Getting Saved, Again
In the faith tradition I grew up in, you had to "accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior" by praying what was commonly referred to as "The Sinner's Prayer." The prayer went something like this:
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior.
I first prayed that prayer when I was six years old. My parents typed up a note that they kept in their keepsake box with a brief narrative of the event. In our faith tradition, you needed to remember the moment you accepted Christ for it to be real.
If you think I'm joking about that last bit, I'm not.
Even with all the proof, I constantly worried that I wasn't going to heaven when I died. So every time there was a chance that I could, I would pray that prayer again. When I went through puberty and had impure thoughts about every other second, I "got saved" at least three or four times a week.
Before the age of fifteen, I went down the aisle at scores of worship services, revival, and youth camp meetings to pray that prayer- sometimes alone or with someone else.
And then at the age of fifteen, I just stopped.
I not only stopped "getting saved," I stopped believing in any of it. I doubted that God existed, at least the God I had been taught to believe in. I wanted to believe in Jesus, though---the Jesus I read about in the Gospels, not the Jesus I heard preached about in church.
It took me another couple of decades before I understood that all of those trips down the aisle, prayers for Jesus to "come into my heart," and all the rest of it were part of my journey toward being a follower of Jesus, not the end of it.
Recently, I read a fantastic quote from Bono, the lead singer of U2, who wrote this:
I’d always be first up when there was an altar call, the “come to Jesus” moment. I still am. If I was in a café right now and someone said, “Stand up if you’re ready to give your life to Jesus,” I’d be the first to my feet. I took Jesus with me everywhere and I still do. I’ve never left Jesus out of the most banal or profane actions of my life.
I love that quote so much. It really does capture how I feel about my Christian faith. I don't regret where I started for a moment, even though my journey took me to some painful places in my spiritual life.
And this is also true for me: I still find Jesus compelling. I still want to follow him. I still need to be saved every single day.
While I don't believe in the overarching theology of how many Christians view The Sinner's Prayer, I do believe in its sentiment. It's the kind of prayer that anyone who wants to follow Jesus should pray for as often as possible.
The truth of the matter is that we all need Jesus. We all must let go of trying to live our lives on our terms. We should all surrender to following Jesus wherever Jesus might lead.
May it be so for you today and every day. Find moments to pray your prayer of surrender, and give your life daily to following the One who showed us the Way to eternal life begins now and is forever.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.