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Discussion Forum : General Topics : The "Sinner's Prayer" ala Jonathan Edwards (must read)

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RobertW
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Joined: 2004/2/12
Posts: 4636
Independence, Missouri

 Re:

Quote:
Throughout this entire prayer, notice there is not one account of sorrow over sin. There is no trace of an "awakened" heart. Just a cold request.



This is true. I think we also need to consider what actually 'repentance' means. One word means to 'change the mind'. As the Holy Spirit weighs upon the mind bringing to bear the truth of the word they see themselves in that light. This can create a 'WOE is me' effect. They might not immediately 'love' God, but they may immediately change their mind and recognize the goodness and mercy of God. As they appreciate what God has done for them they will of their own selves love God. Not that the Holy Spirit does not have a role in this; but there is a very real sense in which man is commanded to love God and it is his part to do so. God could make us love Him surely; but He has chosen to show us how He loved us and offer us the opportunity to love Him in return. We love Him because He first loved us. The one who is forgiven of much the same 'loveth much', etc. I cannot wait for God to 'cause' me to love Him in some inner working type sense. He has commanded me to love Him and given me every reason in the universe to do so. The Holy Spirit does have a role in this, but my point is it is equally my responsibility to love God and if He has commanded it I 'can' and I 'must' love Him.

Quote:
So, he begrudgingly appeals to the Judge without a guilty plea. Does this process sound familiar? It should, because every Sunday throughout America truckloads of unquickened, false-seeking men and women are verbalizing words that are clashing with the hidden, non-verbal truth of their actual state of being.



This is a very well written truth Paul, I think. Not to the same extent for all as some actually do get saved. But for the pretenders it is probably very true. The evidence is in the changed life. The emphasis of the seekers prayer is spot on also I think as people really don't often 'want' God- they only want freedom from the flames. But this is not true of all. Some may actually say as Reidhead, "Lord I'm going to love you and serve you and obey you even if I go to hell at the end of the road simply because you are worthy to be loved and obeyed and served and I'm not trying to make a deal with you." Some do not come for the right reasons at first and they in time come again and come to realize the enormity of their sin before God.

Quote:
I really hope no one took this prayer as an actual model for honest conviction. However, I don't believe this exposure is blasphemous, unbiblical or unreasonable. Rather, I see these truths squelched when multitudes today seek God for selfish purposes.



I don't want to sound too lighthearted this morning, but today I was driving and thought about how this prayer, actually prayed could bring revival. You'll find my reasoning in Acts 5. ;-) The fear of God truly may have come upon everyone! 8-)

God Bless Paul and thanks so much for the Christain Charity!

-Robert


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Robert Wurtz II

 2006/11/10 8:42Profile
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 Re:

THis is not to address the virtue of repeated prayers, the choice of Dr. G's wording, or what Dr. G implied by Puritan teaching. I simply comment on the issue of hatred towards God.

As Dr. G pointed out, that possibility is revolting to our modern evangelical mindset. We have come to believe that once we ask Jesus into our hearts, we are quite righteous from then on – or should be in general. How dare anyone suggest otherwise.

Our culture pretends. Even in church you learn that it is better to pretend that you have it right than to be honest about NOT having it right. I remember, after a crisis, sharing with my spiritual leaders about my anger towards God. Without even waiting to hear how I resolved it, I got a stern sermon, complete with scriptures, on the evils of being angry at God. Clearly, negative feelings were a “no-no”, and so was my confession of them.

And so we bury our negative emotions, underneath lovely platitudes and sweet musical ditties that essentially say, “Lord, I promise to be good all the time… I always have warm feelings for you.” .. Forget the negative confessions. And so we live a lie. This makes it extremely difficult when life hands out bad blows. People fall apart emotionally, or they throw out the Christian faith all together – because it no longer works.

I like what some of our liturgical churches do. Though they have wandered far from orthodoxy, they still print in each bulletin a “Prayer of Confession”. Of course, merely reciting this in church is fruitless. But ,still, even the suggestion that we can be rebellious, selfish, angry at God, hateful, is something that the evangelical community has lost entirely (except as a condition of the unsaved).

...trying not to "throw the baby out with the bathwater"...

Diane


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Diane

 2006/11/10 9:19Profile
PaulWest
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Joined: 2006/6/28
Posts: 3405
Dallas, Texas

 Re:

Quote:
I don't want to sound too lighthearted this morning, but today I was driving and thought about how this prayer, actually prayed could bring revival.



Ha! Now you're really throwing me for a spin, brother! This is great, this is what it's all about, this is why I frequent SI. This little "prayer" has some mysterious components. It is true that God brought revival through Edward's "Sinners in the Hands", a sermon that doesn't exactly align with our concept of how God does business. Can you imagine an evangelist submitting this manuscript today, in 2006, for perusal by a pastor, and telling him "Pastor, I'd like to read this sermon I wrote (not preach) tomorrow to your people. Invite everyone from your town, everyone you can get." Wow, I am only mentioning this because you brought up "revival" coming as result of this prayer being prayed seriously. And, in light of history, I can see it too, Robert.

I think this famous message isn't any less shocking than this so-called "prayer". My wife read it after I left for work, and was really shocked. She even called me. "Why did you highlight this prayer?" I asked her what she thought of it. She reluctantly said that it was truthful...but, well, odd. She could never imagine praying this, and this wasn't exactly how she came to Jesus, but the truth was there, nonetheless. Well, this got me to thinking. I had felt the same way when I read it. I thought about it for most of the day yesterday - even during a funeral I did. I started to see faults not in the theology itself, but in the motive behind the supplication. When I got back to the office, I read it gain, and all the responses, and did some deep thinking. Then I saw it, and started to make some sense of it.

Quote:
Some do not come for the right reasons at first and they in time come again and come to realize the enormity of their sin before God.



Yes, brother. Amen. This was me. It took about 10 years for God to bring me into the full truth. I can identify.

Thank you for your gracious replies. This was a real good experience. May God continue to bring us into a fuller knowledge of Him in perfect charity.

Brother Paul


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Paul Frederick West

 2006/11/10 9:21Profile
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 Re: Dr. Gerstner's research

Further background behind the shaping of this Seeker's Prayer, found on the web:

The Seeker's Prayer by Dr. John Gerstner.

In volume 3 of The Rational Biblical Theology of Jonathan Edwards John Gerstner, an Edwardian scholar, sets forth Edwards’ doctrine of “seeking.” It is a very helpful section in understanding Jonathan Edwards’ puritan roots in evangelism.

Gerstner surveys the doctrine of “seeking” systematically through Edwards’ writings and sermons, even his unpublished sermons that are still not available to the public.

In the midst of such a survey, Gerstner created a hypothetical letter for an unregenerate seeker to pray based upon what Edwards was thinking as a result of this compilation of information.

The following is that letter. Just in case you are unclear on this, the letter below is an attempt to set forth what Jonathan Edwards would have counseled a seeker to actually pray based on his own ideas, though we do not have anything in his writings practically as such......

Diane


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Diane

 2006/11/10 12:35Profile
RobertW
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 Re:

Hi Diane,

Quote:
Gerstner surveys the doctrine of “seeking” systematically through Edwards’ writings and sermons, [u]even his unpublished sermons that are still not available to the public.[/u]



Thanks for sharing this. I was thinking along these lines yesterday and wondered, "what if someone were to get hold of all the writings I have ever done and tried to compile what I would actually counsel a sinner" as 99% are not in the public domain. Writings that I had written that I have still in database that were from my first studies. Probably well over 1000 pages. Sometimes we 'tweak' our doctrines as more light comes. I have done this and don't hold exactly the views I have held in the past. I think this is why Wesley and others 'amended' their works from time to time though they never really changed much.

I think it was Ron Bailey who said once that a instructor gave him some wise counsel as a student, "don't be quick to go to print." (paraphrased) I think this is good wisdom. Time in the hand of the Holy Spirit has a way of allowing us to see things differently. I am not saying I am fickle, I am just saying I am open to change when more light shows the need.

Works that are 'not available to the public' may well ought to remain as such. Sometimes papers exist that we just keep around for keep sake. Like a diary of where we have stood as believers on certain issues. Going back and reading them years later gives an idea how we are moving along. Some materials I have written I may someday go over and fine tune; but for now I am still much in learning. I would guard them now like a bangee to keep them 'out of the public' as the ideas expressed may well run counter to what I now know to be true. Don't know if that was the case with Edwards, but it is some food for thought.

God Bless,

-Robert




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Robert Wurtz II

 2006/11/10 12:53Profile
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 Re: the seekers prayer

Quote:
Don't know if that was the case with Edwards

I don't know enough about Edwards to question Gerstner, or why some of Edwards works were not published. You could be right.

I do find it difficult to accept the notion that God hates the sinner. I wonder what is meant in this case ?that he cannot look at our sin?


One time an atheist expressed thoughts that were very similar to this prayer: "God threatens us with hell!?! What kind of a God is that!!!" Basically she expressed her hatred by pushing him right out of existance.

edit

For now, this article on Puritan thought may shed some insight:
[url=http://www.intoutreach.org/seeking.html]Seeking God[/url]
Diane


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Diane

 2006/11/10 14:12Profile
markm
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 Re: The "Sinner's Prayer" ala Jonathan Edwards (must read)

I guess I wonder in all this, if the real issue is theology. Take Edwards and take Finney, and revival happened under both. Was it the theology? Or was it God working through a man?

Not to lag behind in this thought too much, but it seems we want the recipe. What would Finney have preached? What words would Edwards have used? Let's go father back, what hook did Paul use?

I want the step by step text to follow that will allow me to be a great warrior for God without having to become the man of God that these men were.

But Paul's preaching was foolishness. God working in him brought spiritual birth for others.

It seems the person of Christ in us is the only thing that will bring revival. Dead orthodoxy is dead orthodoxy whether the doctrine is sound or not. (Saul had studied Moses well and was ready to defend the doctrine vigorously before the Damascus road.)

But even though I know this myself, it seems I want to fall back on second hand theology too often. I want to rest on other men's 'knowledge of God.' It's much easier to have someone else do it.

But that doesn't seem to be the pattern that births revival.

Iron sharpens iron, yes, and there is much to be gained by studying the classics. But only so much as it drives a man to God. If I don't seek the person that is the God, I'll seek to revive in others what is dead in me. Spotting phonies is a sport this day and age, and even if my words are true, hypocrisy can make my words fall on deaf ears.

But God can do wonders. He can set a man on fire for him. He will pour out fresh water and life to those who ask him. New wine if we are willing to be a new wineskin? (Never really got that metaphor entirely, but it sounds good right now.)

Anyway, revival can be at hand. It starts with God in us. God is speaking fresh words for those around you. His person has a message for them. The words may be the very words that the old revivalists used, but coming now from a life that has been revived they ring true. That's the revival I want to live.

Will you be open to His leading today? Will I? Yes God, I'm thirsty, pour out the rain.

I've lurked around here long enough to know that this (perhaps my heart's cry more so that the words I try to express it with) underlines where most of you are coming from already. But sometimes a guy has to type it up anyway.

Blessings,
-- mark

 2006/11/10 16:32Profile
PaulWest
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Joined: 2006/6/28
Posts: 3405
Dallas, Texas

 Re:

Quote:
God has commanded men who are unregenerate to love Him.



Interesting, brother. But how is this possible without God first allowing man to love Him? Could Pharoah love God with a divinely-hardened heart? Those reprobates whom God allowed to believe a lie, can they just "snap out of the lie" and at will suddenly love Him? If we can at will love God, we can at will bring about our own salvations through repentance. God commands men everywhere to [i]repent[/i], and yet repentance is God-granted. I must therefore stand my ground in this area and humbly challenge your protest. If we can love God simply by acknowledging that He loved us first, then why are so few saved? Is it because we don't choose to acknowledge this? Don't you think more men would acknowledge it if they could? I mean, men have no problem acknowledging their family's love; what's the hang up with Jesus' love which is infinitely greater and manifest to all the world? Men are able to give up vices and reform themselves at the behest of loved ones. Why won't they relinquish sin at the behest of the Loved One? Though it's true that men love their wives and kids with natural affections, they nonetheless see the cross of Christ - the symbol of God's love - as utter foolishness. As offensive! And no wonder - God has deliberately caused it to be a stumbling block!

The fact that God has given man a million and one reasons to love Jesus Christ and come to him still isn't enough, I believe, without the Spirit's intervention. I believe man is inoperably blind, and can do no spiritual good or warrant nothing in terms of coming to Christ without God's interest in him first. God saw David as a man after his own heart, and Abel's sacrifice as better than Cain's, but I don't think it's wise to attribute this favor from works being birthed in isolation from God's grace. You start going down this road, brother, and it's a slippery, treacherous slope! Where then does the filthy rag willpower to do good end and the perfecting grace of God begin? You'll need to answer this question by scripture, Robert, if I am to see your point as something more than moral conjecture. I can put a million and one red apples on a table and tell a blind man they're all green and he'll believe me. God's love (the true, Holy Ghost illuminated, transforming revelation) is impossible and incomprehensible without the Spirit's revelation. Looking up at the Milky Way will not bring about an awareness of God's redemptive love, nor will an uninspired view of the cross shatter the blinders put on man's spiritual eye. Instead, it will bring either revulsion, confusion, or a false understanding and bogus dependancy. I say this with boldness because I have seen the effects of man trying to love or understand God by his own accord without the miracle of spirit-regeration.

Now, if it's just a case of acknowledgement - as you suppose - who then ordains the good season when men can acknowledge and accept? I say God does. Can you refute this scripturally? I purposely haven't given scripture to emphasize my point mainly because there is just so many verses, and I would not treat you - my elder and wiser brother - with such implied disrespect (for I know you are familiar with all of them). Yet the more I read scripture the more I discover that man is helplessly and hoplessly dead, blinded by Satan, and his spirit must be supernaturally quickened, with man's only independant function being able to choose that which God has already put within his grasp. Anything beyond this, I feel, diminishes the absolute sovereignity of God and places man in a position where he plays a graceless role in the redemptive process. Since all the unregenerate live in a realm of separated, spiritual darkness (I hope you won't argue that), blinded and manipulated by principalities yielding more authority than fallen man, an even greater authority than that of the blinding principality must come forth to restore sight and liberate the prisoner from spiritual darkness. Only God can give sight to the blind; man cannot will himself to see into this dimension, for his spirit-eye has been put out by sin (think of Ulysses and the Cyclopes) and he has no authority or ability to "see" God or love a God he is dead to. He must be quickened by grace, and given the option to exercise the measure of faith already given unto to him.

I believe the prevalence of Jesus' sight restoration miracles in the New Testament were illustrations in the physical of what he would continue to do in the spiritual throughout the ages. By grace, through faith. And any measure of faith a man might have is also accredited to God. I lovingly propose that men cannot get saved without God first drawing them to Christ. And unregenerate man cannot love or accept or comprehend (in the spiritual) that which he intrinsically hates and rejects and is blinded to without God first sovereignly opening his heart and revealing His redemptive love by the Spirit. Now, after God opens the heart, I believe the opportunity is there to embrace or reject the light of truth. In this sense, I do agree with you. But I believe that God, through grace, gives men "windows" of opportunity to repent, where pardon and light are freely offered, and men are left to "choose life or death" - though the occasion to choose, in itself, is a sovereign work of grace. What would you call this type of theology?

Calminianism? 8-)

Brother, this is why I preach! It's always so mysterious when the Spirit begins brooding over and the Word begins spreading light into the hearts and minds of dead men. Who can tell if God will allow a person to repent and respond to this amazing love through offered pardon? I firmly believe that if men could love God at will, no person in their right mind would opt to perish, unless they were sent there by default, as dying suddenly or whatever. This offered pardon, this free escape from hell would be gobbled up wholesale after a lifetime of luxuriating in sinful pleasures. People would love God on their deathbeds. But is this reality? No! The reality is that men and women, knowing they are going to hell, still curse God as they sink down. Esau sought repentance with tears and couldn't find it.

Dear brother, I am prepared to go scripture by scripture with you, hoping that, if I am wrong and you are right, God will open my eyes to a fuller and more proper understanding of his ways by the tutelage of the Holy Spirit.

Wishing you peace and grace,

Paul


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Paul Frederick West

 2006/11/10 20:03Profile
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 Re: Critique of a prayer

Quote:
Though I would agree with much of the truth in the prayer I am certain God would never use such a means to reach a sinner.


I agree. Frankly I don’t see this as a sinner’s prayer. It is not a humble appeal for redemption, but a monologue of one who is still fighting with God. And that condition, in itself, is not wrong to acknowledge.

I see value in Spirit-enlightened personal prayer that acknowledges the on-going fleshly resistance to God, and the continual need for deeper crucifixion. (I’m talking about a Christian). Let’s admit: the flesh is at enmity with God.

However, as I examine this prayer in its entirety, not just some smatterings of it, I admit that its overall sentiment is over the edge.

I just read [url=http://members.aol.com/jonathanedw/Justice.html] The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners[/url] in which Edwards presents a remarkably thorough sweep through the dark crevices of the heart, exposing the sinner’s rebellion towards to God. He explains why God is under no obligation to save him. I conclude that Edwards would never have led a sinner to pray this:
Quote:
I want you to make me love you ….If you can answer this 'prayer' I guess the gift of gratitude will come with it


Edwards would view this demand as an expression of rebellion, which would actually cause God to refuse pardon. God does not march to our orders: “God is in debt to none.”

The “prayer”, in my opinion, is a caricature of Edward’s sermon. I would not have expected this of Dr. Gerstner. I had assumed that he was an outstanding scholar, but then how would I know? To me he spoke and wrote with such sophisticated academic-eze that I found it difficult to understanding him. Still, I am surprised that he would write a prayer in the simplistic literary style that he used, never mind the content. So much for summarizing the writings of Edwards!

Quote:
There may be young preachers that would take up this prayer and use it in the open air.


Yes, it is tempting fuel for the zealous evangelist who may quote it simply because Edward’s name is attached to it.


Diane


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Diane

 2006/11/11 0:05Profile
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 Re:

Quote:
Any thoughts



Edit: adding ( i don't see this prayer as a prayer but an art work of conviction )

hmmm, Edwards, I consider him one of those writers who give me the goose bumps, I remember reading him a long time ago, and had to put it down because he was so intense, so fiery, so touching, i knew that, if i kept on reading his writings, i would want to become a preacher myself, since I don't quite believe in female public preaching, i had better just not get myself all wound up by Edward's "madness" ( the very fervent and godly kind, in my view) to stir my emotions up too much for the Lord..if you can understand what i'm trying to say, though men like the apostle Paul and even Francis Schaeffer already can fire me up towards serving our Lord quite sufficiently :)

Paul, I can assure you this, if this were a prayer to be prayed, Pharisees can't pray this prayer, false believers won't know how pray this prayer, intellectuals are unable to pray this prayer, shamefully, I think I appreciate this prayer because what i see in this prayer are mostly of God's immeasurable longsuffering, God's unfathomable mercy, God's utmost beautiful holiness, and God's own Blood sacrifice despite of the sick sinners.. yeah, weird, I don't see man in this prayer as perhaps I ought to.

I suspect that Edwards must be in certain ways similar to men like Augustine, Luther..that if anything,it seems like these men did KNOW what depravity (total or not) , the evilness of evil is, and the sinfulness of sin is..the like

I also think that these men would make fantastic artists, perhaps they already were, in every sense, yes, I admire them, they were so so intense and yet seemed spiritually balanced (by God naturally)at the same time.

As for the rest, I don't have any theological or biblical viewpoints in regard to this prayer to offer, because, my response to this "prayer" is simply this, GRATITUDE, gratitude, there is not ever going to be enough gratitude to bring to a GOD who sacrificed sooo violently despite man's utter wickedness, yeah, and I must include here, it had to be because of CHRIST, His Son , whom and why GOD was so willing..

As always Paul, you have indeed ministered to many of us on SI heartily, I appreciate this piece as well, since my mind is still lingering on the "death" thread, may GOD bless you and your wife..

 2006/11/11 11:14Profile





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