The Sinner's Prayer

"And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." (Luke 18:13)

Evangelists have often urged lost men and women to pray this "sinner's prayer" if they desired to be saved. The account does say that this publican, after praying thus, "went down to his house justified" (v. 14).

But there is more here than appears on the surface. It is not merely God's mercy that is needed for He has already been merciful to let us continue to live at all. The word translated "merciful" is used only one other time in the New Testament and is there translated "make reconciliation for." Speaking of the saving work of Christ, it says that He came "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17). It is also closely related to the words for "propitiation" and "mercy seat."

This parable of the Pharisee and the publican is set in the context of the Jewish temple worship, where sinners would bring their sacrificial offerings to cover their sins, knowing that "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11). Such sacrifices were completely worthless, however, if offered in a spirit of religious pride and/or self-righteousness, like those of the Pharisee. There must be repentance and faith in God's promise of forgiveness through the death of an innocent substitute, pre-figuring the true Lamb of God whose coming death would truly make eternal reconciliation for the sins of the people. The publican prayed in this vein, and he was saved.

In our day, on the other side of the cross, a sinner's saving prayer must say, in effect: "God, be propitiated to me on the basis of the death of Christ for my sins." Such a prayer, offered in sincere repentance and faith in God's promise, brings justification before God. HMM

The Latest
TESTIMONIALS
Our Culture’s Deepest Needs
Hi, I’m Christy Hardy, and I serve as an editor at ICR. Our country has so many needs and worthy causes. How do we decide which nonprofit organizations...

NEWS
Intact Starch Granules in "Ancient" Plant Fossil
by Jeffrey Tomkins and Timothy Clarey* Fossils keep revealing biomolecules that should be completely deteriorated and disintegrated if they are...

TESTIMONIALS
Refuting Ape-Men Myths
I’m Brian Thomas, Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research. My wife and I have five college-age kids. We look forward to the day...

NEWS
Horned Dinosaurs Created as One Kind
A recent paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B may have inadvertently confirmed what the Bible revealed to us all along: Kinds only...

NEWS
Homo naledi Bones Not Ritually Buried
Since Lee Berger and his team announced their discovery of Homo naledi,1 they have been claiming that the bones found in the Dinaledi Chamber, South...