This really is a great question! As I grow in Christ, I see more and more that anything that is going to happen will happen because of the Holy Spirit. This includes salvation. But there is no “formula.” God is creative. He also treats us as individuals. (To me, this is similar to how Jesus healed everyone who came to Him, but each healing was done differently.)
For me, Chapter 3 of John’s Gospel is key, and particularly this verse.
The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8 (NRSV)
Very briefly, here is my own spiritual birth account. I was in either the first or second grade. There was a great deal of hurt in my life. I was outside, and it was night. I felt the presence of Jesus right beside me though I did not see Him. Jesus rolled back the veil of the physical world and showed me the spiritual world. All around us in the night sky were glowing orange-red lights above houses along the horizon. There were flames, dark black smoke, and frameworks of burned structures. There was intense hurting everywhere, and I knew in my heart I was destined to grow up to be someone who created hurt in the lives of other people unless Jesus did something. I would become someone who hurt others and I would pay for hurting others. All that I knew to do was to ask in desperation, “Jesus, please help me!” Then I lost consciousness, though not because of what I had seen.
This experience had all of the elements that most people would agree are important: a realization that humankind is sinful and has no way of escaping this sinful state without the intervention of God, an understanding and acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is God’s only means of escape, a humble request made to Jesus for help.
This memory lay buried deep inside, beneath my conscience for many years. This can happen, particularly when there has been deep hurt in a person’s life. I never felt that the “say this prayer then sign and date so you never doubt” from Sunday School ever worked, even though I always did the steps and prayed the prayer. Many years later I remember that experience at night and understood why. I had already been born of the Spirit. (Being spiritually born is a “one time only and irreversible” event.)
In junior high and high school I was very interested in the occult and witchcraft. Those kinds of books from the library occupied my reading time. Between my junior and senior years of high school, I was in a summer educational program and a friend I met there shared with me “The Four Spiritual Laws” booklet. This put me back on God’s path, though it felt like “for the first time” rather than “again.”
It’s difficult for me to write a set of steps to follow or a prayer to say because I believe that not everyone experiences being born of the Spirit the same way. Eventually there will be a Page here like that, though after reading this, I hope you can see why it will probably not be titled “How To Get Yourself Saved” and why I want to to try to encompass a variety of experiences while working with the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
One final note…I have purposely said only “a great deal of hurt in my life” without going into details or naming specifics because that’s not important to this particular post. Maybe in future posts, I don’t know. This more vague wording, I believe, gives me a better opportunity to connect with a broader range of readers with a broader range of experiences. Pain is pain, but God’s gentle healing is God’s gentle healing.