Shouldn’t We Be Terminating Life Support for the “Sinner’s Prayer?”

Stop using the Sinner's Prayer!A resolution will be presented at the Southern Baptist Convention next week which contains the following:

WHEREAS, God desires for every person to be saved and has made salvation available for any person who hears the Gospel (John 3:16; Romans 10:14-17; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2); and

WHEREAS, A free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel is both possible and necessary in order for anyone to be born again (John 3:1-16; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 10:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13); and

WHEREAS, Prayer is God’s gracious means through which any person can communicate with Him and is everywhere in Scripture commanded and commended for every matter and every person (2 Chronicles 7:14; Matthew 7:7-11; Mark 11:17; Philippians 4:6); and
WHEREAS, Praying to God to express repentance for sins, to acknowledge Christ as Lord, and to ask for forgiveness and salvation is modeled in the Bible (Acts 2:37-38; Romans 10:9-10); and

WHEREAS, While there is no one uniform wording found in Scripture or in the churches for a “Sinner’s Prayer,” the prayer of repentance and faith, acknowledging salvation through Christ alone and expressing complete surrender to His Lordship, is the biblical means by which any person can turn from sin and self, place his faith in Christ, and find forgiveness and eternal life (Luke 18:9-14, 23:39-43); and

WHEREAS, It is biblically appropriate to help a sinner in calling on the Lord for salvation and to speak of Christ’s response to such a prayer as “entering a sinner’s heart and life” (John 14:23; Acts 2:37-40; 16:29-30; Romans 10:11-17; Ephesians 3:17); and

WHEREAS, A “Sinner’s Prayer” is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the Gospel (Matthew 6:7, 15:7-9; 28:18-20); now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in New Orleans, LA, June 19-20, 2012, commend the use of a “Sinner’s Prayer” as a biblically sound and spiritually significant component of the evangelistic task of the church; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage all Christians to enthusiastically and intentionally proclaim the Gospel to sinners everywhere, being prepared to give them the reason for the hope we have in Christ (I Peter 3:15), and being prepared to lead them to confess faith in Christ (Romans 10:9), including praying to receive Him as Savior and Lord (John 1:12).

The above resolution was written by Dr. Eric Hankins, Pastor of the
First Baptist Church in Oxford, Mississippi

Though written many years ago, A.W. Tozer had this to say on the “Sinner’s Prayer:”

There are many variations, with different lengths, different wordings, different endings, etc., but the contents are usually the same. The prayer usually includes phrases like, “Dear Jesus,” “Come into my heart,” “I admit I have sinned” (at least the better ones contain this last statement – there are some who do not even like to mention sin in their “sinner’s prayer”), “Fill me with Your Spirit,” “In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Extremely harmless…nothing wrong with a prayer like that, right? Wrong! It isn’t the wording that’s important, it’s the state of the heart of the one saying it.

I believe that a true “sinner’s prayer” will gush out of anyone who is truly seeking God and is tired of being enslaved to sin. (Matthew 5:6) The very act of “leading someone in a prayer” is utterly ridiculous. You will find nothing even remotely like it in the Bible, or among the writings and biographies of those in Church history. It completely savors of crowd and peer pressure tactics, and (please forgive me) brainwashing techniques. I do not believe that Jesus wants to have his disciples “repeat after Me,” I believe He wants them to follow after Him! (Matthew 4:19, Matthew 8:22, Matthew 9:9, Matthew 16:24, Matthew 19:21; Luke 9:59, John 12:26, John 21:19,22; 1 Peter 2:21, Revelation 14:4)

 

Take a look at this short video from David Platt on “The Sinner’s Prayer:”

 

In summary, David says:

“I’m convinced that many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ.  And a lot of it has to do with what we’ve sold them as the Gospel. I.E. Prayer this prayer, accept Jesus into your heart, invite Christ into your life.  Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament?

Should it not concern us that the Bible never uses the phrase “accept Jesus into your heart,” or “invite Jesus into your life?” It’s not the Gospel we see being preached. It’s modern evangelism built on sinking sand and it runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls.  It’s a very dangerous thing, to lead people to think they are Christian when they have not biblically responded to the Gospel.  If we’re not careful, we’ll take the life blood out of Christianity and put cool-aid in its place. It’s not just dangerous, it’s just damming.

 

Keith Green, famous Christian Gospel singer, co-authored some “WiseTracts,” which are still used by the The Billy Graham Association, Focus on the Family, The Salvation Army and many others.  In one of those, he said:

 “The greatest reason I believe that God can be grieved with the current use of such tools as the “altar call” and “sinner’s prayer” is because they can take away the conviction of the Holy Spirit prematurely, before the Spirit has time to work repentance leading to salvation. With an emotional splash that usually doesn’t last more than a few weeks, we believe we’re leading people into the Kingdom, when really we’re leading many to hell – by interfering with what the Spirit of God is trying to do in a person’s life. Do you hear? Do you understand that this constitutes “spiritual abortion”? Can’t you see the eternal consequences of jumping the gun, trying to bring to birth a baby that isn’t ready?”

 

Finally, Matt Chandler had this to say regarding the sinner’s prayer:

“We’ve taken Christianity and boiled it down to witchcraft.   We give them this little card and say “pray this sinner’s prayer and you’re in.  And so the people quote that thing, it’s like a mantra, put on the cloak, bring in the lamb, and quote after me…”

 

The most common objection I (Miguel) hear in support of using the sinner’s prayer is that we need to give people an opportunity to respond to the Gospel.  To which I respond:

“It’s not our job to give people an opportunity to respond to the Gospel, it’s our job to give people the Gospel.   It’s not our job to make them repeat after us in a prayer of salvation, it’s our job to proclaim the way of salvation.  It’s not our job to get others to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” it’s our job to make disciples that live a life of confessing the mystery of godliness; That “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, and taken up into glory.”  

 

Is it really time to breathe life back into this unbiblical and potentially dangerous

practice, or should we just let it die with dignity?

 

For related Articles, see:

Those High-Maintenance False Converts of Yours!

The Rejection of The Gospel is a “Decision.

Why I’m No Longer the Sort that “Closes the Deal,” in Evangelism… Part II

 

 

 

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    1. I don’t think “the Sinner’s prayer” per se is a correct model of salvation either, but, I take a bit of exception at Tozer’s all or nothing proposition here: “The very act of “leading someone in a prayer” is utterly ridiculous. ” Well, no, it’s not completely ridiculous. Most of our examples in the Bible of someone coming to faith in Christ involve people who were very well versed in the Jewish religion. Prayer was not an alien thing to them. But to someone in our day and age, who maybe never prayed a prayer in all their life, even if their heart is afflicted with terror of hell and they see that only Jesus can save them, they may not know how to talk to God about that. They may never have talked to God before! I don’t think it is altogether out of the picture to help give voice to someone’s prayers.
      I was once out street witnessing in NYC. I met a man on the street who told me he’d been thinking about Jesus and had been seriously considering that he needed Him and that he needed him as Lord of his life. He was ripe for the harvest. He literally looked at me and said, “what do I need to do?” Here was a man in a hurry to a job interview, who stopped and gave this conversation time that no one in their right mind wuld give such a conversation unless they were serious about their need for God. I told him that the first step was to repent and invite Christ into his life. In my misguided vein at the time, I told him about 6 things he needed to pray about (stuff like, Jesus, be my Lord, Come into my life. I repent for living my life my way. I’m a sinner and I need you. I thank you for dying on the cross to take away my sin and give me an access point to God. Pllease lead me in how to follow you. Etc etc) He looked at me with a blank and I realized I had made it waaay to formulaic and complicated, and I said, “Just ask Him to save you.”
      Well, that may looked at me in that moment with understanding he didn’t have a moment earlier, and right there on the street in front of whoever was walking by, with full sincerity and spontaneity he threw his head back and looked at the sky and put his hands up in the air and with all earnestness and weight he said to the sky, “Jesus, please save me!” He was so REAL about it. Maybe he was decieving God but to me, it seems like a raw, honest heartcry. I don’t think it was a formula I gave him in that moment, as much as I gave him a way to proceed forward towards God. He didn’t know how.


      • Heather, I appreciate your heartfelt comment.

        I think when Tozer said, ““The very act of “leading someone in a prayer” is utterly ridiculous,” he was specifically referring to “A prayer of salvation.” While someone may pray for God to save them, it’s not the prayer that does it. It is always The promise of the Father, The application of the Son and the Power of the Spirit.

        Like the situation you describe above, I can remember pulling a lady out of a revine after a bus crashed. Having brought her to the hospital and being told that she wasn’t going to make it, a friend of mine shared a short gospel message with her. Her last words were “Jesus save me, Jesus Save me.”

        I believe she is with our Lord now.


    2. ‘The very act of “leading someone in a prayer” is utterly ridiculous. You will find nothing even remotely like it in the Bible, or among the writings and biographies of those in Church history.’

      What does A.W. Tozer think was going on at all the early churches described in the New Testament? I should think people were praying in church and I should think someone led them in prayer (as opposed to everyone doing their own thing).


      • Jesus led the disciples in prayer. One disciple asked, “Lord, teach us to pray…” Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say, “Our Father…”

        So, when someone does not know how to pray, what should you do? Teach them how to pray.

        Here is an example of a good prayer to teach someone who wants to be saved, “Dear God in Heaven, I cry out to Jesus. Please save me from my sin, etc.”


        • To be exact Daniel, Jesus said “In this manner therefore pray.” He didn’t lead them in prayer, he taught them how they should pray.


          • Yeah–I was going to say that. I don’t think it’s bad that we repeat the Lord’s prayer, but that wasn’t the purpose of Jesus’ giving it to the disciples then or now. It’s a model of HOW to pray, not a mantra he told us to pray.

            Great post, Miguel. Frankly, I LOVE the Tozer quote.


      • Matt, thanks for responding to the post…

        I think when Tozer said, ““The very act of “leading someone in a prayer” is utterly ridiculous,” he was specifically referring to “A prayer of salvation.”

        I am curious though, where are there New Testament examples of people “leading” others in prayer?


    3. IMO, the problem is not with a Sinner’s Prayer per se, but with the idea that it is too often seen as an end all in the salvation process, i.e., “Say these words and you’re saved.” When saying the Sinner’s Prayer becomes a formula for salvation, or when it morphs into an assurance of salvation, then it has gone too far.

      However, encouraging someone to cry out to God is never a bad thing. Will their first cry save them? I’ll leave that for those smarter than myself to discuss. But when we speak words asking God to intervene in our lives, we are in a way inviting God to throw open the doors to the Hound of Heaven, to have Him sniff us out, hunt us down, and chase us to the ends of the earth and to the end of ourselves, until at last we become weary of running, and surrender ourselves before Him. I’m not offering this as an analysis of what happens, but as a way to say that IMO, encouraging God to intervene in our lifes is in itself not a bad thing.


      • Rick, as always a well balanced reply…

        You’re right, any time anything becomes a “formula for salvation,” it becomes something other than God intended.

        I’m having difficulty finding an example of encouraging someone to cry out to God. Could you point one out?


        • Miguel said:
          I’m having difficulty finding an example of encouraging someone to cry out to God. Could you point one out?

          Hi Miguel,

          One OT example can be found in Isaiah 55:6, 45:22

          Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
          “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”

          Another example is Jonah 3:8

          But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.

          Of course, there are many, many OT examples where God’s own people are encouraged to cry out to God.

          There are fewer direct examples in the NT, but one NT example can be found in Luke 18:9-14 where Jesus gives an example of someone crying out to God, and commends them:

          To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

          “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

          “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

          “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”


    4. In the last ten years I have prayed the prayer of salvation with over 1,000,000 people. Last night I prayed with another 8,000 people in a town that is less than 3% Christian. I believe strongly in the power of prayer. Those prayers made a difference in people’s lives.

      It is silly and dangerous to say that a prayer is meaningless. For those who choose to follow Jesus a single prayer can mean the difference between eternal life and an eternity in hell. By muddying these waters you are distracting people from fulfilling the Great Commission.

      Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

      I set before you life and death…therefore choose life.

      If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.


      • Daniel, just so that there is no misunderstanding, it isn’t that the prayer is meaningless. All words have meaning. It’s that the average Joe can repeat a prayer with little or no effect. Heck, I did that for many years. It is the heart change that matters. How many of those 1,000,000 people that you have prayed the prayer of salvation with do yo figure actually said that prayer with the kind of desperation that, say, blind Bartelmaeus had? How many of them had the heart change that Zachheus had? A dear friend of mine is a street corner preacher in the “Hood” and she is always coming and telling me about how many people were saved over the previous weekend. Sh says the sinners prayer with about a dozen each night. Considering how many years she has been at this, you’d think that that section of town would be flush with Christians. I can tell you from personal experience that it isn’t. But they said the prayer!!!! How many people do you think said that prayer with her just to get her to shut up and leave them alone? It isn’t the prayer that God wants–it is the heart change.


        • Jim, there are many people all over the world who said the sinner’s prayer and are now saved. You point out that some say it and do not get saved. I know many say a prayer of salvation and DO get saved.

          The words are not magic…the person saying the words must truly believe…but confession and crying out are an important part of the salvation experience according to Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:9-10.

          In the blog post above, the Southern Baptist’s give a lot of good Scriptural reasons for using the salvation prayer. I don’t see you giving many Scriptural reasons not to use the prayer of salvation…most of this blog post is just opinion…not Scripture.

          The truth is that many people who are saved today are saved because they said a prayer that led to salvation. The fact that some say a prayer and don’t mean it does not invalidate the value of prayer.


          • Daniel, I’m not in the arguing game and I also don’t go around shooting bible verses for every situation. I preach the Gospel in an unsaved environment that hasn’t cracked a Bible ever. Yes, the Bible is God’s inerrant infallible word that is sufficient for all things needed for Salvation. If I was writing a scholarly paper on soteriology I would pepper it with long passages of Scripture. I don’t like using a single verse and I detest proof-texting.

            When I read the Bible, I don’t see any reference to the sinners prayer. In the most clear and definitive recording of a salvation experience, Acts 16:25-34 Paul tellsthe Roman jailer that if he believes, he and hi family will be saved. Why didn’t Paul lead him in prayer? If the prayer is what saved the jailer, why didn’t that prayer get recorded so that we’d all have it? Instead, the man was told to “believe”. It is also interesting that of all of the salvific and post-salvation details that are presented in that verse, the sinners prayer is not mentioned.

            You may well argue that there is no harm in leading folks in prayer to confirm what they have come to believe. Fine, if that is waht you want to do that is fine with me. I just don’t see that sayin th sinners prayer is a requirement or that not saying it means that there has been no salvation experience. In my own experience you may well say that I was saved at the moment I “asked Jesus into my heart”. But I disagree. What I did that night was mumble a prayer that 30,000 other guys mumbled. My salvation, I would argue, was made the night weeks afterward when I decided that henceforth I would trust God with my eternal salvation because He wiped out my sins on the Cross of alvary.


            • I agree that the Bible does not specifically mention The Sinner’s Prayer, however neither does the Bible mention the Trinity. I believe in the Trinity because it can be inferred from Scripture. In the same way, I see validity for The Sinner’s Prayer because its use can be inferred from Scripture.

              Just because you mumbled a prayer and it took weeks for you to truly come to Christ does not mean that the person next to you who said the prayer was not saved at that moment.


        • Does everyone who prays the prayer of salvation continue to follow Christ? No, but that should not stop us from preaching.

          It is a shocking statistic that 380 of the 500 people who heard the last words of Jesus did not follow his command to wait for the Holy Spirit in the upper room. The fact that some might pray a prayer of salvation at a crusade and later continue to live in sin is no reason to stop praying with people for salvation.


    5. It’s about time. Please check the following Interactive Gospel Presentation which seeks to address the concerns raised on this web page http://www.theultimatetest.org I pray that in some way, this presentation will be a blessing to the body of Christ as we work through this issue of “the sinner’s prayer”


      • Geoff, “the ultimate test” lacks an appeal to God; and like the “Sinner’s prayer”, deploys a salvation methodology.: to avoid hell, just do & believe these things.
        This kind of thinking is as like to say to a young man, “Want to avoid the single life? Just marry my daughter.”
        The Salvation Christ brings is about Him; our life being hidden in His life, to the glory of God.
        Repentance complete as to bring about your death, that you might be newborn of Spirit. Much more than what one may merely give private assent.


    6. When I share the Gospel with folks at the racing facility where I minister, I NEVER lead them in the sinners prayer or anything like it. I just lay the Gospel out there and tell them what they need to do. If they don’t know how to pray, I tell them that they just need to lay it out before God in the same language that they would use with a friend. “You mean that God hasn’t heard you cuss before?” As far as I’m concerned, God wants authentic people who are honest enough to come to Him just the way that they are and not try to fake it, especially with the sinners prayer. It just galls me when I hear missionaries or evangelists tell a crowd that X-number of folks were saved that night. Oh yeah, well, how do you know that they were saved? If they say that X-number of folks said the sinners prayer, my response is “How do you know that they prayed?” We need to focus on getting the Gospel out there and not getting people to say a prayer. Further, we need to get about the business of making disciples. The church does a lousy job of that, and I include myself in that assessment.

      When we go out and share the Gospel with the world, we are doing the business of God. As the old Southern Gospel song says “I catch them, God cleans them”. My way of doing that is by developing as many friendships as I can. It makes it easy for the folks to see the Gospel rather than hear it. My friends see me make mistakes, cuss when I hit my thumb with a hammer, cry when someone close to them dies, celebrate the joy of a new birth. All of that becomes a means for sharing the joy of Salvation and the work of walking in His ways. I don’t like quoting Bible verses–it’s the Bible and not a magic book–but rather I tell them what it says. Then later on, when they read it they will get what it says. I don’t sit on the plane and look at the person next to me as the next notch in my Gospel gun. Rather, I try to focus on being a friend to them, learn about them, share common interests. Eventually they’ll ask me what I do for a living and I tell them. Funny, they always seem to want to hear about my work and in so doing they hear the Gospel. Seed planted. And I’ve thus been obedient to the Lord’s calling. People at churches ask me all of the time how many folks have been saved through my ministry. My response is I don’t know and I don’t care. I’ve perhaps shared the Gospel a couple thousand times; I don’t even keep track of those sort of things. I just do what has come natural since I got it through my thick head that I can’t be good enough for God and that my best efforts stank of sin. Since that day the most enjoyable and natural thing for me to do is make friends and help people.

      One more thing: years ago I went forward at an altar call at a Promise Keepers event. I said the prayer and filled out the card. I can’t tell you how many times after that I tried to redo it because I just didn’t think it was real. It wasn’t until I stopped trying to redo it and decided to trust God and His Word on the matter that the Holy Spirit seemed to take control of my life. It wasn’t the prayer–it was the change of heart–it was when I decided to stop trying to be good enough for God.


      • My husband was a false convert under these pretenses for years, having prayed ‘the prayer’ after going forward to an alter call. He tells me now he did so because he was scared to go to hell. He apparently wasn’t responding to the gospel out of conviction about sin (brought about by the Holy Spirit), but rather, fear.

        The last time I went to a large crusade I squirmed when the preacher lead the masses in that prayer and then told them afterward that anyone who prayed that prayer would have eternal life. He shouldn’t have made that statement, nor lead people to believe that saying that prayer with him was the magic charm that gets them in. For some people there that night, who prayed that prayer, it may well have been the time of their conversion but for many others it probably wasn’t.

        God cares about what is in our heart, as Tozer said (conviction over sin and a true belief in Jesus’ person and work). “God gives grace to the humble”…to those who know the conviction of the Holy Spirit! Conversion is a work of God’s Spirit from beginning to end.
        The crusade experience I described above is one way that false converts are born, unfortunately….and it is the false converts through whom Satan does his dirty work in the church!

        Having said that I am still a fan of Billy Graham. He preached the gospel well. That is important. I heard it said that someone once asked Graham, after a crusade, how many people had received Christ. His answer was, “I don’t know. Ask again in 10 years.” He was well aware that not everyone who came forward and prayed was truly converted at that time.

        I know a New Testament scholar who said that he got up and walked forward to an alter call when he was 16. His intention was to tell the speaker off….but on the way down the aisle God’s Spirit changed his heart–letting him know that he was not going down for that reason. He says that that was the night of his conversion.

        As some have noted above: God works in many ways. It is good to keep in mind however that it is wrong to give people assurance of salvation just because they have prayed “the sinner’s prayer”…our own children included! In fact, we are better off not telling anyone with absolute certainty that they are saved and will have eternal life….because only God knows that for sure and we don’t want to be guilty of giving false assurance. We can show them scriptures like 1 John 5:11-12, but we don’t need to make absolute statements about them. “If” is sometimes a necessary qualifier.
        16 hours ago · Like


        • Susan, I think your comment is so very poignant…

          I fixed your scripture reference. Your husbands experience echoes that of many that I have encountered. Thankfully God’s mercy is infinite. I wonder how many, like your husband, never come to the realization that he did. It really is a dangerous game.

          There are some statistics out there from The Graham foundation that show an incredibly high percentage of those who made decisions for Christ, and prayed the “sinner’s prayer,” (Like 95% or higher) were not to be found in a fellowship or following Christ 12 to 18 months later.

          Perhaps someone could nail down the source for that before I find it?


          • Miguel,

            I think you will find this talk by Ray Comfort interesting. It contains the statistics you are looking for (based on his research). The title of the talk is Hell’s Best Kept Secret. He addresses false conversion and how evangelistic crusades have contributed. You may disagree with some of his conclusions and perhaps not favor his methods, but I think he makes a good point about false conversions. He attributes the problem to a lack of genuine repentance, or otherwise said, a lack of conviction over one’s sin as an offense the God Himself. He apparently uses the sinner’s prayer, however.

            I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this. You can read the PDF or listen to the audio here:
            http://www.livingwaters.com/helps/HellsBestKeptSecret.pdf


          • Miguel,
            I thought my husband was a Christian when I married him–so did he, since he had gone forward at an evangelistic concert at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa (I mention this because someone else also mentioned it). Our marriage was very painful for me. When you live with a church-going false convert you are essentially living with a Pharisee. He lived to find fault with me. In the absence of any substantive fault he could point to he would create situations in order to condemn me. He would give me marching orders for the day and if I failed to carry out his demands he would ream me in anger. He compared himself with a few selected others and as long as he came out OK by that standard he thought he was doing alright (he actually said this to me once). He was full of anger and I would catch him lying. God blessed us with three children (none were exactly planned). There was a lot of pain and dysfunction in our home, but God sustained me by His grace. As my children grew older I began to think about how I might serve the Lord outside of our home. My husband was never really supportive of me participating in ministries because it would mean that he had to care for our kids while I was gone. This angered him because of his deep self-centeredness, so I’d quit working with the high school group years earlier. I began to pray that God would give me opportunities to share the gospel, which He did. This was something I could do while my husband was at work. God brought people to me. If I was to experience any opposition it came in subtle to not-so-subtle ways from my own husband. As I shared the gospel more and more and continued all the more to have doubts about the salvation of my husband, I finally hit a point where I was desperate to know if he was a child of God’s or not. I didn’t know what to do about all of the pain and craziness of our marriage and its deleterious impact on our children. One day I asked God to help me to know if he was a believer or not. A week or two later something happened which caused my husband to express his frustration with where my focus was in life. It was as if the dam broke and all of his distain for my spiritual interests came flooding out in an angry tirade. I realized within a day or two that God had answered my prayer. I then asked God to let me know what I should do. A couple of weeks or so later we were eating out and I ‘heard’ God say “Now”. That was all, just, “Now”. So, there in the restaurant I told my husband for the first time that I doubted that he was a true believer. He was surprised, and asked what was different about me, “I go to church every Sunday and believe the same things you believe” he said. I told him that the fruit of the Spirit was not evident in his life and he didn’t live under the lordship of Christ. It was providential that we were in a restaurant because he couldn’t just walk away (as he would have at home). Although he was defensive I was able to say what I felt he needed to hear. In the days and weeks to follow it was evident that he was wrestling with this before God. He had struggled with doubt and a lack of peace. A couple of months later I turned on the radio as James MacDonald began to teach about false conversion. My husband was in the room and was all ears. We listened to part two the following day. That evening my husband told me that he felt really convicted. Again, this was God’s providence that I turned on the radio just in time for us to here that series! Normally my husband was irritated when I listened to radio preachers so I didn’t much when he was around…but it was Christmas vacation. Months later, after hearing a sermon at church from Matt. 7: 24-27 my husband responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit about his lack of obedience to Christ. He was crushed by his own sinfulness. He didn’t say anything to me till the following week, when he told me that he had something to tell me. “I finally gave myself completely to Jesus”, were his words. I was stunned. I felt an incredible peace wash down over me slowly, from head to toe (that’s the only way I can describe it). I thought of how I might finally know relief from the many years (21) of pain I had endured. It was as if the Spirit gave me assurance that this was real. I felt so much peace that I laid down and fell asleep.

            For the next few months my husband devoured scripture. He finally had a passionate love for God’s word and he felt compelled to ‘make up for lost time”. It will have been four years since his conversion next month. God has continued to do amazing things to heal our marriage and family life. There were still ingrained patterns of dysfunction but God has been bringing help through counseling. The past few months have been the best of our nearly 25 years of marriage.

            God sometimes leads us down a painful road, but He is faithful, and he doesn’t waste the pain. He has used the pain I endured to shape me and make me useful for His purposes, and he is doing that with my husband now as well. God is Good, and there is nothing like seeing a life completely transformed by the triune God–His Spirit within, included!

            I hope my story will encourage someone else. God has taught me SO MUCH through all of this.


      • Jim, thanks for your thoughtful and thorough comments…

        When you said, “I went forward at an altar call at a Promise Keepers event. I said the prayer and filled out the card. I can’t tell you how many times after that I tried to redo it because I just didn’t think it was real. It wasn’t until I stopped trying to redo it and decided to trust God and His Word on the matter that the Holy Spirit seemed to take control of my life,” I’ve heard many other similar stories.

        In fact, some statistics I have found seem to suggest that 74% or more of people who “pray the sinner’s prayer,” have had the same experience as you.

        It’s never the prayer that activates our salvation, it’s the application of the Spirit in His time. Would you agree with that?


      • see how so many of these people show a vacant look in their eyes?
        “Thousands of people” that have heard some word of Christ, yet without coming to know Him or be known by Him. So many seeking, waiting for the genuine good news of Christ and their liberation from sin & death to His glory.


    7. John 12:42(NET) Nevertheless, even among the rulers many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess Jesus to be the Christ, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue.

      Romans 10:8-13(NET) But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), 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 thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

      “confess” Strong’s G3670
      ὁμολογέω
      homologeō
      hom-ol-og-eh’-o
      From a compound of the base of G3674 and G3056; to assent, that is, covenant, acknowledge: – con- (pro-) fess, confession is made, give thanks, promise.

      As best I can tell from a quick look at ‘confess’ in the NT, it seems to be an ongoing position rather than a mere recital of some words. The NT writers emphasized confessing that JESUS IS LORD…I think a significant part of the confession was theological…not so much that Jesus is Lord of me…rather that He is Lord, one with and equal with God the Father.

      I have some argue the Romans passage requires a verbal component to in any way be saved. I disagree; I think it is a matter of the heart. Jesus himself was quite definite about ‘saying’ not always being the key:

      Matthew 7:21-23(NET) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.


      • According to The Theological Dictionary of New Testament Theology the word “confession” is the Greek word “homologeo” which is a compound word composed of two words “homo” meaning “same” (as in homo-sexual = 2 of the same sex) and “logos” meaning “word.” So, the literal translation of homologeo is “same words.” As in, repeating the same words someone else says. ie. Repeating The Sinner’s Prayer after someone else.

        In Romans 10:9, the word homologos is in the aorist tense. The Greek language has different tenses then we do in English. The aorist tense indicates an “action completed in the past with present continuing results.” As one scholar explains, “The aorist tense signifies nothing as to the manner of occurrence or completeness, it just makes reference to the action as happening. It states the fact of the action without regard to its duration, viewing the event as a whole.” If it was supposed to be a continuous action in the past (ie. confessing, and confessing, and confessing), then Paul would have used the imperfect tense.

        Of course, the second part of Romans 10:9 emphasizes the importance of believing. Confession by itself is meaningless without believing. So, the Sinner’s Prayer is only effective for those who believe what they are confessing. Obviously some will say the words without meaning them, but others will say the words, believe, and receive the gift of salvation.


        • Daniel,

          It’s actually Aorist Subjunctive Active, 2nd Person Singular

          It properly means to “speak what agrees with something which others speak or maintain.” Thus, confession or profession expresses our “agreement or concord with what God holds to be true, and what he declares to be true.”

          It is crucial to understand that it is NEVER a prayer which saves, but soley the justification by the one who does save.

          There is no “Sinner’s Prayer,” nor should we ever try to eek out a confession.


    8. Every year dozens of resolutions are turned in to the S.B.C. with usually only a few ever making it to the floor for a vote. My take on the subject is that instead of writing resolutions on what prayer we should be using to “save sinners” we should be out making disciples of the nations. If more emphasis were made on doing what Jesus said, rather than arguing about HOW and WHAT needs to be done we’d be living much closer to Christ’s return!


    9. In 1974, Keith Green played a significant roll in my coming to Christ – at a concert where the gospel was preached, invitation given, and sinner’s prayer led by Tom Stipe – at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa.
      I empathise with where David is coming from, but whole-heartedly disagree with his conclusions and warnings. I think this resolution is extremely dangerous. Though I fully acknowledge that we cannot preclude the Holy Spirit’s role in the heart of a lost soul, we ARE in scripture exhorted to unashamedly preach the gospel – KNOWING that as many as receive Christ, He divinely grants them entrance into His kingdom. Does that mean it can ONLY happen through a “sinner’s prayer”? No, of course not. Many anointed Christians can not recall having recited such a prayer, yet they know through others’ witness and over time, they too “received Christ”. However, only a sovereign God can know both the truthful sincerity of one’s heart, and whether they will stay with the “plan”, as it were, over time. How dare we ever attempt to supercede His role. Leading one in a sinner’s prayer a half hour before they die is a precious, precious GIFT. They will not have time to produce fruits – just as the thief who hung next to Jesus – destined for Paradise. It is our role to be faithful messengers, NOT fruit-inspectors.


      • I agree. The Sinner’s Prayer is not the only way for people to be saved, but it is a way that people can come to God.

        To say that The Sinner’s Prayer is completely ineffective and sends people to hell is to ignore the many people who have come to God through a Sinner’s Prayer.


      • Steve, thanks for commenting…

        Keith authored that quote in 1981 after seeing the results of years of that kind of evangelism. He, like many others came to their senses regarding this activity. Someone recently told me that it is a natural phase on immature Christianity that we all must pass. I can understand why they would say that, but I’m not sure that I would agree.

        You said that you “whole-heartedly disagree with David Platt’s conclusions and warnings, but that you think the resolution is in itself dangerous. I’m curious to know your middle ground.


    10. If outward results provide our impetus, then it’s really not going to matter what the Jesus and His Apostles themselves did, or for what they told us to do. In effect, if we think that we are seeing people being saved (by whatever our method), anything else will be judged by us as secondary or specious. To the rational-fleshly man, perceived success justifiably trumps the Truth. This effect is the same as what kept the Pharisees from hearing Jesus, as they were already getting the results expected for themselves.
      For those who have eyes to see, to “call upon the name of the Lord” is not of prayer, even from the context near Romans 10:13:
      “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
      Day before yesterday, there was a party of wedding guests here for dinner and, as it were, someone dropped the first plate into the dishwasher upside-down. Do you know what happened next? Just like sheep, everyone else in the group followed with the same backwards pattern! This is how error is done, and how Billy Sunday popularized “Sunday conversion” as he said, for “two dollars a soul.”


      • Marshall, A solid argument…

        Especially the truth, “To the rational-fleshly man, perceived success justifiably trumps the Truth.” Any statement that begins with “because of my experience,” or “In my years of experience,” or the like, followed by a propositional truth unsupported by scripture is just conjecture.


    11. In the video, Steve Gaines appears to be using word association (‘this means this’), and the English “receive/accept” as a catch-all and effort to “keep Biblical language” external to genuine New Testament expressions & context. While it is true that those who do not accept (those who reject Christ) He will send away, “accept” is never presented by Christ or His disciples as a full context to Salvation. “lambano” is more than the English “receive” or “accept”; it is to be obtaining.
      Just specious, to be building an apologetic for “Jesus in your heart” from the Old Testament.
      Teaching concepts & philosophy, as if these were sound doctrine, will ever be folly. Many institutional pastors & teachers continue reaching long to justify the errors they have been taught, have been making and promulgating.
      The fruit of “Jesus in your heart” around the world? Millions stillborn, without Christ while having been told that they are “saved”. Fraud does not get bigger than this.


    12. Great arguments. God is so wise as to have written His plan of salvation into all of creation. Trust the Lord, He wrote it into the stars and all living things. When He cleansed the world with water in the time of Noah, for a new and faithful generation, it took belief, confession, (by Noah’s actions/words) in order for him and his family to be saved. When Abraham was willing to give up all that he loved, to obey God, again it took belief/faith, confession, submission, (actions) and God made a great nation (Revelation, billions and billions) of Isaac’s descendants. When the nation Israel was freed from bondage, it took faith, the Passover blood, and passing through the water, to be free. When they were about to enter into and take hold of the Promised Land, it again took faith, confession, (actions) and passing through the water. Then there is Ezek. 36:25-32. There is that blood and water again. Elijah against the prophets of Baal used enormous amounts of water on the bloody sacrifice. How many times are we told in the Law, to purify ourselves with water? Jesus Himself was baptized that scripture might be fulfilled. Then He spoke…… unless a man be born again (spiritually), the largest concentration of blood and water in the world, is in the womb. Or Matt. 28:19, Mark 16:16, or the many times He said life is in the blood, and the water of life. On Calvary, His body spilled blood and water, representing the atoning sacrifice in the temple, according to the law, that He wrote, cleansing the temple, for His presence. Every conversion in Acts, is followed by immediate baptism, except Paul’s, which was delayed until he reached Damascus, the scales were removed and he rose up and was baptized. ( Please read on, those of you who may becoming angry, the Old Testament can also be annoying, until you see it in the light of how Holy our God is). Heb. 10:22, 1 Pet. 3:21, 2 Pet. 3:5-6, And the living water that Christ talks about is His Word, His Spirit, alive and working in us. Romans Road, you bet, without belief/faith, repentance, confession, the work He began in us, can’t be finished, and He is faithful to complete the work He began in us. We are told we are saved by grace through faith. Amen. We are told we are saved by confessing Jesus Christ the Son of God, and His atoning sacrifice, with the mouth. Amen. We are told we are saved by confessing our sins and believing in grace. Amen. We are told we are to repent. Amen. We are told we are saved by baptism. Amen. We are told we are forgiven, by Jesus, and His sacrifice for us. Amen. Is it a package deal? Probably. Is this legalism? Probably. Is this discipleship? Definitely. John 3:16… Belief, faith, action, words? What does James say? Maybe all we have to do is believe on Him, live in Him, be fruitful branches on the vine, and abide in Him, like He intended from the very beginning. But His Word is the only road map to the Kingdom of Heaven that we have, and we should teach and follow it, explicitly, to the very throne of God, which by the way, is our hearts, and they shall know us by our love for one another.Have the joyful faith of a child? Does Jesus baptize with the Spirit and fire? The day of Pentecost. Amen. Does His fire burn within you, cleansing and sanctifying you? Do you live in eternity, only bound by the flesh, yet free to worship in Spirit and Truth, 24/7? Are you working out your salvation with fear and trembling? Should the sinners prayer be retired? It is a starting point, turning a man towards God, but I wouldn’t base my salvation on it. He chooses us, and we need to trust in Him, and the power of the Holy Spirit, to do the will of God. Which is that not one, no not one should perish. What about the dying man on the cross? That was before the New Covenant, and who am I to determine what the God of all that is, chooses to do, or who He saves. Is there a big beam in my eye? Yep. Forgive me Miguel for being so wordy, but this argument causes so much division in the Church, and is deep. Eph. 4:4-7


    13. Kirk, while it is not true to record that “Every conversion in Acts, is followed by immediate baptism, except Paul’s”, your explanation toward the journey & diversity as a man comes into Christ is well taken.
      [ref: http://orthotom.worthyhouse.info/conversionexamples.html
      The analogy is sometimes presented of a young man seeking a wife, alongside a young woman hopeful to find her true love. If there a system or method to bring these two together? Yes, young people sometimes start out in thought that a marriage may be obtained via a set of steps or method in love. Ignoring or neglecting the dynamic of our salvation, both individual & corporate, suggests that we are not truly seeking Christ but rather a means to save & soothe our own skin. Christ took passion for you, now where comes our passion for Him?


      • Marshall, thank you for correcting me. This is a tool I will use, and since you left a printable link, I am even more appreciative. I have been a seeker my entire life, but there was a period of Denominationalism , and time spent with a foster family that were totally Irish, that my sin increased to disgusting levels. I was always praying, reading the Bible, but until my sin thoroughly convicted me, the Bible didn’t really come ALIVE for me. Hebrews 10:22 did it. That very day my discipleship began, and I was indwelt, overflowing. The Lord has even sent me real angels, to test me, educate me, etc. etc. I’ve also encountered angels of darkness, disguised as angels of light. And yes, we are to be ministering angels one to another, but we don’t disappear into thin air, some of them do.

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    15. Here is my take: God knows when we are earnestly praying and when we are posing, whether for the first time or the last time or any time in between. Throughout history there have been Followers of Christ and Posers. The Posers will use anything that the Church offers to make them appear to be Followers. The Catholic Church enacted “Confirmation” and the Posers used and continue to use it to appear to be Followers. The Protestant churches have their equivalent invocations, including “The Sinner’s Prayer” and the Posers abuse all of them. If we kill “The Sinner’s Prayer”, the Church will come up with some other substitute that will continue to be used and abused. God knows who the Posers are and who the Followers are and He will hold us to whatever words we use to either proclaim or pretend our faith in Him. For instance, I prayed the Sinner’s prayer when I was twelve and truly accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I wandered away from Him in my college and young adult years, but, I believe, because my faith in Him was genuine at the time of my confession of faith, there came a time when He called me back to Him and I repented of my wandering and returned to following Jesus. I believe that He also holds the Posers accountable lying to others when they pretend a confession of faith in Him.

      So then, what is the purpose of “The Sinner’s Prayer”/”Confirmation”? It is, as you say, a way for the church to account for someone they have converted. But I don’t think it is only for accounting purposes. I want to do my best to limit the wolves coming into my church. What is the easiest way to do so? Have some sort of confession of faith for people to say or to claim they said. It won’t stop the Posers, a.k.a. “wolves” from lying. The only way to truly tell a Follower from a Poser is to ask for help from the Holy Spirit because my experience is that He is the blabbermouth and tattletale.

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