- Of the two prayers, the Lord’s Prayer is the one that actually appears in Scripture as an actual prayer.
- Of the two prayers, the Lord’s Prayer is the one Jesus commands us to pray, especially as we are learning how to. That gives it the “Great Commission” edge, i.e., Jesus directs us to teach everything he commanded us, and the Lord’s Prayer, unlike the Sinner’s Prayer, is on that list.
- The Lord’s Prayer has all the important elements that people like in the Sinner’s Prayer–e.g., us addressing God as our Father; us ending our rebellion (“hallowed be your name”) and submitting to his rule and reign (“for thine is the kingdom”); us confessing our sins (“forgive us our sins”)–but without the individualism and egocentricity of the Sinner’s Prayer. That is to say, the Lord’s Prayer is far more focused on God. If you’re unconvinced, just count the number of times “I” and “you” appear in each prayer. Or, to say it a little differently,
- It is possible to pray the Sinner’s Prayer sincerely and remain entirely absorbed in your own life. It is, however, impossible to pray the Lord’s Prayer sincerely and remain entirely absorbed in your own life.
- Even the way forgiveness is addressed in the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that asking for God’s forgiveness when we are not willing to recognize our need to forgive others is a bit, you know, hypocritical, self-serving, and insincere.
So as you proclaim the Gospel this month, and as you lead people through the process of repentance, baptism, and discipleship, try replacing the Sinner’s Prayer with the Lord’s Prayer at the front end of the process. You’ll find that while the Sinner’s Prayer typically leads the one praying to a big sigh of relief and to lots of good intentions to check into this church stuff, the Lord’s Prayer is nothing less than the express on-ramp to a Christian life of Whole Life discipleship.
Of course, if you don’t like using the Lord’s Prayer for this purpose, you can always try the Tax Collector’s Prayer: “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Unlike the Sinner’s Prayer, that one’s actually in the Scripture, too.