In the last post, we explored how the Book of Job informs the discussion around “how someone is saved?” The answer of course is “calling on the name of Jesus.”
Job called on the Mediator, the Advocate, the Redeemer. I would assume that all of us have personalized names of Jesus that we call on.
Most importantly though, when Job called on these names of Jesus, he wasn’t praying to Jesus. He was praying to God the Father in the name of the Son.
Whoever calls on the name of the Son will be granted pardon and freedom by the Father. Whatever you ask of the Father in the name of the Son you will receive.
There is a very important, very contested prayer that has been intimately linked to salvation. Can you guess?
That’s right, the good ol’ Sinner’s Prayer.
The Sinner’s Prayer has gotten a bad rap as being the hub of “decisionism.”
Decisionism is an idea that our salvation is sealed when we decide to accept Jesus’ offer of salvation. For some this smacks too much of works and not enough of grace. It represents an immature concept that it is your decision to accept Jesus’ sacrifice that saves you rather than Jesus’ deliberate act of sacrificing Himself that saves you.
The real rub with decisionism and the Sinner’s Prayer is that anybody can hedge their bets by saying a prayer and then go about their merry unrepentant way and say “I’m saved!”
I’ve personally had people tell me that they “would never lead someone through the Sinner’s Prayer” as a means of entering into a saving relationship with Christ. The reasoning is that it creates a presumption of salvation.
A presumption of salvation rarely holds up during trials.
I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer when I was four years old. I chose without my parents’ knowledge to be baptized at five years old.
Yet, I was aware as a child that I continued to sin. I thought mean things, underhandedly picked on my siblings, and had an attitude toward my teachers sometimes.
I distinctly remember sitting in the bathtub at around seven years old praying the Sinner’s Prayer over and over wondering if it really “worked.” Was I really saved; since apparently I was still a bad girl.
Where was the proof that God had accepted me?
I continued into an obsessive compulsive pursuit of holiness in junior high and high school. I was the case in point that religious fervor can make a person insane, as early French psychologists had claimed.
My young “faith” experience was not so unlike Job with his overkill sacrifices for even imagined sins.
But when my bad days came, I wasn’t so sure of my salvation as Job was. I didn’t know the names of Christ on which I could call:
Great Physician, Wonderful Counselor, Balm of Gilead, Suffering Savior tempted in every way like me, Man of Sorrows familiar with every pain, strain, and stress, Bearer of Burdens, Lover of every unlovable personality, Restorer of demoniacs, lepers, and whores, Freedom Fighter for those in bondage and enslaved.
I had relied on the praying of prayers to save me.
It is not praying the Sinner’s Prayer that saves you. It is God answering the Sinner’s Prayer that saves you.
So, if you have prayed the Sinner’s Prayer but hardship has driven you into the wilderness and you’re not sure if you are or ever were saved, my question to you is:
Do you believe that God will answer your request to be saved?
In my wilderness years, I felt God had not answered my sinner’s prayers— years and years of prayers— He had not saved me from psychosis, panic, shame, and “badness.”
At the time, I felt that I had experienced my own death and there was not eternal life on the other side. There was just this expanse of meaninglessness in the 50 or so years I was bound to have left on earth.
I felt completely cut off from God. Whether by His doing or mine, we were not on speaking terms for seven years.
Somewhere within me, I know I still believed that through prayer God stoops down to grip us in His unbreakable grasp. I know this because in the height of my broken-heartedness, I demanded of my mom, “do not pray for me!”
I didn’t want to deal with God and I knew my odds were best if everyone agreed to disassociate me from prayer.
Not long before the hardest time of my life, I had to yield. I prayed in frustration, “God, if I’m ever gunna come back to You, You have to do it ‘cause I’m not going to.”
And God said back, “Game on.”
I believe that’s the prayer I needed to hear myself pray– the one that was waiting for God to answer.
The few years after I prayed that prayer were filled with a whole lot of things getting worse. They were full of God intervening. During this time I learned how to pray because I learned that God hears.
I learned how to cry out in Jesus’ name because I needed miracles. And the miracles came— such as, “God you have to save my husband, You must!”— or, “please have mercy on my unborn baby, don’t let my medication harm her, please give her a perfect heart.”
Praying over and over, “Mercy, God. Mercy. Mercy, please. Mercy.”
Like Esther, I learned to rush into the throne room unsure of whether the King would allow my petition but sure that my only hope was in asking. (Esther 4:9-5:2)
When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the golden scepter that was in his hand. So, Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. And he asked, “What is it Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given to you,” Esther 5:2-3.
Esther had been terrified of entering the king’s court without invitation. The law said she could be killed for such presumption. She was scared enough that she had all the Jews in Souza fast and pray for her for three days before she approached her own husband, the king, to ask him for the salvation of herself and her people from a plotted genocide.
She needed permission to ask and the extension of his favor indicating that he was willing to hear. Salvation was already secured when King Xerxes promised to accept Esther’s request.
There was this same saving quality in Job’s prayer for his wicked friends. That quality was that God promised Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that He would accept Job’s prayer on their behalf.
The Sinner’s Prayer, like every prayer I’ve ever prayed, has no effect outside of God’s promise to accept it.
Did the Sinner’s Prayer make me a Christian? Yes.
Yes, it did. At some point along the way, between praying it at 4 years old and the 29 years since, God accepted that prayer and became my Savior.
I have pretty high confidence that God loves to answer sinners’ prayers.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13