Salvation, in modern times, has the tendency to be boiled down to a simple transaction. Read this, hear this, pray this and “Congratulations, you’re saved,” or have some sort of “fire insurance.” I believe that this is a lot of the problem in contemporary Christianity– that we have people that pray a prayer or say some words and come away thinking that’s what it means to be saved when there’s much more than that.
Now, before you think I’ve lost it, hang with me.
What is Salvation
Salvation is a change in who a person is. Paul talks about a transformation from death unto life. It’s not only a change in one’s destination, but a change in the very fiber of their being. That change is what is important– much more important– than prayer or baptism.
Give Me Some Examples
Well, look at Cornelius– Peter goes to visit these Gentiles and as he’s preaching the Gospel the Holy Spirit comes down on them and they start speaking in tongues. Correct me if I’m wrong but there’s no prayer said, and they hadn’t been physically baptized in water yet.
At BJU I had two different experiences that point to this. One was my hall leader (RA) for my senior year. His salvation testimony included a sermon and he got out of the aisle to walk forward, but he believes that he was saved at that moment, not when he prayed a moment later. And then there was the guy in my literary society that, as a junior at BJU, said he was just then saved, even though he “prayed the prayer a long time ago.”
The Problem of the Prayer
I think that we are actually hurting people by focusing on the prayer instead of the relationship. That is, in reality, what God is calling us to– a relationship with Him. If we read Paul’s letters, we see him encouraging the brethren to work out their faith with fear and trembling. This sounds much more like Paul was telling believers to check themselves against the scriptures to “make their election sure” rather than the current sermons that tell us to frame the exact time and date where we “prayed the prayer” to ally our doubt.
I would encourage you to check your own heart, your own desire for the things of God– and regardless as to whether you’ve prayed the prayer see how your relationship is with God and, if you’re away from Him, get it right!