A Voice in the
Oh, the heartache for the Believer who has family members who are unregenerate! The heartache, knowing that in their present condition, they are doomed to an eternity of separation and judgment from God. For those who have already left this mortality, there can be a "pit" in one's stomach of the "finality" of their fate. They have crossed the line where God has decreed, "he who is unjust, let him be unjust still.."(Rev22:11) We may shed some tears, and be in a state of sorrow regarding them for a time; and eventually the Lord gives His "peace" so that we are able to say, "Even so, Amen." (Rev1:7)
A great burden is the one for the Believer who wishes to witness to the unsaved relatives. There are family gatherings/reunions, and the Believer goes, in the hopes of being some small "light" to the siblings. The siblings might see the "change" in the Believer, and long for "some- thing" they-know-not-what. The Believer knows the work God has done in their own life, and aches for the unregenerate. "How" can I "get through" to them?
Of greater burden is relatives and close friends who think they are Saved; but to the Believer, their fruits are obvious...that they are yet lost. They can usually point to an occasion where they "prayed the prayer" while in the company of some supposed "Believer" or at some church function or crusade. But based on their life and heart, it is obvious they don't "know the Lord."
As I was discussing this with a friend recently, he responded back, "Sharing is bad enough, but when that person thinks they know The Lord and they clearly don't is extremely difficult indeed." And to be sure, these relatives are not going to be sweetness and sunshine, but will attack the Believer angrily; as we remember Jesus' words, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house." (Mk6:4) As the people of His home town, Nazareth, tried to throw Him off a cliff.(Lk4:29)
But these people have "prayed the prayer!" About which, this friend said further, "I should think that 'prayer' has caused more harm than it ever has done any good."
What is this "prayer" we're talking about? It comes in many forms. Each evangelist has his own variation. People come forward, and are congregated around the platform, and somebody on the platform leads them in a "prayer" which the respondents repeat. Now, having said this "prayer" ...they are told they are now "saved" ...supposedly.
One such "prayer" can be found in Campus Crusade for Christ's "Four Spiritual Laws." "...The following explains how you can receive Christ: ...the following is a [suggested] prayer: "Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be." Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? If it does, I invite you to pray this prayer right now, and Christ will come into your life..."
This particular "prayer" is not being singled out. It is representative of many. But this one is used by many, as I remember we had to memorize it for a Bible School class in "Personal Evangelism."
Before we speak of the ritual of "praying the prayer" let's take a brief look at THIS "prayer." Is it a "good" prayer? Is it doctrinally correct? Do we "need" God? Yes. Should we "thank" Jesus for dying on the cross? 'Doesn't hurt. Do we "receive" Jesus? Certainly. (Jn1:12) Should we be "thankful" for the salvation, once received? Of course. (Col3:15,Lk7:47) Do we surrender control of our lives to Him? That's what a "slave" is all about.(Rom6:18)
But, if you had been reading along in this tract prior to this "prayer", you would have read a claim that we are all trying to reach to God. Whereas Scripture says, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way."(Is53:6) And did you notice what's "missing" from the "prayer?" The Pharisee prayed, "thanking God" (like this prayer), telling God how good and wonderful he was.(Lk18:11) But then, the lowly tax collector (sinner) would hardly dare to lift his eyes towards heaven but instead beat on his breast and said, "God be merciful to me, a sinner."(vs13) And Jesus' verdict as to "who" just "got saved" (justified) was...the one who came in humility and repentance.
This CCC "prayer" says nothing of repentance. It "thanks" God for a "forgiveness" when there was no "repentance." The Godly pattern is "repentance" and THEN "forgiveness."(Lk17:4) The message the early Church preached was "repentance...and forgiveness of sins." (Acts5:31) Rather than ever striving to "reach God and the abundant life", mankind is in darkness. The work of salvation "open[s] their eyes, in order to turn [repentance] them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts26:18) And there is no mention of "believing" in Jesus Christ. (Acts 8:37,16:31) If all a person "prays" is THIS "prayer" HE IS NOT SAVED.
We have a whole generation of unsaved who have "prayed the prayer" similar to this one, assuming that they are now "Christians."
How does Salvation "make its way" to a person? First of all, just as salvation is not by "works..which we have done"(Tit3:5) it is also not by the wooing, salesmanship tactics, emotional appeals of other Human Beings; no matter how "spiritual" or "men of God" they may be, nor how "clever" the tactics. Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the FATHER who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by GOD.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned FROM the FATHER comes to Me." (Jn6:44-45) He does this through the Holy Spirit Who "convict[s] the world of sin.." (Jn16:8) Salvation comes about from the person realizing their sinfulness. Realizing that we deserve the "due reward of our deeds" (Lk23:41) as Jesus Christ "pierc[es] even to the division of soul and spirit..and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" as we are all "naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we give account."(Heb4:12-13)
When we truly "meet" God, we see ourselves as "woe is me, for I am undone"(Is6:5) "..now my eye sees You [God]. Therefore I abhor myself and repent.."(Job42:5) When we have met God in this fashion, we can only respond with, "God be merciful to me..."(Lk18:13) That is the true "prayer" to pray, not merely a "suggestion." After such humility, THEN...He promises to "lift you up"(Jas4:10)
If a person has TRULY met God in such a fashion, and is now "coming forward," forget the "ritual prayer." They're ALREADY just "saved." Rejoice with them, and lead them in growth into God's Word. "..as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby," (1Pt2:2)