Is there anything wrong with using the "sinner's prayer"?
NICHOLS: It’s in one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs, so I would have to say no—but really let me say this: I love the Book of Common Prayer—the old one, not the new stuff. They had a prayer for storms at sea, and it was all flowery and over a paragraph long. Then they had a short prayer for storms at sea, and it was: “Father have mercy, Son have mercy, Holy Spirit have mercy. Amen.” That’s it: “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” If that is prayed with a contrite heart, God will hear that prayer.
BINGHAM: So, the thing is not trusting in the prayer, but actually just meaning what you’re saying?
NICHOLS: Exactly. Specifically, it’s the “have mercy on me” part. Now we’re back to unconditional election: “I don’t deserve this at all. I deserve nothing from You. Have mercy on me.” We see it in the text, don’t we? Here’s the publican, beating his breast, saying, “Have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). That’s the prayer; that shows we are beginning to understand.
This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Stephen Nichols and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.