Should We Pray a Sinner’s Prayer ?
There are countless people who have been told, that they can be saved by believing in Jesus Christ, and by praying the “sinner’s prayer”. The problem with this is that the bible never tells us such a thing. The bible does indeed tell us several things, that we must do to be saved, but saying a “sinner’s prayer” is not one of them.
Jesus did tell a story of two men who went up to the temple to pray, and the prayer of one of these men was simply.. “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Luke 18:13. There’s a simple sinner’s prayer, and Jesus said that because of this man’s humility, He was justified before God.
Of course the point of this story was to teach us to have the right attitude before God. A humble attitude, one that confesses the need for forgiveness, and one that asks God for that forgiveness. It wasn’t a case in point about how to be saved.
But let me give you an example of what one preacher suggested to me, is an appropriate sinner’s prayer. Here’s his wording of the prayer..
“Lord Jesus, I believe that You died for my sins. Lord Jesus, I believe that You arose from the grave and are alive today. Lord, I turn from my sins and turn to you. I open the door of my heart to You Lord. Come into my heart. Live Your life in me. Save my soul, and fill me with the Holy Spirit. Thank You Lord for hearing my prayer.”
And there’s other versions of a prayer like this, some much longer, but each with the same idea.
The idea and the belief is, that if you are sincere, and truly believe in Christ, and you pray this prayer, or one similar to it, then you’ll be saved your from your sins.
A Wonderful Thought
That’s a wonderful thought isn’t it? The thought that salvation can so easily be yours! And actually, a lot of that prayer can be backed up by the scriptures themselves.
For instance.. To believe in the power of Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God!”
V-14 says, “..and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” There’s nothing more powerful than God!
And then to know that Jesus arose from the grave and lives eternally..
Hebrews 10:12 tells us, “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins, for all time, sat down at the right hand of God..”
And to believe that Jesus will truly forgive you of your sins. Jesus is, “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world”. (1 John 2:2) And a propitiation of course, is an appeasing sacrifice, or an atoning sacrifice. It appeases God for the sins that we’ve committed.
Isn’t that a wonderful thought, and it’s 100% scriptural too.
And all that is SO easy, because God, through Christ has done it all FOR us! That’s the grace of God! God has made our salvation possible, when we didn’t deserve it one bit. Romans 5:6 says, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Who did He die for? For the ungodly.
V-8 says, “But God demonstrates His love for us.. (He doesn’t just talk about it, He demonstrates it. He proves it) “..in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
That’s the grace of God! That’s the easy part of salvation, because that’s the part that God has already done for us. But now, there’s a part of that sinner’s prayer, that’s not always so easy. Even though it’s scriptural, it’s not easy.
Here’s the part of that prayer that I’m talking about; “Lord, I turn from my sins, and turn to you”.
That’s a wonderful thought too, because that’s what repentance is, and repentance enables you to have your sins forgiven. It’s just like the apostle Peter said in Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore, and return.. That your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come, from the presence of the Lord.”
But that’s not always so easy. To turn from behavior, and from habits, that the bible says, are contrary to God’s will. Of course you have to read the bible, and know what it says, before you can actually KNOW what behavior is contrary to God’s will. So, it takes a bit of effort just to get that far along. But then to actually turn from something.. Something that maybe you’ve done all your life, and has become a habit. Maybe bad language, or lying, or refusing to forgive, or jealousy, bitterness, or outbreaks of temper, or “worshipping” so to speak, “the things of this world”. That’s what covetousness is.. Worshipping the things of this world Read the things mentioned in 1 Cor 6:9-10. Or look at Gal 5:19-21. Real life things, that can be a part of real people’s lives.
It’s easy to say the words.. “Lord, I turn from my sins, and turn to you”. But to DO it, well, that’s another story. Asking for forgiveness sounds so easy. But turning from sin.. That takes commitment!
Romans 6:2 asks the question.. “How shall we who have died to sin, live in it any longer?”
When we turn to God, it’s a serious decision! It’s a decision to live differently than you’ve been living previously. Turning to God, is dying to sin. It’s not just words, it’s dying! And it’s being “reborn”.
When you’re first born physically, you’re sinless. You’re blameless. Ezekiel 28:15 says, “You were blameless in your ways, from the day you were created, until iniquity was found in you.” Now that statement was made about a particular person, the king of Tyre to be specific. But if he was blameless from the day he was created, so were you and I.
And that’s how we are when we’re reborn. We’re blameless. We starting all over again. When we’re converted, we’ve made a definite decision, to die to sin, and to “not live in it any longer”.
In the verse that I read from Acts 3:19, the KJV says; “Repent therefore, and be converted..” The word translated “converted” really means “to cause to return”, and to “be brought back”. So then, we’re brought back, to that blameless condition, in which we were born. We turn back to God. But again, it’s not just words, it’s a “decision to obey”, the words of the bible.
To put it quite plainly; If we continue to knowingly, and willingly sin, after being baptized for the forgiveness of our past sins.. Then we haven’t been converted at all. We’ve simply “said the words”. But we haven’t really MEANT, what we said.
As a matter of fact, Hebrews 10, verses 26 & 27 tell us; “For if we go on sinning WILLFULLY, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins; But, a CERTAIN, terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire, which will consume the adversaries.”
That’s what we had BEFORE being converted, BEFORE “being brought back to God”; A certain, terrifying expectation of judgment. But when we learn that wonderful truth that we spoke of; That Jesus died for our sins, and that He arose from the dead (1 Cor 15:3-4) and that He is at “the right hand of God” (Heb 10:12), and that He is right now, “ruling in His kingdom”.. (Daniel 7:14 tells us; “And to Him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom”). And when we learn that Jesus IS the appeasing sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, (1 John 2:2); Then we can make the decision..
Do we remain in our sin, and hold on, to that “certain terrifying expectation of judgment”, OR do we actually turn from sin, and turn TO God? Not in word, but in deed. Do we decide, to actually do it?
Let’s look at that “sinner’s prayer” again. Here’s what it says; “I open the door of my heart to You Lord. Come into my heart. Live Your life in me. Save my soul, (save my life, in other words) and fill me with the Holy Spirit.”
Again, that’s a very nice thought, but there’s something wrong here. That prayer, is asking Jesus, to do things, that are OUR responsibility to do!
Open Your Heart To God
We do have to “open the door of our hearts” to Jesus. In other words; We have to be receptive to Jesus and to His teachings. We have a good example of that from the day of Pentecost. We’re told in Acts 2:41, “So then those who RECEIVED his word, (those who opened their hearts) were baptized, and there were added that day about 3,000 souls.” They were added to the church. Those people on that day, received, the words of the Holy Spirit, and those are the very words of Christ, and they were spoken by the apostle Peter.
But the Holy Spirit didn’t tell those people to be passive, and to just throw themselves at Jesus’ feet, and say, “Save me Lord, save me! No, those people were told to take action, weren’t they? They were told, in Acts 2:38, to “Repent” (we’ve already seen how that’s a commitment, it’s NOT a matter of being passive) And of course that’s not all they were told. They were told to “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ (in other words, by His authoritative command) FOR the forgiveness of your sins..”
“And those that received his word, WERE baptized”. But evidently, those who didn’t receive his words, were NOT baptized. It’s just like Jesus said in Mark 16:16; “He who has believed and is baptized, shall be saved. But he who does NOT believe, shall be condemned”. Not believing, is the same as not receiving.
So then you can’t be passive at all, and just “ask” Jesus, to “Come into my heart”. As a matter of fact; The Holy Spirit, through the mouth of Paul, said in Phil 2:12, “..Work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling.” In other words, God has done His part, and Jesus has done His part, and the Holy Spirit has done HIS part.. Now, you do YOUR part! “Work out your OWN salvation”. And do it, by fearing God, by reverencing God, and by receiving what His word says. AND, by trembling over the thought of the consequences, for NOT receiving His word.
Live In Me
In the “sinner’s prayer”, what about the phrase, “Live your life in me”. That sounds pretty good considering what Paul said in Gal 2:20; He said, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me..” So then, “Live Your life in me Jesus”.. right? Well, not quite. Let me show you WHY, “not quite”.
Paul went on to say, in that same verse, Gal 2:20, “..that which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith, in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”
You know what I find interesting about this verse? Paul says, “That which I now live”. Some versions say, “the life that I now live”. But the proper translation is.. “that which I now live”. I wonder why he phrases it like that? “That which, I now live”. Could it be because it’s really not, HIS life anymore, that he’s living? Paul “gave up”, his life. HIS life, “was crucified with Christ”. Just like Christ gave up HIS life, Paul gave up his also. And so, “that which I now live, I live by FAITH in the Son of God.”
Here’s the key part though, that I want you to see. Paul was still the one doing the living. He hadn’t become passive. On the contrary! Paul became very active, in living according to how Jesus commanded him to live. It wasn’t HIS life anymore, it was the life of Christ, being “acted out”, by Paul. But it was still Paul doing the living. Jesus Himself doesn’t take control of our actions. It’s His WORD that we need to be controlled by.
Do you see the commitment that we’re supposed to have? Do you see how turning from sin, and turning to God, needs to be a life-changing decision? “How can we who have died to sin, live in it any longer?” Romans 6:2. That’s what Paul was asking the Roman Christians, and that’s what he’s asking us today. How can you live in sin any longer?
One last thing to comment on, and then we’ll be done. “Lord, save me, and fill me with the Holy Spirit”. Remember when Peter and some of the other disciples were in their boat crossing the sea of Galilee, and a storm came up, and they were basically in the middle of the sea, and they saw Jesus coming towards them, walking on the water; And Mark records a strange thing; He wrote in Mark 6:48, “..and he intended to pass by them.” I don’t know if we’ll ever know for sure, why Jesus was had intended to pass them by. But they were quite frightened by the sight of someone walking towards them on the water. So Jesus says in V-50, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.”
Now Mathew records this next part. In Mat 14:28, Peter says to Jesus; “Lord, if it is You, command me to, Come to You, on the water.” So Jesus, in V-29, “Come”. Jesus never, discourages anyone, from coming to Him does He? He want us ALL to come to Him. So He tells Peter, “Come”, and Peter does. But then Peter takes his eyes off Jesus, and he sees the waves driven by the wind, and his faith falters, and he becomes afraid again, and he begins to sink, and he says to Jesus; “Lord save me!” V-30.
V-31 says, “And immediately, Jesus stretched out His hand, and took hold of him, and said to him; O ye of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The Moral of the Story
What’s the “moral of the story”? Not to try to walk on water? How about this.. ? Jesus has commanded us all, “to come to Him”. Don’t expect Him, to come to you! He’s done His part, He’s not going to do your part too. We can’t just sit back and say; “Lord, come into my heart, and fill me with the Holy Spirit”. We’ve got to come to Jesus! It’s got to be US that comes to HIM. And He’s already given us the Holy Spirit.. It’s right here in the bible. He’s not going to “fill us” with it too. That’s OUR responsibility; To fill ourselves with His word.
Jesus said in John 6:63; “The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life.” And it is absolutely up to US, to fill ourselves with that Spirit, and those words of life! Jesus has done His part. Now it’s time for us to do our part.
It’s up to us to hear those words, to believe those words, and to receive those words. In other words, it’s up to us to OBEY those words.
We need to obey those words, by REPENTING of our sins. Jesus said in Luke 13:3; “Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish.”
And we’ve got to obey those words, by CONFESSING His name, like Jesus said in Mat 10:32; “If you confess Me before men, I will confess you before My Father who is in heaven. But if you deny Me before men, I will deny you before My Father who is in heaven.” V-33
And we need to obey the command to be BAPTIZED for the forgiveness of our sins. Peter said in 1 Peter 3:21; “Baptism now also saves us. Not the putting away of the dirt of the flesh.. (in other words, it’s not to cleanse the flesh) .. But rather, It’s “the answer of a good conscience toward God”.
And then we have this promise from Jesus Himself; “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Rev 2:10
Being saved takes a little more than just a prayer. Even though that’s a good start, we’ve got to FINISH doing our part, by doing what He says to do. Salvation IS easy, if we will just do it God’s way!
May God bless you in the study of His word, and in the doing of His will.
Please let me hear from you. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the words of God, presented in this article. Leave your comments and questions in the space below.