In order to be effective a prayer needn’t be long or flowery. In fact, if it’s a public prayer it had better not be long–you might bore your human audience. It better not be too flowery either–you will turn off the young and the practical.
That’s one reason I’ve always liked a little girl’s prayer (we’ll call her Rita). It’s a great example of the “out of-the-mouth-of babes” school of religion. little Rita, unwittingly, no doubt, summed up two main thrusts of the sola gratia crowd (that’s us!): grace and graciousness.
Her prayer goes like this:
Please make the bad
And, please, make the good
The Bad People Good
That’s justification by grace through faith. We’re all bad (Rita’s word for “sinners”) and need salvation. The only One who can make the change, as Rita’s prayer shows, is God. We can “clean up our act” in some areas–give up smoking, drinking, cheating, etc.–but it won’t change our heart. Only the new birth, received by putting our faith in Christ Jesus and His work on Calvary, can do that. As Rita gets into her Bible she’ll find out that a large percentage of bad people don’t want to be good and will reject the Gospel. But the offer of grace is still valid.
The Good People Nice
Ah, there’s the rub! You mean we who are justified by grace also need to act graciously? Right on! This is practical sanctification. Positionally, we’re all “set apart” (sanctified) the second we receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior. However, the practical outworking of that is “making the good (justified) people nice (sanctified).”
Some people spread the charge that we who believe in salvation by grace alone don’t care about Christian living or conduct. False. As one who has mingled with Christians of every stripe in three Christian schools, and very widely in my work on the New King James Bible, let me say I haven’t met a nicer pack of believers than the grace crowd.
If we’ve accepted God’s grace we should be gracious to others–both to believers and to unbelievers. If we aren’t, we’re a “stumbling block” to others. In the autumn issue of the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society my old seminary friend Dr. Jim Townsend will tell of several famous writers from Great Britain and America who were raised by conservative Protestant (and apparently evangelical) parents or guardians, and yet rejected the faith. The reason? Humanly speaking, as often as not, it was because the role models who were professing grace were not gracious.
If you are not yet a believer in Christ for full and free salvation, you can help answer little Rita’s prayer by one of your own:
And I ask You, dear God,
to save me
for Christ’s sake.
please make me
nice–gracious, like You.”
Dr. Art Farstad is a member of the GES National Board, editor of the GES Journal, and co-editor of a proposed New Testament commentary by GES. Art lives in Dallas, Texas.