I can’t tell you the exact date I asked Jesus to be King of my heart. I’m sure it was some time before age 7 or 8. We went to an evangelical church and salvation was kind of a big deal. So even after I initially accepted Jesus, I prayed that prayer again, several times in the years that followed, just to be sure. I prayed it as an excited church camper, a confused, shame-ridden teen, and finally as a zealous college student. I know now that Jesus was always present within my heart, even before I asked him to rule it and he remained as I stumbled through adolescence figuring out how to develop a faith of my own. He was always with me and never required a continual invitation to my heart, though I know he longed for ongoing life-transformation – the gift he offers that very first moment we make a decision to follow him and every day of our lives until we take our last breath.
Although I didn’t want to put too much emphasis on a moment or rush my first child into her relationship with Jesus, I have to admit I was anxious as I awaited the day my daughter would decide to make Jesus King of her own heart. Bedtime has always been our most precious time of day – laying together, reading a book or children’s Bible and talking about life, family and often, about Jesus. I regularly told her,
“Sweetie, we’ve been learning a lot about Jesus. When you feel ready to ask him to come and live in your heart, I’d love to pray with you. There is no rush, and if you have questions about making a decision to follow Jesus, I’d love to talk about it.”
Usually, she’d look at me with her overwhelmed, preschool eyes and I’d know she wasn’t quite there yet. I continued to pray and ask Jesus to move in her heart to make a decision to follow him in God’s perfect timing. I’ll never forget that first night she finally responded with a yes.
“I’m ready to do that, mom.” she said.
“Do what, sweetie?” I asked to be sure.
“I’m ready to ask Jesus to come live in my heart.”
I tried to temper my excitement. After all, I didn’t want to put too much emphasis on the moment but rather on her desire to become a friend of Jesus. I asked her to wait while I ran downstairs to grab her dad. I knew he’d want to be a part of this important moment.
When I returned a minute later, she was sobbing.
“What happened?” I asked. To which she responded,
“I hit my lip with the Bible and now it’s bleeding.”
My husband and I tried to hold in our laughter as we gathered around and comforted our girl. Needless to say, she didn’t pray the sinner’s prayer that night. It was several months later that we had the privilege of leading her in a prayer of salvation. Although I did record the date, this story reminds me that it’s not only about the moment our child prays that prayer of surrender. The spiritual journey of our children begins with our ongoing guidance of their hearts until one day they have a foundation on which to build their own faith.
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