The "Sinner’s Prayer"—To
Pray or Not To Pray?
The question often
arises about what a Christian should do if someone is
repentant. Should we lead him in what’s commonly
called a "sinner’s prayer" or simply
instruct him to seek after God? Perhaps the answer comes
by looking to the natural realm.
As long as there are
no complications when a child is born, all the doctor
needs to do is guide the head. The same applies spiritually.
When someone is "born of God," all we need
to do is guide the head—make sure that they understand
what they are doing. Philip the evangelist did this
with the Ethiopian eunuch. He asked him, "Do you
understand what you read?" (Acts 8:30). In the
parable of the sower, the true convert (the "good
soil" hearer) is he who hears "and understands."
This understanding comes by the Law in the hand of the
Spirit (Romans 7:7). If a sinner is ready for the Savior,
it is because he has been drawn by the Holy Spirit (John
6:44). This is why we must be careful to allow the Holy
Spirit to do His work and not rush in where angels fear
Praying a sinner’s
prayer with someone who isn’t genuinely repentant
may leave you with a stillborn in your hands. Therefore,
rather than lead him in a prayer of repentance, it is
wise to encourage him to pray himself. When Nathan confronted
David about his sin, he didn’t lead the king in
a prayer of repentance.
If a man committed
adultery, and his wife is willing to take him back,
should you have to write out an apology for him to read
to her? No. Sorrow for his betrayal of her trust should
spill from his lips. She doesn’t want eloquent
words, but simply sorrow of heart. The same applies
to a prayer of repentance. The words aren’t as
important as the presence of "godly sorrow."
The sinner should be told to repent—to confess
and forsake his sins. He could do this as a whispered
prayer, then you could pray for him. If he’s not
sure what to say, perhaps David’s prayer of repentance
(Psalm 51) could be used as a model, but his own words
are more desirable.