Articles

Articles

The Sinner's Prayer

God never instructed alien sinners to pray for forgiveness of sins.

Many variations exist to the so-called "sinner's prayer." Most of these include a confession of faith in Jesus, an acknowledgement of sins, and an expression of desire for salvation. We are told that this is how one "accepts" Jesus and "invites" Him into the heart, thus accomplishing man's part in salvation. The truth is that no New Testament teacher or preacher ever instructed an unsaved person to pray "the sinner's prayer." Furthermore, no one in the New Testament was ever saved by praying "the sinner's prayer." In fact, God has never even promised to answer the prayer of an unsaved person.

Those who advocate "the sinner's prayer" offer a few "proof texts." None of them accomplishes the desired result.

NOTE: "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee" (Acts 8:22). This statement was made to a man who was already a baptized believer, not to an alien sinner seeking salvation.

"And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and eh that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Lk. 18:13,14). This famous parable was used by Jesus to teach the need of humility. It describes two Jewish men who were still living under the law of Moses, and before Jesus died on the cross. This is not a case of a person gaining salvation through the gospel of Christ.

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20). This is taken from a passage in which the Lord rebukes those in the lukewarm church at Laodicea. It was a statement made to Christians who needed to repent, not to aliens seeking salvation.

"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto 
salvation...For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:9-13). While this text does describe things that lead "unto salvation," it is important to observe that it does not include all the steps in the plan of salvation. For instance, there is no reference to repentance (Lk. 13;3). Also notice that the phrase "call upon the Name of the Lord" is explained in passages like Acts 2:21, 38; 22:16. In those texts we learn that one "calls upon the Name of the Lord" through obedience, including baptism.

We repeat that no lost sinner in the New Testament was ever told to pray "the sinner's prayer," and no one was ever saved in that fashion. Instead, in the book of Acts we read of literally thousands of people who became Christians. For instance, one Pentecost the preaching of the apostles convicted the Jews in Jerusalem. They asked, "men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). There was not instruction about a "sinner's prayer." Instead they were told to "repent and be baptized" (2:38), and "they that gladly received his word were baptized"; "about three thousand souls" (2:41).

When the Philippian jailer asked "what must I do to be saved?" he was told, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:30,31). Even here, there is no record of him being told to pray, or of him offering a prayer, etc. Instead, the passage proceeds to tell us that he was taught and baptized in "the same hour of the night" (16:32,33) effectively proving tht saving faith incorporates obedience, including baptism.

Those who teach that a "sinner's prayer" can result in a lost sinner being saved are actually ignoring a major issue. It is this: does God hear and answer the prayers of sinners? The blind man who was healed by Jesus said, "we know that God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him he heareth" (Jno. 9:31). Peter confirmed this truth by inspiration when he wrote, "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (1 Pet. 3:12).

It might be argued that Cornelius stands as a case of a sinner whose prayer was answered by God (Acts 10:4). It is worth noting that in this case (Cornelius) the response to his prayers was to send a preacher who "shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved" (11:14) -- proving that he was not saved by those prayers. The words the preacher delivered included the command to be baptized (Acts 10:48), but they did not include any reference to a "sinners prayer" that resulted in salvation.

The popular doctrine of "the sinner's prayer" is not found in the Bible. It is "of men" (Matt. 15:9), not from God.

By Greg Gwin in Biblical Insights, Vol. 5, No. 7, July, 2005.