I attended a popular bible college that was steeped in the Finney tradition of evangelism. During the invitation after a Gospel presentation, individuals were asked to pray a prayer like this, “Lord Jesus, I believe I’m a sinner. I believe Christ died on the cross for my sins. Please come into my heart and save me, for Jesus sake. Amen.” I would like to compare that still popular method of evangelism with how the Puritans viewed repentance and faith. The following prayer is taken from the book “Valley of Vision”, a compilation of Puritan prayers.
Thou knowest my great unfitness for service,
my present deadness,
my inability to do anything for thy glory,
my distressing coldness of heart.
I am weak, ignorant, unprofitable,
and loathe and abhor myself. I am at a loss to know what thou wouldest
have me do,
for I feel amazingly deserted by thee,
and sense they presence so little;
Thou makest me possess the sins of my youth,
so that I feel all sin,
I cannot think or act but every motion is sin.
Return again with showers of converting grace to a poor gospel-abusing sinner.
Help my soul to breathe after holiness.
after a constant devotedness to thee,
after growth in grace more abundantly every day.
O Lord, I am lost in the pursuit of this blessedness,
And am ready to sink because I fall short of my desire;
Help me to hold out a little longer,
Until the happy hour of deliverance comes,
for I cannot lift my soul to thee
if thou of thy goodness bring me not nigh.
Help me to be different, watchful, tender, lest I offend my blessed Friend
in thought and behavior;
I confide in thee and lean upon thee,
and need thee at all times to assist and lead me.
O that all my distresses and apprehensions
Might prove but Christ’s school
to make me fit for greater service
by teaching me the great lesson of humility.
The Puritan who wrote this prayer understood his brokenness and spiritually bankrupt state. His only appeal, his desperate appeal, was for God’s grace, through Christ. How different than what passes for a prayer of repentance and forgiveness in the church today.