“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God. Whoever loves someone who is a parent loves the child born to the parent. This is how we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep God’s commandments.”  1 John 5:1-2

I grew up in a non-religious household—in fact, I consider myself the non-religious and nominally religious poster child! However, when I left home to go away to college at the University of Illinois, I developed a yearning to grow closer to God and a deep desire to learn what it means to become more holy.  The three religions that had the most prominent presence on my campus in 1980 were born-again Christianity, Judaism and the Hare Krishna movement. In all honesty, I chose Christianity because upon my minimal exploration, it seemed like the easiest religion to join. Exploring more deeply, I read the four Gospels and concluded that if everyone in the world followed Jesus, we would have an amazing, peace-filled, beautiful world.

One day, at nineteen, I knelt at my bedside and prayed what a friend taught me, “Jesus, I’m sorry for my sins, I want to be more like you; I invite you into my heart and want you to be my Lord and savior.”

I didn’t feel any different after that short prayer, but from that moment on I believed that I was a Christian. Was I one hundred percent certain, without a doubt, that Jesus was the Messiah? Did I understand everything I read about Jesus in the Gospels? Of course not. Was Jesus someone in whom I wanted to place my trust and confidence? Was he someone whose path I wanted to follow and who I wanted to learn to love? Yes, because I believed with my heart that there was something meaningful and valuable and holy about the life of Jesus that I wanted to be part of.

In the three decades that have passed since, God continues to reveal or suggest ways for me to become more perfected in his love, while I try to do my best to love God and keep God’s commandments. If you believe you would like to open your heart to the peace and well-being Jesus offers, that is all the belief that’s required. The prayer I prayed above is sufficient. Then simply be open to where Jesus leads you next. To continue the conversation, you may comment below —we ’d love to hear from you.

—Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer