Christianity has a long tradition of repentance – acknowledging to another human being or even in community one’s faults, shortcomings and failures. At its best, confession can be a way of seeing the whole self, of bringing into awareness all the aspects of our personality that need work or help or, yes, forgiveness.
A Course in Miracles casts forgiveness in a slightly different light. It is not a question of having our wrongs overlooked, but rather seeing differently, seeing that our wrongs – and the wrongs of others – do not exist. We are not separated from God.
Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred. It does not pardon sins and make them real. It sees there was no sin. And in that view are all your sins forgiven (W-pII.1.1:1-4).
In either case, I think forgiveness prayer has a place in any spiritual practice. I have friends who say there are only two prayers and they each contain but one syllable. The first one is “help” and the second is “thanks.” I think you could do a lot worse in terms of forgiveness than to simply use those two short prayers a lot.
But more than that, I think it is helpful to reflect on how we should pray. We might redefine prayer, what it means to come to God from a place of perceived lack. Remember that God knows before you pray what’s going on. You aren’t educating God. You aren’t breaking new ground there. And the spirit will often intercede for us without our asking.
Prayer, the bible makes clear, happens all the time – sometimes when we are not aware. And that can be a very comforting thought.
For me, the shortest forgiveness prayer that I have and use is this. “God, help me to see this differently.” Sometimes I will add that “I am determined to see this differently.” It’s a good prayer for me because it reminds me that my own spiritual resources are generally pretty wanting. Turning it over to a higher power is a relief – and, usually, quite productive.
The point of the forgiveness prayer is to get out of the way – to acknowledge that we are, ourselves, incapable of finding resolution, whatever the problem or challenge is, and that we need help. When we do that, we align ourselves with God and the Spirit which are already aligned with us – already one with us.
We create a productive harmony from which great release and peace can flow.
We are already forgiven. It’s okay that we forget that – it’s okay that we need reminders. But we are. All the forgiveness prayer does – whether it’s short or long, traditional or invented whole cloth in the moment – is bring us closer to that original state where God is in us and we are in God.