The reason I have problems with spiritual formulas is that it seems to make our loving Lord into a legalist, petty judge who cares more about His creation following the prescribed steps, in the proper order with the proper attitude then in throwing His arms around them and giving a welcome home party.
The loving father (God) in the story of the prodigal son does not give any mention of the "formula". The son was never outside of His love, was never excluded from His family, the son was forgiven even before He asked. In fact the older son who followed all the rules, and presumably exercised all the formulas could not even enjoy the party or the love of His father because he (the older son) was focused on the "correct" way to do things.
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