The Bible speaks about beginning a relationship with God through Jesus Christ in a variety of ways, so it may come as a surprise that nowhere does Scripture specifically refer to “praying to accept Jesus into your heart.” Instead the Bible emphasizes trust/faith in who Jesus is and what he has done through his death and resurrection. Take, for example, Romans 10:9-10—“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
There is also nothing “magical” about prayer. But it is a natural way of confessing our sins to God and asking the Lord to forgive us because of who Jesus is and what he did on the cross. And since prayer is simply talking to God, it is a vital part of growing in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
While it is true that we are saved by faith, we must understand that biblical faith is dynamic. It is far more than simply agreeing with a set of facts about God and Jesus. By its very nature it transforms a person over time, making itself known. It produces evidence (which the Bible often calls “fruit”) in our lives. Let me try to illustrate this:
Imagine we met for coffee one Monday morning at my home. During our conversation, I tell you that a herd of 100 elephants walked through my backyard over the weekend. You would likely find that hard to believe (unless we lived in Africa!). You would be even more skeptical if you looked out at my backyard and didn't see a single footprint or pile of droppings! How could 100 elephants pass through someone's backyard without leaving a single bit of evidence?
On the night Jesus was arrested, he told his disciples that everyone who abides in him will bear fruit (John 15:5). When our faith bears the fruit of good works, it glorifies God (John 15:8). As we continue to trust in the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives such as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). Put another way, as we see the beauty and glory of Jesus, the Spirit transforms us so that we more clearly reflect the character of Christ (2 Cor 3:18).
Jesus Christ did everything necessary to save us from our sins. He obeyed where we had failed. He suffered the penalty that we deserved for our sins by dying on the cross. He conquered death by rising on the third day. He ascended to the right hand of God the Father and sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in his people. We experience all that Jesus has done for us by faith, a faith that the Spirit uses to make us more like our Lord and Savior.