“If you pray the sinner’s prayer, you will instantly be a Christian; just repeat it after me.” Wow, that’s all I have to do to become saved and become a member of the church? That’s like magic!” These comments by two young chatters on my internet ministry, initiated a valuable discussion on the subject of prayer.
The impression was given that repeating a formula prayer leads to salvation, even though the chatter indicated no serious interest in becoming one! God does hear a genuine heart cry, even in the last moments of life, but I cannot find anywhere in the Bible that people who are coerced, coaxed or compelled to repeat a certain prepared prayer, are saved. I’m glad however, that it is God who sees each heart and knows whether this person even meant and knew what they were praying.
When we share the good news of the Gospel with someone who doesn’t know Jesus, we will come to the point of asking them to make a decision to follow Him. Hopefully with patient, gentle persuasion, but definitely without prodding or pushing, we must allow the answer to come from their heart. Then we tell them that the Lord wants to personally hear their confession, their desire for forgiveness and a changed life, and their invitation to have Him enter into their life. We can encourage them to speak to God without fear, just as we did when we became His. God loves them and wants to hear their own first words to Him. I’m convinced that we must not use prayer in an attempt to manipulate God and to control the outcome. Remember those few words of another prayer spoken in humbleness of heart by a tax collector? It is a prayer God loves to answer, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
The Bible contains many profound prayers that can also express the deepest needs of our own heart. I love praying through the Psalms or reading the prayers of the great men and women of the Bible. However meaningful and powerfully effective a real short prayer was for someone called Jabez, as recorded in Chronicles, Jesus did not use it, or for that matter the prayers of anyone else, as a model for his disciples to follow. The prayer that Jesus taught does not promise that God will answer a certain way if you pray it for thirty days, although there are people who feel that God has no choice but to answer such a prayer.
In my school days, unfortunately, the Lord’s Prayer was often irreverently rattled off. Vain repetitions of various prayers simply give us a deceptive feeling that we have prayed, even though our thoughts were focused on our long to-do list or following a fantasy in our mind. Nevertheless, we can use the prayer which Jesus taught His disciples as an outline after which to pattern our personal prayers.
to acknowledge God’s holiness,
surrender to his authority,
admit our need,
forgive if we want forgiveness,
ask for his help,
expect his rescue, his deliverance and
declare his sovereignty, power and control over everything.
Prayer is not magic, but a deep and profound mystery. Let’s pray without ceasing and in the Spirit, audibly or silently, however a situation lends itself. Alone in my van, I love my sanctuary of praise! Let’s pray first of all in our prayer corner and then with and for each other. Sharing ‘sentence prayers’, with everyone participating and focused on a certain concern, builds a bond of unity and harmony. I am richly blessed as I listen to other people pray about what the Lord has placed on their heart. How wonderful when their prayer resonates and is confirmed in my spirit. Writing my prayers down has helped me to concentrate and focus, as I ‘send’ another love letter to the Lord. Let’s ask and intercede and with godly motives. Let’s seek our Father’s and each other’s forgiveness to always keep the prayer lines open. Let’s give thanks and praise and specifically name exactly for what we thank and praise Him. Prayer works profound changes – in the one prayed for, as well as the one praying.