When I was a kid one of my most treasured possessions was my dad's worn old copy of "The Four Spiritual Laws" left over from his years on staff with Campus Crusade. I kept it in the top drawer of my desk so it was easily accessible if a playmate suddenly wanted to receive Christ as her Savior and Lord.
One thing I liked about this little marigold tract was the prayer to receive Christ toward the back of the booklet. I wasn't quite sure what I should tell my friends to pray and I certainly didn't want them to pray the wrong prayer and jeopardize their eternal destinies, so I took great comfort in that prayer example.
By the time I reached high school I was confident enough in my grasp of the gospel to give my own example of what one should pray if they wanted to become a Christian. I think it was something along the lines of, "Dear Jesus, please forgive my sins and come into my heart. Amen."
When I was in college and became ever so much more learned, I concluded that the phrase "come into my heart" was too confusing. Thus I switched to "please come into my life" (I'm not sure why I thought this was any less confusing) and tagged on "and make me the person you want me to be" for good measure.
This lasted me into my first few years of children's ministry until I started viewing everything through the lens of Christ as King. Then I modified my example prayer to, "Dear Jesus, please forgive my sins and be my King."
Judging by this timeline, I should be updating my prayer example within the next year. But I've recently wondered if I should give kids examples of prayers at all. The Bible explains what one must do to become a Christian, but offers no uniform prayer for doing so. It feels a bit like adding to God's law when I tell kids to pray a specific prayer. Also, giving kids the same prayer example every time I present the gospel may give them false assurance of salvation. They might think, "Hey, I prayed this prayer so I must be saved" without ever actually repenting and turning to Jesus.
I'm pondering if I should simply present the gospel, tell them what a Christians is and then leave the actual praying up to the kids. God knows their hearts and desires - do I really need to tell them what to say?
What do you think? Was hearing a specific prayer example helpful in your conversion experience? Was it harmful? And do you use a particular prayer when you're sharing the gospel with kids? Your thoughts are always appreciated.