The Sinner’s Prayer

A few brief thoughts…

When I was in college in the mid-nineties, I recall individuals from a local denomination walking the campus in the evening, initiating conversations with students about their salvation.  Their approach was direct, and memorable.  When afforded the opportunity, they inquired of a prospective convert, “Are you saved?”  It was a good question, and not a bad conversation starter.  I’ve since borrowed it myself.  Of course, if the student they asked responded with a “no,” they would then attempt to share the plan of salvation with him/her as they understood it.   And they understood it differently than I do.  For if memory (and youthful perception) serves me correctly, I recall walking by one of them one evening as he was bowing in prayer with another.  I can’t be certain what they were praying about, but based on what I know of this denomination, it’s quite possible they were praying what is often referred to as “the sinner’s prayer.”

Perhaps you’ve heard of the sinner’s prayer.  Perhaps you’ve prayed it.  It’s uttered by a soul who has become convinced of his guiltiness before God, and who wishes to be forgiven of his sins, and thus saved from their eternal consequences.   It’s been treated by many as the rite of passage from sinner to saint.  It can take many forms, but for those who may not be familiar with it, the following (taken word-for-word from a website supporting its use) serves as a representative example:

“God, I know that I am a sinner.  I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin.  However, I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior.  I believe that His death and  resurrection provided for my forgiveness.  I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Lord and Savior.  Thank you Lord, for saving me and forgiving me!  Amen!”

Powerful words.  And many of them true.  All have sinned (Romans 3:23).  All do deserve the consequences of their sins (Romans 6:23).  Jesus is the only one in whom any can trust for salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  Amen and amen!  But what about the last line?  Does God indeed promise salvation and the forgiveness of sins after only a prayer, even one made in sincere belief?   Search the scriptures from the beginning of the Christian era onward, and you’ll find that He does not.  No New Testament apostle or prophet ever told an unsaved sinner to believe and pray for his salvation.  Their message was different from that.  Man has promised in the sinner’s prayer what God has not promised in His word.

Those who work to make this site possible encourage all sincere seekers to search the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11), and heed the exhortations of those who preached the good news so long ago.  Some of their words about salvation and the forgiveness of sins follow:

  • Acts 2:38- “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
  • Acts 22:16- “And now, why are you waiting?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
  • 1 Peter 3:21- “There is also an antitype which now saves us–baptism….”

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