You have likely heard the terms "salvation prayer" or "asking Jesus into your heart," but what do these terms really mean? And how can one practically live out the commitments that follow?
In this article, we'll deal with what asking Jesus into your heart means and we'll answer some of the important questions you might encounter as a new Christian or as someone interested in knowing more about these biblical concepts.
How Do You Ask Jesus Into Your Heart?
One of the most pressing questions some might ponder is: How do you ask Jesus into your heart?
There are no universal words, but there is an eternal truth at the core of this heartfelt move: recognizing that Jesus died for us, that He loves us and then living a life that recognizes that reality.
When people refer to a salvation prayer or to asking Jesus into their hearts, they are really pointing to a process that starts with a prayer: a commitment to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and to live a Christian life.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) maps this process out in detail here. But before we explore specific prayer language you can use for a salvation prayer, you start with the basics: understanding what scripture says about Jesus' sacrifice, and then — once understood — committing to follow Him.
Here's an example prayer BGEA offers to help people begin their journey with Christ:
"Dear God, I know I’m a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe that He died for my sin and that you raised Him to life. I want to trust Him as my Savior and follow Him as Lord, from this day forward. Guide my life and help me to do Your will. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen."
What Does It Mean to Ask Jesus Into Your Heart?
As previously discussed, asking Jesus into your heart is a process of total life change and transformation. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit has the power to totally transform our lives, and to give us a newfound hope and existence. This is a powerful and transformational message.
When you ask Jesus into your heart, you commit to a new way of living and existing. One of the primary examples of this life change is Paul (also known as Saul), a man who went from one of the most egregiously vicious opponents of the early church to one of the most transformational and impactful figures in Christian history.
Paul’s conversion from a persecutor of Christians to one of the greatest believers who ever lived is one of the most compelling narratives in the Bible. The Book of Acts records Paul’s lifestyle before and after his change-of-heart, with Acts 9 detailing his conversion.
The big take away, though, is that asking Jesus into your heart is the start of a new life lived for Christ — a transformed existence that calls us to live out Jesus' call to love God and love others.
Is 'Invite Jesus Into Your Heart' in the Bible?
Another question that comes along with the "salvation prayer" and other conversations about asking Jesus into one's heart is whether the "invite Jesus into your heart" language is in scripture. As many sources note, these exact words are not necessarily presented in the context of stating a prayer that would invite Jesus into our hearts and lives.
As stated, we must understand grace, salvation and Jesus' love for us and we must set ourselves on a course to live a Christian life. It's not about a prayer; it's about a lifestyle filled with sincere faith. GotQuestions.org is among the outlets that tackle this issue and encourage people to be careful with the language used around salvation:
Often, the exhortation to “ask Jesus to come into your heart” is used as a simple way to say, “Ask Jesus to enter your life” or “Allow the Lord to take control.” If this is done in the context of presenting the whole gospel, then there’s no harm done. But before a person is invited to “ask Jesus into your heart,” he or she should understand sin and its penalty, the payment Christ made on the cross, and the reality of Christ’s resurrection. In fact, referring to salvation as Jesus’ “coming into your heart” might even help a person understand that the Spirit of Christ comes to indwell the soul (see John 14:17). Still, it is always best to use the terminology the Bible uses. “Ask Jesus into your heart” does not fully communicate what is actually occurring at salvation.
Language matters, and when it comes to accepting Jesus and living a Christian life, authenticity is key.
How Do You Open Your Heart to God?
With all of this in mind, how do you open your heart to God? You start by realizing that God loves us and wants a relationship with us, that sin separates people from God — but that there is hope in Christ.
Romans 3:21-26 (NIV) breaks down Jesus, sin and His sacrifice:
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
When we understand that Jesus died for us, we begin a Christian journey. We admit that we're sinners, that Jesus died for our sins and we ask for forgiveness. In John 3:3 (NIV), Jesus reminds us of the importance of being "born again." He proclaims: "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again."
So, take this message to heart. Then, live the scripture-inspired life we're called to live. Read more about this journey here.
Want to see how a journey with Christ can change someone's life? Consider streaming "The Case for Christ," a film about Lee Strobel, an award-winning investigative journalist – and avowed atheist – who applies his well-honed journalistic and legal skills to disprove the newfound Christian faith of his wife ... with unexpected and life-altering results.