In this post I want to examine what is commonly called the “sinner’s prayer”. The sinner’s prayer is basically (as I understand it) a way to help sinner’s pray to receive Christ, or an example of how to pray to receive Christ. Sometimes the preacher will say, “Repeat after me in your own heart”, or invite people up to the front individually to do the same process. First I want to explain the positives of the sinner’s prayer, and lastly some negatives as well.
The sinner’s prayer encourages people to receive Christ as Savior. As a Christian, I want to see as many people as possible come to faith in Christ and go to heaven to be with Jesus. I like that this method of evangelism really does try to do that.
The sinner’s prayer encourages people to pray to receive Christ. I say this because nobody will be in heaven who has not asked for salvation. Everybody must pray to God if they want to be saved, and the sinner’s prayer encourages people to do that.
Many people have come to Christ through hearing the gospel presented this way. I think it’s an excellent way for people to receive Christ who are not familiar with basic truths of Christianity. It also helps people take that first step into exploring the Christian faith.
The sinner’s prayer method of evangelism is not directly taught in Scripture. For example in the book of Acts, we do not see any of the apostles declare that sinner’s must ask Jesus into their heart, or pray a prayer, nor does Jesus ever mention this method. I agree that some verses in Scripture maybe hint at a possible justification of this method, but still it is not openly declared in the Bible, this to me is the biggest problem.
The sinner’s prayer method of evangelism inevitably makes people think that they will be in heaven if they prayed the prayer. For example, after leading people in a prayer, I have often heard pastors say, “Let’s welcome all these people into the kingdom of God”. Are you kidding me? When did praying a prayer become the standard for entrance into the kingdom of Christ? Will everybody who exercises true faith in Christ enter the kingdom? YES!! Will everybody who prays the prayer enter into the kingdom? No. Why? Because in Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven”. Jesus means that not everyone who professes him will enter the kingdom. It is very dangerous for an evangelist or pastor to make statements like the one above.
The sinner’s prayer method of evangelism indirectly makes people trust in the prayer or their own decision, instead of the work of Christ alone. In Scripture it is clear that one must repent and believe to receive the benefits of the work of Christ in saving sinner’s (Mark 1:15), yet it also true that faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). It is clear to me that often when a person does that prayer; they are usually not focused on the work of Christ, but instead on their own decision. And I realize that most pastors would not want people to do this, but the problem is that most people who pray the prayer don’t realize what they are doing. And the problem is that it becomes dangerously close to a works salvation. If God gets 95% of the credit, it is NOT all of grace, and therefore God does not get all of the glory. In Christianity salvation is ALL of grace, and the triune God gets all of the glory!
For more teaching on the sinner’s prayer, I would encourage anybody to listen to Paul Washer’s sermons here
Here is also a very helpful article on this issue.
I hope this has been helpful, and would love any feedback from you all.