By Mark Sandford, Spiritual Director - Elijah House USA
Others cannot be transformed by our efforts alone. We can pray that they be strengthened in their inner being, (Eph. 3:16) which may help them choose to repent and change. If they commit a sin not leading to death, we can pray that God will give them life (I John 5:16), which may draw them toward God, and therefore toward repentance. We can pray to take captive their stronghold of thought (II Cor. 10:5), which may free them to think for themselves, and thus enable them to choose to repent. We can even repent on their behalf.
An example of Identificational repentance: Nehemiah 1:6 – “Let Your ear now be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned.’ In this passage, Nehemiah was not leading the Israelites in group prayer; he was praying as an individual on behalf of the nation.
But repentance on behalf of others does not transform them; it only places the cross between them and the reaping of what they have sown. The choice to repent (and therefore be transformed) is theirs alone. “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God’. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” No one can give an account for us. We must give our own account. That presupposes one’s own choice to repent and be transformed.