Article - The Sinner’s Prayer: A Spiritual Tragedy

Our world takes great exception to those who lead people to their own suicide. For example, the name Jim Jones still leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths even today. Under the guise of religious freedom and safety, Jim Jones led over 900 people to their own suicide. We think of events like these and we are appalled at the utter disregard for human life this individual had. Yet, there is a greater tragedy occurring right here in America. Every year millions of people are led to their own spiritual suicide by being told to say the sinner’s prayer and they will be saved. Is the sinner’s prayer a biblical way of salvation? If so, where is it found at in the Bible?

Although multitudes of people say the sinner’s prayer as a means of salvation, the shocking truth is it is not even found in the Bible one time! The sinner’s prayer usually goes something like this:

“Heavenly Father, I know that I am a sinner and that I deserve to go to hell. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. I do now receive him as my Lord and personal Savior. I promise to serve you to the best of my ability. Please save me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

A person can search his Bible from Genesis 1:1 all the way through Revelation 22:21 and he will never find this prayer or any variation of it mentioned anywhere in Scripture. Why then do so many people believe the sinner’s prayer saves? People believe this is a way of salvation because they have put their trust in men and not God. The sinner’s prayer was popularized and in many ways originated in America by Baptist preacher Billy Graham. Over the last half century Billy Graham and denominational preachers like him, have taught multiplied millions of people a way of salvation that isn’t even found in the Bible one time! Like Jim Jones, these charlatans have led people down the path to spiritual suicide. Remember, the Bible says “there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25).

Although the sinner’s prayer isn’t found anywhere in Scripture, there are a couple of passages people use to justify it. Some religious leaders believe Acts 2:21 warrants a person saying a sinner’s prayer for salvation. The Apostle Peter said, “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). Is this passage teaching that we must say the sinner’s prayer to be saved? Certainly not. There is a big difference in Scripture between calling on God for salvation and a prayer to God. If we will use the Scriptures correctly we can see exactly what it means to “call” on God. A divine commentary on how to call on the name of the Lord is given in Acts 22:16. Saul is told, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” According to the Scripture, to call on the name of the Lord means that we get up and obey God’s teaching concerning baptism. This is the exact same thing the people who called on God in Acts 2 were told (Acts 2:37-38). Another passage that is often cited in support of the sinner’s prayer is Luke 18:13. In contrast to the hypocritical Pharisee, the tax collector “beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' Is this text authorizing a sinner’s prayer as a means of salvation? This passage is not an example of New Testament salvation because this man was still living under the Old Testament and Christ law had not gone into effect yet (Hebrews 9;15-17). If this were an example of salvation, it would only be an Old Testament example and would have no bearing on the salvation of men and women today. Thus, neither one of the passages teach that the sinner’s prayer is a means of salvation.

There is one passage in Scripture where a sinner prayed for salvation and forgiveness—and that sinner’s prayer did not save him. In Acts 9, Saul is confronted by Jesus and instructed to go to Damascus and he would receive further guidance from the Christ he had been persecuting. At this point Saul believes Jesus is Lord and has a desire to obey His will (Acts 9:4-6). As Saul is waiting for further information from the Lord, God informs Ananias of the situation. He is told to “arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying” (Acts 9:11). If there were ever a case of a man saying the sinner’s prayer this would be it. Saul had been confronted by Jesus, realized He was Lord and cried to God for salvation (Acts 9:4-6). In Damascus Saul was PRAYING! Did this sinner’s prayer save him? Absolutely not! Saul was not saved until he was told to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). Isn’t that amazing! The only real case of the sinner’s prayer that is found anywhere in Scripture and it didn’t save the man!

In a world where there are so many people looking to take advantage of others for power and wealth, we desperately need to understand God’s way of salvation. The sinner’s prayer is not from God and will never save anyone. To be saved, the Bible teaches one must hear God’s word (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus Christ (John 8:24), repent of past sins (Luke 13:3), confess the name of Jesus before men (Romans 10:10; Matthew 10:32-33), and be baptized in water for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16; Mark 16:16). If you were taught the sinner’s prayer as a mode of salvation, you need to realize that you are still lost and you desperately need to obey God’s plan of salvation to be saved! We pray that you will have the courage to reject “modern” ways of salvation and do what God says concerning salvation! If you’d like to learn more about God’s plan of salvation click here to watch a video concerning

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