|Inside the ancient Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey|
After I spoke I talked with a lot of the men, praying for many of them. A man in his 60s came to me. He asked,
"Would you pray for me?"
"Please pray that I could forgive myself."
I would like to do that. Then he said,
"I understand God's forgiveness up here (he pointed to his head), but I cannot forgive myself down here (pointing to his heart) for killing my parents."
One of Henri Nouwen's prayers that has become my own is this: God, let the truth about your kingdom descend from my mind into my heart. I mentally know "up here" that God's forgiving love exemplified by Christ's death on the cross is formally extended to me, 24/7. But more than this, this great truth is also to be experientially mine, "down here" in my heart, 24/7.
I am forgiven and acceptable to God. I am part of God's forever family. The experiential reality of God's forgiveness overwhelms my many failures, and brings tears of joy. The forgiveness of God is the only answer for those of us who are imprisoned by our past sins. (For empirical corroboration see University of Wisconsin psychologist Robert Enright's research on the power of forgiveness.)
This past Thursday I gathered 10 inmates around this man who killed his parents. We placed our hands on him and I prayed, "God, let the truth _______ knows in his mind now become the reality of _____'s heart."
I can't get __________ out of my mind and heart this morning. Would you pray for him?
And, pray for God's truths to descend from your mind into your heart.