Have You Said the Magic Prayer?

Erik Cooper —  March 24, 2010 — 3 Comments

I’ve been a Christian all my life. I grew up in church, and I’ve invited Jesus Christ “into my heart” more times than I can count.  Church services.  Youth group.  Summer camp.  The location rotated, but those famous words passed my lips with fearful regularity.  You know what I’m talking about:  The Magic Prayer.

Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner and I ask you to come into my heart and be my Savior. Amen.”

Or some variation on that theme.

Some preachers led it with more flare.  Stretched it out.  Added extra inflection and accents on strange syllables.  Adopted that strange “preacher-accent” to make it sound more official.  But you get the gist.  It was the doorway to salvation. The ultimate moment.

And it’s a good prayer.

A good decision.

A monumental occasion.

This was the event that was celebrated, built towards, tabulated. The experience that was supposed to change everything.

Until it didn’t.

Because for many, when that episode was over, so was the change (well, OK…if you were lucky the goose bumps may have lasted a few days).  It was just a moment.  It never translated into momentum.

That’s because I don’t think we truly understand repentance. Yep.  Something so fundamental to faith, to a genuine relationship with the Creator of the Universe, and I think it may have been hijacked by our own desire to celebrate an occasion, to point to a tangible.

Repentance is not a one-time event.  It’s a violent, daily confrontation with my brokenness and the ongoing application of the only remedy that really works: submission to Jesus Christ.

Yet we see all kinds of believers (even pastors and spiritual leaders) that may learn to conform to Christian cultural expectations, but under the surface continue living in the cesspool of their own un-faced lies and personal demons. Their focus is on a past event that put them in “the club,”  that was supposed to fix everything, rather than active motion towards new life in Christ.

“Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance [let your lives prove your change of heart]”
(Matthew 3:8 AMP)

“Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.'” (Luke 9:23 NLT)

Repentance is an active daily posture, an ongoing change of heart, not a magical grouping of words we repeated. The good news?  It’s not about more effort (you can’t fix yourself), it’s about more submission.  It’s about having the guts to face your brokenness, to admit your sinfulness, and surrender your selfishness.



Whether you’ve been a believer for 30 minutes or 30 years.

Are you still struggling to conquer the demons that “good Christians” aren’t supposed to be facing?  Embrace repentance as a way of life.

Salvation isn’t just a past event, it’s a ongoing journey.  It may have started in a very special moment, but has that moment become an active, daily posture of repentance?

3 responses to Have You Said the Magic Prayer?

  1. Loved so much of this Erik. I’ve been wrestling through the idea of salvation coming by a magical prayer lately when Biblically it seems to be more of a lifelong event, or a journey as you said. And the answer to improvement isn’t trying harder, but allowing more of Jesus in our lives and being submissive.

  2. My beloved friend, Gloria, passed away last year. She was well into her 80’s and an amazing, godly woman.

    I asked her once what The Secret was to living the very human, yet very faithful life that I observed in her.

    Without hesitation, she answered: Live a life of repentance. Never, ever, ever make peace with your sin.

    If she were here today, she would say it very sweetly, and then tell me how much she loved me. I sure do miss her.

  3. Erik, you are sooooo right about this. Loved the phrase, “It was just a moment. It never translated into momentum.” Reminds me of the old song that talked about us being “stirred, but not changed.” The problem with the goose bumps is that they don’t last.

    To interject some “engineerees” (sometimes confused with a foreign language) into the discussion, one trait of momentum is that it’s directional. Momentum continues to carry us in whatever direction we’re pointed. That’s why – as you rightly pointed out – repentence is so critical. Repentence changes our direction! But the problem is, we tend to drift off course, so daily repentence is the antidote. (Actually, moment by moment is more accurate, but “daily” conveys the proper thought.) Repentence brings with it course correction, keeping me pointed toward Christ so that momentum works for me and not against me … taking me toward the Prize.

    Thanks for expressing this so well.

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