I’ve always been fascinated with the construct of the sinner’s prayer. Initially, it was because I thought it was this magical phrase that somehow convinced a supernatural deity to inhabit my physical heart and save me from the evil powers that I had yet to understand. But, I got older and began to understand that it wasn’t the words that I said, but how I meant them, and even now I find that my understanding of what the “Sinner’s Prayer” really is.
For those who aren’t familiar with the terminology; in the Christian culture there is this moment when those who wish to join the faith will be led through a series of sentences that culminate in a prayer that usually follows along the lines of acknowledging guilt, believing in Jesus, and confessing the guilt to him, followed by this request that the individual may not really mean at the time which is for Jesus to come into their lives and become their Lord and Savior. Many people believe that if they say this prayer, then they are saved from the reaches of Hell.
The problem is, many times, they are wrong.
Now let me go ahead and say that I don’t personally have anything against a “Sinner’s Prayer”, and I know many Christians who have had their lives changed since they said the prayer themselves. However, I would argue that for them it was actually more about their heart condition and not about the words coming out of their mouth.
The sinner’s prayer is not some type of magical formula that you can chant as a mantra over and over again thinking it will buy you a ticket into paradise. There is no way in this world for a human to be able to physically do anything to earn the salvation they earnestly seek (if you seek it at all). There is no ministry that can be done enough, no amount of money donated to charities, no amount of praying that can ensure salvation. To believe that we can enchant a deity with our meager attempts in this short life is laughable at best.
In fact, during the morning service this past week, our youth pastor (who was preaching at the time) put it this way (paraphrased): “Praying a sinner’s prayer thinking it will somehow magically make you good with God even when your life says the opposite… might as well be witchcraft.”
That’s just it though. I have met so many people, heard so many stories, of individuals who find themselves in this position of believing they are Christians because of a prayer that they said, or acts of service that they do, and how they consider themselves good people (and many of these people I would consider being “good” as well), but never really surrendered the control of their lives over to God.
I know that there are a lot of people out there who would look at that statement and completely shut me off right there. Everyone has their different reasons, some refuse to think critically, some would believe to think the way I do is to intellectually murder myself, and some just don’t care.
To the ones who feel it is intellectual murder I pose this question: Why would it be impossible to think critically and still come to the same conclusions? Over the years so many people have looked at the same evidence and come to vastly different conclusions, so why can’t both be critical thinkers (note that at this point I’m not saying that both have come to a conclusion that is true, but rather have come to a conclusion by using their intellect)?
There are plenty of Christians who have critically thought their way into atheism, and there are plenty of atheists who have critically thought their way into Christianity. I don’t think one gave up their intellect just because they concluded that the other must be true. But it seems I’ve gone off on a bit of a bunny trail.
The point I was trying to make is that the Gospel, and consequentially Christianity, is so much deeper than just saying a prayer, or following a list of rules. It is about reaching out to people in love, to better their lives by introducing them to Jesus. I know that he has changed me forever, and I know that even when I am struck by fear or by a hard time in my life that I can lean on a being that far exceeds my limitations. If that makes me weak then so be it. I would rather be weak and surrounded by a God and people who will support and help me, than to be strong and be alone.
I am not writing these words to try to convince you, my reader, that Christ is the only way to really live. I am of the opinion that it is impossible to change others; the only person I can ever change is myself. But I do find it important to occasionally share where I stand, and to do so confidently. If I cannot be confident on the things I hold closes to my heart, then I would have to question whether or not they are what I really believe.
More rambling on a Wednesday. Happy Hump Day!
Grace and Peace