Back on January 15 I wrote an article in the aftermath of the Sago Mine disaster entitled Prayers for Randal McCloy, Jr.. In that article I expressed my sincere hope that one day Randal McCloy would not only recover but would be well enough to tell us what happened in those last few hours. I wrote:
We may never know this side of heaven what happened in that mine in those final hours but here’s praying, hoping and wishing that we do find out………from a completely healthy Randal McCloy, Jr. who stands before a sea of microphones and tells the world how God was glorified and Jesus was shared.
Randal McCloy did something just as good this week. On April 26 he wrote a letter to the families of the 12 men killed in that mine detailing what happened in those final hours.
"We were worried and afraid," McCloy wrote, "but we began to accept our fate. Junior Toler led us all in the Sinner's Prayer."
Growing up in the church of Christ, the "Sinner's Prayer" was "something the Baptists do". I had never really even bothered to investigate what it might be or where it might have originated. Upon further investigation, most people point to Romans 10:9-13 as the basis for the "Sinner's Prayer". That passage reads:
"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
The examples I found of the "Sinner's Prayer" were almost all like this one:
“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.”
What an incredible, scripture-based prayer! As the fumes and smoke literally sucked the life out of that hole in Sago, can you imagine the peace and comfort that prayer must have brought the men who had never prayed it before? Can you picture the tears in the eyes of the men who already knew the Lord as they heard these men pray this prayer?
Several years ago I heard a sermon in which the preacher asked the question, "Can a man who is trapped in a cave and can't get to water to be baptized get to heaven?" His answer was absolutely not. He went on to discuss why Mother Teresa was in hell and why the man on his motorcycle that dies in a crash on his way to being baptized is in hell.
That preacher would give absolutely no credence to the belief that those miners who didn't know Jesus before praying the "Sinner's Prayer" could be in Paradise right now. He would argue since they weren't baptized in water there's no way they could be there. There are a lot of people and Bible scholars who would share the preacher's sentiments.
I'm as firm a believer in people being baptized as anyone. Every New Testament example of people being saved involved water baptism. Jesus was baptized. There's so much important symbolism in baptism. I've heard one writer refer to baptism as "the believer's wedding ceremony". I think everyone should be baptized.
In the situation of the Sago miners, I believe with all my heart that if their "Sinner's Prayer" was sincere (as I believe it was) that God heard it. What business of it is mine or anybody else to decide or declare whether or not those men got to go to be with the Lord or not? Shouldn't we all hope they're there?
Even if baptism is a "necessary requirement for salvation" shouldn't, and doesn't, the God who created the universe have the final decision on who has the right to enter His eternal home?