5 Reasons I Don’t Use the Sinner’s Prayer

1. It assumes that if a man speaks certain words that it will move the hand of God.

Salvation is a work of God, not a work of man. Salvation is entirely dependent upon the power of God, not the decision of a man. What mysticism has overtaken us that we believe that repeating certain words will cause God to move in the heart of a person? Faith comes by hearing, not by speaking. Remember Lydia in Acts 16? 14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. Faith is a gift of God which is given to a person as he hears the message of the Gospel, not the result of a person repeating a prayer and being “declared” to be saved. Don’t declare people to be saved, by the way. Let God confirm it or deny it. The proof of salvation is seen in a changed life, not in a one-time prayer.

2. It is putting words in a person’s mouth that are not from that person’s own heart.

Ever heard of “forced conversion”? Is it possible? No, not when God looks at the heart. Muslims have tried to convert people at the point of a sword but the real point is usually to get a person to deny Christ. Well, does it work for Christianity? Can you, by placing the right words in a person’s mouth, truly CAUSE it to be the cry of that person’s heart? No. The reason preachers and evangelists began employing this method is because of the many wacky prayers people will often pray when they come crying to an altar. I’ve heard people prayer about problems, pray about sick relatives, cry out about hard times, ask for a job, and many other things. They can’t seem to get the prayer right so we give them the right words and then declare them saved. (sounds almost Pope-ish) The truth is- if it’s not in a person’s heart to repent and believe (something that is God-given), no magic prayer will do the trick. People come to altars to ease their consciences every day, but that is not salvation. They just want to be able to live with themselves but they have no desire to repent unless God has done a work in their heart. And if God has done a work, you can’t keep them away from the church, the Word of God, other believers, nor can you stop the fruit from being produced. Sincerity can be faked, but faith cannot.

3. No biblical teacher or preacher, including Jesus or any of the Apostles, ever instructed people to pray a prayer for salvation- the command of the Gospel is “repent and believe.”

Consider what Jesus said “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Note, Jesus does not instruct people here to pray for salvation. He doesn’t say, “The Kingdom of God is at hand, now who wants to ask me into their heart?” Consider Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. He has just preached to the crowd the message of the Gospel and then Luke writes this: 37 “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Where is the Apostolic call to pray a prayer to ask Jesus into your heart? People were saved on that day, but no prayer for salvation was employed. What did Paul tell the Philippian jailer? “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved,” not “just pray and ask Jesus into your heart.” What about Paul’s preaching on Mars Hill? He has just preached the Gospel to them… 30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” 32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” 33 So Paul went out of their midst. 34  But some men joined him and believed,”  No preacher in Scripture ever instructs men to pray a prayer to receive Jesus into their hearts. Believing the Gospel is a work of God which happens as the Gospel is preached.

4. The overwhelming fruit of this method is false converts.

I’m sure there are many people who would argue with this point, but I would simply appeal to you in this way. How many people have you seen or even heard pray a sinner’s prayer for salvation? There have likely been millions since became popular back in the 19th century, but how many prayed a prayer and walked away the next day, the next week or the next year? I heard a preacher speaking recently about this topic. He said that he was speaking to an indigenous missionary in Romania who said, “I wish all of the American evangelists would stop coming over here altogether.” When asked why, he said, “Because if we are to believe the reports they give, the entire population of Romania has been saved 4 times. But the trouble is, none of them ever darken the doors of a church.” And that is the overwhelming fruit of this method my friends. There have been people who have come to believe the Gospel and been gloriously saved who have also prayed a sinner’s prayer, but there is not ONE person who was ever saved BECAUSE they repeated a particular prayer. That is a fact.

5. It inoculates people against hearing the Gospel in the future.

This could be one of the most dangerous issues with the sinner’s prayer. It gives a false sense of security. It causes a person to hold on to an “event” in their lives that saved them. It’s usually accompanied by other nonsense like “write down this date in your Bible” or “drive a stake into your backyard” or some other superstitious tool to make a person keep placing their faith in the prayer they prayed years ago which has resulted in no change in their life. And usually when someone goes to a pastor who employs the sinner’s prayer in his methodology, that same pastor will likely only seek to confirm the answer to 2 questions: 1. Was there ever a time in your life when you prayed and asked Jesus to come into your heart? If so… 2. Were you sincere? And if the answer is yes, then they tell the person “You’re saved! You need to tell the Devil to leave you alone.” And it may well be that it’s their God-given conscience or even the Holy Spirit convicting the person of their need for salvation but the “sinner’s prayer” keeps them from realizing the true need.

I wish “the sinner’s prayer” would disappear entirely from Gospel presentations. Saving faith is formed in a person’s heart as they hear the message of the Gospel and is proven by its fruit, which is saving faith and repentance, followed by a transformed life.

If anyone has anything to add, I would welcome that. If you think I’m wrong and can provide Scriptural evidence of where we are instructed to have a person pray a prayer for salvation, I’d love to see it. Romans 10:13 is not an example of that, by the way. Paul never tells the Romans to pray and ask Jesus to come into their hearts. I would also love to see if anyone can find any historical Christian basis for this method. To my knowledge, it was never used nor taught in the Catholic church (not even prior to any corruption) and was not widely used until the mid-19th century by Charles Finney and other revivalists (who likely had a better grasp of the Gospel than many modern preachers). I welcome all discussion and comments.

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About revcort

I am a Youth and Worship pastor at First Baptist Church in Herrin, IL. I don't love my Lord nearly enough. I don't hate sin nearly enough. Without Him, I'm nothing. I'm far from a finished product, but God is working in me both to will and to act according to His good purpose.
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15 Responses to 5 Reasons I Don’t Use the Sinner’s Prayer

  1. Les says:

    Good post. I agree totally. I might add this, that really behind the idea of a sinner’s prayer is a denial of a monergistic regeneration, at least and perhaps unintentionally. If God monergistically regenerates, then we can be assured that the gospel “took,” and that repentance and faith are genuine. This is so whether one says any particular words verbally or none at all.

    Just my thoughts.

    Les

  2. Les says:

    BTW, the fact of not using the “sinner’s prayer” does not at all mean one does not give an invitation for people to come to Christ, either personally or in preaching to many.

  3. Alan says:

    Thanks! I had a much different experience. I heard the Gospel, and after many months, responded. I did not say a traditional sinner’s prayer. My “prayer” was very much a “repent and believe” type of thing. As a result, I was challenged over and over by well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ. Finally, I was fed up. I dropped to my knees and cried out to God, “I don’t care any more. God, I am following You! Whether You want me or not, I am following you!” Since that “prayer”, no one has ever question my salvation. I have been chasing God since March 23, 1982!

  4. Ken Hamrick says:

    @1 Les,
    The possibility of a disingenuous faith remains even with monergism, since one may appear to have been regenerated but not actually have been regenerated. Of course, this is from the sinner’s perspective. But from God’s perspective, all is known even under something other than monergism.

    Ken

  5. Ken Hamrick says:

    @3 Alan,

    God is good! I was raised in a Wesleyan-type church where salvation was a revolving door. God finally opened my eyes to the truth that anyone who supposedly “backslides” to the point where they cannot still be saved was never genuinely saved to begin with, and those who are genuinely saved can never be lost again.

  6. revcort says:

    @Alan- thanks for sharing your experience with God’s calling and grace. I would like to say that I’m not saying that a prayer is not involved in salvation. Calling out to God for mercy and grace is definitely involved. I’m certainly not wanting to invalidate what you’ve described by this blog. On the contrary, that is very Scriptural. “God have mercy on me, a sinner!” is clearly a very Scriptural prayer. The thing I’m against is the danger of one person saying a prayer FOR another, having them repeat it, and then declaring them to be saved. I should also add that this kind of practice is often coupled with a very weak version of the Gospel, which only adds to the danger of false professions of faith.

  7. Ken Hamrick says:

    Darryl,

    Good article! It is the heart that matters, and not the words. But there is a correlating problem, as well as the abuse of the sinner’s prayer. It is the equally erroneous idea that one’s salvation depends only on the faithfulness of God and the truthfulness of His Word. The sinner has no correct basis for not trusting what God says, but he does have good reason for not trusting his own heart. Many times, a sinner will struggle with the question of whether or not he has actually been saved, only to have the minister wrongly point to the Bible and declare that he must be saved “because God doesn’t lie.” God doesn’t lie, but men easily lie to themselves, and the question of whether any sinner is saved must remain between God and the sinner himself. God’s Word is true no matter who is in view, whether genuine in their profession or not, so the truth of God’s Word does not guarantee salvation to the disingenuous. The Bible tells us to examine ourselves to see whether or not we are in the faith. It also tells us that the Holy Spirit will bear witness with our spirit that we are a child of God.

    Ken

  8. SAGordon says:

    Revcort,

    Well said. I think confession of sin and repentance inherently describes the need of prayer. Simple repentance as you noted (“God have mercy on me, a sinner!”) doesn’t require the formula as stated in the ‘sinner’s prayer,’ but does include an acknowledgement of one’s sinful rebellious state directed toward the God with whom we have to do.

  9. Les says:

    @4 Ken,

    I agree with what you say. I was referring to it from the actual true conversion…from God’s perspective. Yes, from out view there can and are still false conversions. My point was/is that those insisting on a sinner’s prayer as virtually necessary to any gospel presentation take more of a man centered view of salvation, IMHO. i.e. their view that the new birth is not monergistic seems to necessitate man “doing” something to contribute. In the synergistic view I see espoused most often, regeneration follows conversion. The sinner must call out to the Lord so that he/she can be born again.

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  12. Jimmy says:

    I thank God and Proclaim that “I AM SAVED” and have been since I was a young 9 year old child. My mom lovingly knelt with me and helped me to pray a sinners prayer to receive Christ into my life. 40 years later I am still growing in my faith. I am a layperson now, amd I have a passion for the simple truth of the gospel. It is TRUE that salvation is by grace through faith. How do you think that faith is realized? Rom 10:9,13 gives us a clear way – “Whosever will CALL on the name of the Lord, shall be saved” and “If thou shalt confess with thy MOUTH that Jesus is Lord and believe in thine heart… thou shalt be saved.” Brothers and sisters: PRAY for the sinner! Pray with the sinner! Share the good news that “WHOSOEVER believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”

  13. Ken Hamrick says:

    Amen! And welcome to the forum, Jimmy!

  14. Jimmy says:

    Thanks Ken. Something God laid on my heart just yesterday. I think a great illustration of the sinners prayer was at the cross. The story shows that there is a right way and a wrong way to pray and it’s not the words but the heart. ONE thief said mockingly, “If youre the Christ save yourself and us too.” there was no response recorded from Christ, even though the thief requested to be saved. But the other thief said, “Lord rememeber me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus responded! One spoke from the flesh, unbelieving. The other spoke a humble prayer of faith. That’ll preach!

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