situation in your life where you have not extended mercy to another? Do not accept the responsibility to teach children until these issues are resolved in your own life. They will learn more from your example than from your words. If your example is not a living demonstration of mercy and forgiveness, then your teaching will be ineffective and even damaging. One exciting thing about teaching our children is that it gives us an opportunity to deal with and clean up issues in our own lives that are keeping us from a fulfilling life in Christ!
Here are some practical ways to teach children to demonstrate mercy through forgiving others as God has forgiven us. Included in these steps will be Scriptural prayers so that the Lord will be honored and given glory in and through your children’s lives.
Teach children that...
God is a merciful, forgiving God. When we sin (do things that make God sad), it is important to tell the Lord that we are sorry and ask Him for forgiveness. It is also important that we don’t just say the words, "I’m sorry." We must truly be sorry in our hearts (repentance). Our repentant (sorry) hearts as we confess (tell) our sins before God, will bring His forgiveness. And, He will do another amazing thing! Once He has forgiven us, He will forget our sins completely: "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more"(Hebrews 8:12).
"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).
"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..." (Micah 7:18).
"For the LORD your God is a merciful God..." (Deuteronomy 4:31).
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5).
God showed His gracious mercy to the Apostle Paul: "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 1:12-14).
God is the great source of forgiveness. Someone once said, "Forgiveness is when we put away all grudges and forget the wrong done to us. We are most like God when we forgive." Ask your children: How does it feel when someone does or says a mean thing to you? How do you think God feels when we do or say mean things to others? Say: Isn’t it great that God will forgive us for the wrong things we do? So, if God will forgive us, shouldn’t we forgive others?
ACTIVITY: To illustrate God’s forgiveness, get some newsprint (something that will rub off on your child’s hands). Give your child some of the newspaper, and take some yourself. Start rubbing the paper on your hands and say, "When we sin, it makes our hands and hearts unclean, just like what this paper is doing to our hands. Is this how we want our lives to look before God? How can we clean up our hands and hearts? By asking God to forgive us. When we do that, He will clean up our dirty hands and hearts and make them clean and pure again." Wash your hands together with soap and water and read Psalm 24:3-4: "Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol."
PRAYER: O Lord, hear my prayer. Listen to my cry for mercy. You are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to You. (From Psalm 86:5-6) Help me to ask You for forgiveness and to forgive others so that I can have clean hands and a pure heart before You.
*Teach children that it is important to forgive others in prayer. We should not expect God to answer our prayers for forgiveness when we have not forgiven others: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (Mark 11:24).
Jesus teaches us to be forgiving as He forgives us. We can learn so much from the questions of the disciples. In this story of a king and his servants, Christ illustrates the importance of showing mercy through forgiveness: "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. "Be patient with me," he begged, "and I will pay back everything." The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. "Pay back what you owe me!" he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, "Be patient with me, and I will pay you back." But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. "You wicked servant," he said, "I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed’" (Matthew 18:21-34). Share this story with your children and see if they can tell what the servant did wrong before you get to the end of the story. Have them tell you the "moral" of the story.
If they have trouble with this say, "The lesson Jesus is teaching is: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15).
One of the hardest things for children to learn about forgiveness is that sometimes we need to forgive even when the person who has said or done something unkind to us has not asked for that forgiveness. Ask your children, "Have you done something to another person that was wrong or unkind? What should you do? Has someone done something unkind or wrong to you? What should you do? What is the example of Jesus?" Now you can show the ultimate forgiveness – Jesus, on the cross, forgave those who crucified Him, even though they did not ask Him for this forgiveness: "When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’" (Luke 23:33-34).
PRAYER: Father, forgive me of my sins, help me to forgive those who sin against me, and keep me from temptation (Luke 11:4). Father, would you forgive the wrong things I do? Help me to forgive others seventy-times seven so that my life will show others that You are a forgiving God. Help me to forgive others, even when they don’t seem to be sorry for what they have done. I want to be a living example of Your forgiveness in this dark world.
The Lord commands us to be merciful and forgiving. Read the following Scriptures together:
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).
"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:36-37).
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32).
"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" (Colossians 3:12-14).
Explain to your children that when soldiers are given orders, their only duty is to obey them. We are the soldiers of God, and He has commanded us to be merciful and to forgive others. There should be no question that this is right, as it comes from the very heart of the Lord. Our job is to be obedient and faithful to our "orders" from the Lord, even when we would rather take revenge and get even with someone for what they may have done. It is the love of Christ that overcomes this desire so that we will demonstrate the goodness of God in all of our actions. In Romans 12:21, we read: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
Ask your children: Do we deserve God’s forgiveness? No, we deserve death because of our sins...but because Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross, we can be forgiven. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). "If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness..." (Psalm 130:3-4).
PRAYER: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions" (Psalm 51:1).
PRAYER: "Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me" (Psalm 119:133).
PRAYER: "Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of Your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake" (Psalm 79:9).
There is a wonderful promise of God to those who, in response to God’s great mercy are merciful and forgiving: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matthew 5:7). May we persevere in training our children, and may the Lord be glorified as we raise merciful children, who will honor God with their forgiving hearts throughout their lives.