If you have been a Christian for almost any length of time, you have probably heard about “the sinner’s prayer.” It takes on a lot of forms, but usually contains the following: “Dear Jesus, come into my heart now and forgive me of my sin. I trust in You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord for saving me, in Jesus name, Amen.”
The only problem is that the “sinner’s prayer” has no Biblical basis. Whenever I say that, I always get the following response: “You should read Romans 10:9-10.”
“because, 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.” – ESV
Well as far as I can tell these verses say nothing about a “sinner’s prayer.” It is not about words that you pray – if you notice verse ten, it says “for with the heart one believes” – that is an essential part of it, not just a verbal prayer that you pray.
Now, am I saying that a person cannot be saved by praying this sort of prayer? No, that is not my call and I am sure some people are truly saved that pray this prayer. The main problem I see is that this prayer can lead to a false assurance of salvation. Someone may have prayed this prayer during an emotional experience and then go on living their life as they were before. I would say that this person has a false assurance of salvation.
I take a “sinner’s prayer” as someone who is literally crying out to God, at the end of their rope (so to say) and is tired of living their life in sin. You (as an evangelist) cannot lead someone in prayer (such as a sinner’s prayer). In the words of A.W. Tozer, “I do not believe that Jesus wants to have his disciples “repeat after Me,” I believe He wants them to follow after Him!”
Rick Warren likes to lead in this prayer and then say something like, “If you prayed this prayer, then welcome to the family of God.” At the risk of sounding like a jerk, my response is that you do not have the authority to welcome anybody to the “family of God.” Only God can make that call, not you and not me.
So how can we know that we are truly saved and not have a false assurance? Read the book of 1 John and go through the tests in that book.
– Adam Smith