“The Sinner’s Prayer”

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

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10 thoughts on ““The Sinner’s Prayer”

  1. joy says:

    I am so glad I took time to read your blog today- I loved this and it is so true! Living in the Bible Belt, I have these type of conversations with Baptists on a regular basis…

  2. Adam Smith says:

    Thanks Joy for your comment. I live in the Bible belt myself and am a Baptist. And while it is not just Baptists, it is disappointing nonetheless. Whenever I see anything that I wonder about – such as this – I always ask myself, could I see Jesus doing this?

  3. Skip says:

    You guys are missing the point. This form of sinner’s prayer is the FIRST step to salvation – admission as a sinner, and declaring Jesus as lord over your life. I don’t think you would find a good pastor out there who would tell you that just because you repeat the prayer you are are “saved.” But what are you going to say to someone after they pray this prayer? OK, you’ve confessed your sins but you still have a huge wall to climb. My pastor immediately takes people into a place where they can be ministered to and a place where they can be given further instruction on how to continue their walk. Come on people… don’t try to analyze the world. Be joyful and thankful to God that there are people out there leading others in the sinner’s prayer.

  4. Adam Smith says:

    Skip,

    My point in this blog is that a “sinner’s prayer” is not Biblical. A prayer (a true confessing and repentance) by a sinner is the first step to being saved. That is quite obvious. And no, I would not find a good pastor out there who would tell you that you are saved just because you repeat a prayer, but the fact of the matter is that there are pastors out there who are doing just such a thing, and that is wrong according to the Bible. When a person wants to be saved, they should talk to a Godly person (not a requirement, obviously) who will explain to them who Jesus is, and then tell them how they can be saved, and yes, give them further instruction on how to continue their walk.

    Again my point was to say that we will not find “the sinner’s prayer” in the Bible.

  5. Eli says:

    One could repeat words after some misguided evangelist hundreds of times, and nothing would come out of it.

    Repeating words is not crying out to the name of the Lord in faith.

  6. Liz says:

    The sinner’s prayer is not Biblical. Matthew 28, in the words of Jesus, says in verse 18: And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, and of the son and of the Holy Ghost: 20. teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Jesus wanted his disciples to teach all nations. Other translations say “make disciples of all nations.” This does not involve a sinner’s prayer. I said the sinner’s prayer over five times and never experienced a change, but, praise God, I met someone who sat down with me and explained to me. Even then, I was not ready to repent of my sins. Regarding repentance, the sinner’s prayer does not give an idea what sin is. However in Galatians chapter 5, there is a list we ought to be aware of, and, since Luke talks about repenting or perishing, I would think repentance is a key part of salvation. How can one repent of sins he is unaware of? I had someone sit down with me and explain these things and also ask me how they applied to my life. I think we need to not always believe everything we hear unless we can find it in the Bible.

  7. Angela says:

    >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!”<

    FANTASTIC. I’ve never heard that quote, or I would have put it in my own post. (http://angelajo1208.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/christian-cynicism/)

    Glad I stopped by.

  8. Kathy McKay says:

    Great site. Not much “Chaff ” here!

  9. George says:

    I totally agree with you that the sinner’s prayer is not biblical. Not only is it not Biblical but it is contradictory since a nonbeliever cannot pray. I remember that in the summer of 1984 I made an apparent profession of faith and all it took was repeating the “sinner’s prayer”. Almost two years later, in February 1987 to be more exact, I was listening to a radio program in my house and I realized that I was not saved (the Holy Spirit convicted me of sin). It was that night that I called upon the Lord’s name, confessing that I was a sinner and that I needed Him. This did not happened in a service nor I repeated a prayer. I am very grateful to the Lord Jesus for sending me to the right local church (a fundamental baptist church). My pastor does not believe in making invitations at the end of the service. His favorite words are: “Right there where you are, you can receive Christ as your savior. Don’t even wait for me to finish the preaching. As I preach, you can be saved.”
    It is too sad for me to see that in the church I am currently congregating the pastor makes a long, formal, and ritualistic invitation for salvation.

  10. Kent says:

    I am not going to be critical of what people like Billy Graham and Greg Laurie have done for the Kingdom of God, as I believe that the sinner’s prayer can be a way of calling on the name of the Lord, what bothers me is how some evangelicals think it is the only way to come to faith in Jesus.

    I am a Lutheran and we don’t do the sinner’s prayer or do altar calls at our church and some non denominational people probably consider me a non saved relgious person just going through the traditional rituals as they can be a little pushy that I should come forward and do the sinner’s prayer.

    When I tell them the sinner’s prayer isn’t even in the Bible they look at me a little suspiciously and some have even said I am being divisive but if it was so important that I have to say the sinner’s prayer, then why isn’t there one example in the Bible of Jesus or the diciples leading anyone in this prayer?

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