To Forgive Ourselves—A short Lenten prayer service for adults and teens

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Editor’s note: While this prayer service can stand alone, it might also be good preparation for adults and teens prior to receiving the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. The service allows for great flexibility. Use it as a personal prayer or as a service with a group or class. Feel free to adapt it as necessary.

Prep needed

■ leader and lector prepared in advance
■ audio/visual technology available for music selected
■ a quote list and song lyrics available on paper to be projected on a screen

Sign of the Cross

Leader: Let us take a moment of silence to acknowledge that the Spirit of the living God is always with us. (Pause)

There are many reasons why we sometimes find it hard to forgive ourselves for things we have done or things we have failed to do. It might have to do with the way we were raised, or the fact that perhaps we experienced a traumatic event. Some of us may suffer anxiety. But sometimes we don’t know the cause.

When we struggle with self-forgiveness, we can benefit from remembering that God loves us. God offers us divine forgiveness, and he truly wants us to forgive ourselves so we can concentrate on being true missionary disciples with joy and love for God, for one another, and for ourselves.

In the next few minutes, we’ll listen to Scripture, sing songs, and take time for reflection and prayer.

Reading: Psalm 130 (leader or lector)

The psalm set to music:
With the Lord There Is Mercy” (M. Haugen).

Meditation moments

Leader: From the short list we have here, please pick a quotation that speaks to you and spend a few moments reflecting on it. How does it speak to you today? (This can be a private reflection time, or if in a small group, this might be an opportunity to share your thoughts with another person.)

1. “One of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive God’s forgiveness.” (Henri J.M. Nouwen)
2. “If you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect and failing, you can now do it for just about anyone else. If you have not done it for yourself, I am afraid you will likely pass on your sadness, absurdity, judgment, and futility to others.” (Richard Rohr)
3. “You never so touch the ‘Ocean of God’s Love’ as when you forgive and love your enemies.” (Corrie ten Boom)
4. “Where there is no love, pour love in, and you will draw out love.” (St. John of the Cross)
5. “I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than God.” (C.S. Lewis)

Song: Choose one that fits your group. It might be useful to have the song lyrics available on paper or projected on a screen.
◗ “You Say” (L. Daigle)
◗ “Shepherd Me, O God” (M. Haugen)
◗ “Remember Your Love” (M.Balhoff, D. Ducote, G. Daigle)
◗ “The Hurt and the Healer” (Mercy Me)
◗ “Come as You Are” (Crowder)

Silent reflection

Leader: Let’s move into a few minutes of silent reflection. As we do, bring to God whatever emotions or thoughts the song might have evoked in you.

Prayers of intercession

Leader or lector: The response to each intercession is: Lord, hear my prayer.

Dear Lord, one of the greatest barriers to receiving your forgiveness is the idea that I have to earn it.  I do not. It is your gift to me, if I simply ask for it with a sincere heart. Please help me to remember that. (Pause) I pray to you, Lord …

My Lord, forgiving is like loving. Before I can truly love another, I must acknowledge that I am a child of God and love myself. The same is true for forgiveness. Help me to forgive myself so that I may be able to forgive others, as well. (Pause) I pray to you, Lord …

Lord, when I keep dwelling on the past, bring me to this moment … and to your divine mercy! (Pause) I pray to you, Lord …

Lord, sometimes I am my own worst enemy when it comes to self-forgiveness. Help me to relax and feel the infinite caress of your “Ocean of Love” for me. (Pause) I pray to you, Lord …

Lord, at times I get down on myself. I feel ashamed and unworthy of love. Remind me that I am your beloved so that I may be healed by your mercy and inspired to gift your love to the world. (Pause) I pray to you, Lord …

Dearest Friend, help me truly believe that I am forgiven. After all, you’ve told me so, and you are the ultimate authority! (Pause) I pray to you, Lord …

As we prepare to pray the Lord’s Prayer together, remember that you are asking the Lord to forgive you. Trust that God does forgive you, and that you are therefore called to forgive yourself!

Let us pray: Our Father …

Sign of the Cross


William B. Miller, MEd, is a trained spiritual director and a retreat leader. He is the author of Finding Your Spiritual Direction as a Catechist (Twenty-Third Publications). Bill resides with his wife, Marilyn, in Akron, Ohio.

Read an excerpt — “Forgiveness Asked and Offered” — from Finding Your Spiritual Direction as a Catechist.

This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, March 2019


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