Pray and Obey
By Adron Doran
There is a state of confusion among religious sectarians over what a sinner must do to be saved and most of them have rejected water baptism as a condition. Many religious leaders believe and teach that an alien sinner can be saved through the avenue of prayer. Surprisingly, some preachers of churches of Christ are teaching that remission of sins can be effectuated through prayer alone.
For the purpose of this article I will cite two individuals who have encountered prayer in their experience and teaching to bring about redemption. One is the case of Hall Laurie Calhoun and the other is the public teaching of Max Lucado.
Hall Laurie Calhoun was born in Cynersville, Tenn., in Henry County. His parents were Scot Presbyterians. They attended and became stalwart members of the local Methodist Church. Calhoun's father was a church leader and his mother was an excellent Bible student.
When Hall Laurie was twelve years old his mother gave him a Bible and asked him to read it every day. During the spring of 1875 the local Methodist church arranged for a revival meeting. Calhoun decided to attend and was interested in "getting religion." On the first night of the meeting he and some of his peers answered the call to go to the mourner's bench and pray, Later he related:
The first night of the meeting, when a call for mourners was made, I was one of the first to go forward. Never in my life have I more sincerely desired to please God than I did then. I was doing exactly what my parents, brother, sister and Sunday school teacher had taught me was the proper way to become a Christian.
Despite his fervent prayer Calhoun felt no change in his heart though others claimed to have "prayed through." He went home disappointed and reported to his family that he was disturbed. His father persuaded him to return to the next day service. At that time Calhoun decided to submit and give his life to God even though he was not satisfied with the way he felt.
His family encouraged him that his doubts would pass and that in time he would feel peace and joy in salvation. During the following summer and winter months Calhoun read the Bible earnestly seeking to find someone who had said, "Here, Lord I give myself to Thee," and at the same moment experienced a mysterious feeling of salvation. His search of the Bible proved fruitless, He said:
I have read the Bible, the entire New Testament and much of the Old Testament and some parts a number of times. I was startled and disappointed that I had not found the promise that it seemed to me should have been so easy to find. I became greatly disturbed over my failure to find this promise.
Calhoun did find in his Bible study that Jesus taught and practiced obedience (Matt. 7:21; Heb. 5:89). He also found that the apostle Peter commanded the Pentecostals to "repent and be baptized for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). He read that Ananias told the praying, penitent, believer Saul to "arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16). He learned that the Samaritans "believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ and were baptized both men and women" (Acts 8:12).
During the winter of 1877 Calhoun went to live with his sister Mattie, who had married a Christian preacher and attended the Mayfield (Kentucky) Seminary. He [Calhoun] attended a summer gospel meeting and heard preaching like he read in the Bible. After hearing fortytwo sermons he accented Christ and was baptized for the forgiveness of his sins. At the age of 77 Calhoun wrote that he never afterwards doubted or regretted his salvation.
I know nothing about Max Lucado except through some of the things that he has spoken and written. I am aware of his association with unscriptural events and false teachers as in the instance of the Nashville Jubilee. It is reported that he is a church of Christ minister in San Antonio, Texas.
I have a copy of a tape of a speech that Lucado made over radio station KJAR in Lubbock, Texas, in December 1996. Alan E. Highers published an accurate transcript of the tape in the July 1997 issue of the Spiritual Sword (Vol. 22, no. 4). I infer that what he said in that speech represents what he believes about the role of prayer in the scheme of redemption. So when I write about Max Lucado and Hall Laurie Calhoun, regarding prayer and obedience, I am doing neither an injustice. I believe that Calhoun made every effort to come out of denominationalism while Lucado seems to be making an effort to go into denominationalism and take the church with him.
In his Lubbock radio sermon Max Lucado said to his listeners that:
God is ready to be your Father. Maybe you never understood that the invitation was for everyone. Maybe you thought that you weren't worthy. Maybe now you do understand God will make you worthy and the invitation is for you, and all you have to do is call him Father. Just call him Father. Just turn your heart to him even right now as I am speaking. Call him your Father, and your Father will respond. Why don't you do that?
In a seeming effort to recite a model prayer (with mechanical instruments of music playing) Lucado continues:
Father, I give my heart to you. I give you my sins. I give you my tears. I give you my fears. I give you my whole life. I accept the gift of your Son on the cross for my sins. And I ask you, Father, to receive me as your child. Through Jesus Christ I pray.
The tape records the radio announcer as coming on the air and saying, "And friend if you prayed along with Max Lucado just now, here on Upwards, we want to welcome you into the family of God." Then Lucado returns to the microphone and says:
If today is the first day you've ever prayed a prayer like that, could you do me a favor? Could you write me a letter? I don't have anything I am going to ask from you. I do have a letter I would like to send to you. I'd like to give you a word about the next step or two. I want to encourage you to find a church. I want to encourage you to be baptized. I want to encourage you to read your Bible. But I don't want you to do any of that so you will be saved. I want you to do all of that because you are saved.
Calhoun found from studying the Bible that he was wrong in seeking salvation through prayer at a Methodist mourner's bench. When he learned the truth he corrected the error of his ways. Lucado is teaching false doctrine when he teaches sinners that they can become children of God through prayer without being baptized for the remission of sins. The Bible is replete with examples of conversions that Calhoun accepted and followed. Why then cannot Max Lucado learn and preach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus? He surely could if he only would. Let us pray that he will begin (or return) to preach obedience to God's Word and God will be unto him a Father.
Lucado could become as effective in preaching the truth by the way of the radio as Calhoun was in preaching the gospel over radio station WLAC from the pulpit of the Nashville Central Church of Christ.