I had quite a few readers of yesterday's blog (for me anyway, which isn't too many actually!), and so I wanted to follow up a little bit today.
Many people have recited a 'sinner's prayer' in their life as part of their conversion experience. If someone has said the sinner's prayer it doesn't mean they are or are not a Christian, it's just the reality of the culture we live in that many people have probably said the prayer sometime before in their life.
I just want to say a few things about that prayer in today's post:
1. It's nowhere in the bible -
Not in one place in Scripture does the 'sinner's prayer' appear. When anyone wants to become a Christian in Scripture they are never told to recite a canned prayer.
2. It is an evangelical 'sacrament' -
We rightly reject Roman Catholicism's system of justification by faith and works. And yet, we often use the sinner's prayer as a means of making God save us.
3. It stems from a desire to 'close the deal' -
We all want to see results. I get that. There is no greater joy besides our own salvation than seeing someone else come to Christ! What a blessing! But we can't close the deal. We have to let the Spirit work and the sinner truly understand.
4. It is a misunderstanding of conversion -
Sinners are saved by grace through faith. No one is saved without repentance from sin and faith in Christ. A sinner's prayer should be the expression of that faith to Christ for what he or she already believes. In other words, you don't conjure up faith via prayer. Instead, the sinner calling on God for salvation should express what he or she wants.
Yeah, but what if they can't express it? Then maybe they don't understand it.
When counseling with people I've let them voice a prayer to God and sometimes they've prayed for their sick grandmother and thanked God for blessings. But there was nothing about repentance, needing Christ, or anything like that! So, it's clear they didn't understand the gospel. If I would have led them in prayer they would have repeated after me and thought they were saved when in reality they had no clue what was going on!
So, let's stop leading people in a repeat after me prayer to come to Christ. Instead, let's share the gospel and call them to repentance and faith. If we feel they understand the message then it's perfectly fine to suggest some things they might pray, but don't have them repeat after you. (But I will also say this: It can also be best to clearly explain the gospel, call them to repentance and faith, and then let people alone with God).
And, don't convince them that 'because they prayed that prayer' they are now a Christian no matter what. No. If they never exhibit the fruit of faith, they are not a believer. What needs to take place for a person to be a Christian is to be born again. Sadly, many have said the sinner's prayer but have never been regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
What if you've said that prayer? I've probably said the prayer about 1,000 times growing up! But what we need to understand is that it's not the prayer that saves. It's faith in Christ. If you are holding on to a prayer even though your life is not in pursuit of Christ, you need to repent and believe the gospel. It's not whether or not you said the prayer 'sincerely' but whether or not you trust Christ as your only suitable and all-sufficient Savior.
Hope this is helpful. To God be the glory.