The Pastor\’s Pen

An Independent Baptist Preacher\’s Musings and Observations

Sinner’s Prayer?

Posted by Pastor Szekely on February 28, 2007

To pray or not to pray for salvation ~ that is the question!

There can only be two general views on how a person becomes saved [a child of God; born-again, etc]: Faith with or in (their) works or Faith without (their) works.

FAITH WITH (OR IN) WORKS: Many believe that the salvation of a soul is an admixture of “Grace through Faith” along with their works making a person saved OR keeping that person saved…for example…faith in Jesus Christ along with faith in taking communion, reading the Bible, church membership, baptism, [you name it!] for salvation. This teaching is clearly contrary to Scripture: Romans 11:6 says, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work”. The salvation of the Lord must be either by Grace or by works…it cannot be by Grace AND by works!

FAITH WITHOUT WORKS: There are those who believe that the salvation of a soul is by “Grace through Faith” without any work from them: Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

It must all come down to this question: What (or Who) is the Object of saving faith? Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to very on that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” [See also 1 Corinthians 15:1-4]

These verses, and many more, tell us that it is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ – it’s His Work – that will save the sinner! Trying to add works to improve on His Work for salvation is just plain wrong!

BUT: How does a sinner receive, appropriate, or take possession of the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation? Is a soul saved through faith, through prayer, through a prayer of faith, through faith in a prayer…is prayer needed from the sinner to save his soul? We must find out what God’s Word says.

In John 20:31, John gives us the purpose, or the reason why his account of the Gospel was written: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” Now just in John’s account of the Gospel we find a repetitive theme taught in which the way of salvation is through BELIEVING without any mention of prayer! I’ll just give the references to be looked up in John – 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 47; 7:38-39; 8:24; 11:25-26; 17:19-20; 20:28-29. And this is just in the Book of John! There are many more verses in Acts and the Epistles to show that salvation comes by “believing on the Lord Jesus Christ” for who He is, for what He did, and for what He says He can do for you!

Nobody in the Bible asked Jesus to come into their heart. No soul-winner ever instructed a sinner in the New Testament to pray in order to become a Christian. We are not saved by praying, but by believing…faith…trust…confidence in His Precious Sacrifice!

One final thought: Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”. How can anyone call upon the name of the Lord without knowing Him first as Lord? The Bible says that believing comes before calling: Romans 10:14, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?…”

In Salvation: I have been saved from the penalty of sin…I am saved from the power of sin…I will be saved [one day] from the presence of sin. This explains Romans 10:13 very well…For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved…saved from the power and presence of sin. He who has believed on the Lord has had his penalty removed by the Blood of Christ.

No prayer saves anyone. I’ve met people who actually were doubting their salvation because they wondered if they “said the right things” or “prayed the right prayer” to be saved! Friends, only Jesus saves…and one must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for who He is [He’s God], for what He’s done [became THE payment for our sin debt], and for what He says He can do [wash away all your sin]!

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11 Responses to “Sinner’s Prayer?”

  1. SRGROFF said

    Excellent. The “soul winning” techniques many baptists are taught and use are nothing more than salesmanship to lead a person to faith in a prayer. We must not rely on our salesmanship, and let the Holy Spirit do His work.

  2. Bro. Szekely said

    AMEN, my brother! I know this goes against “the grain” with some because “praying the prayer” is so accepted…but where’s the Scriptural basis?

    Thanks for your reply, Bro. Groff!

  3. This is so true! It is ashamed, but I have seen more “systems” to “get people saved” than I realized were out there. Some have even gotten mad because they have presented their “system” and the person has rejected it [I say it, because without the Spirit, “it” isn’t going to work]. To many times I think we witness in the flesh instead of being led by the Spirit.

    What bothers me the most is when I ask someone if they know Christ, and they start by saying, “I prayed…”. I can’t and won’t say that they haven’t indeed been quickened by the Spirit, but I pray that if indeed they are only holding an empty “repeat after me” in their hand that the Spirit will convict them to their need of trusting in the Savior.

    If you don’t mind a little commerical, I just wrote an article at my blog called:
    My Burden of “Easy Believism”

    Which can be viewed here: http://splintersofsilver.blogspot.com/2007/02/my-burden-of-easy-believism.html or simply http://www.splintersofsilver.com/

    I have a real fear that we have too many people sitting in church service after service that do not have a personal relationship with Christ, and many without the church that believe they are okay with God due to a man telling them to do this or do that and “you’ll be okay with God”.

    God help us!

  4. Bro. Szekely said

    AMEN AND AMEN!!! Thanks for the reply!!!

    This all reminds me of Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

    Sometimes I just wonder what [instead of Who] people are trusting in. There are those who will say that we’re just “nit-picking” or it’s “semantics”…but I go back to what I said in my original post: That’s not what the Bible says…

  5. Steve said

    I really appreciate you addressing this topic. My testimony is very similar to yours. I went into the Air Force @ 17 too, in 1994 though! Anyhow I came from a background of being emotionally abused to the point of being taken away by child protective services at age 13. Anyhow I had a very unstable childhood. I went forward at church a few years before the Air Force, said a “sinners prayer” but did it because I had made eye contact with the pastor during invitation. I didn’t mean it. I did start going to church regularly for a short time prior to enlisting. I met my now wife there. I started playing the part but was unsaved. I went to Korea and hung out with some the christians from the chapel and at the same time was partying with the people from work. One morning I woke up under conviction of my lost state. I was also afraid of death. I prayed for God to forgive me and to give me faith like the christians I knew. I don’t know what I said or understood. I do know that I developed a hunger for the Bible and prayer. If I didn’t at that moment of conviction understand the doctrine of Christs substitutuionary death on the cross for me. I did soon thereafter and embraced it like a thirsty man does water. I for the first time in my life had peace and Christ was all to me. I started going to an IBC off base. This was at about the same time I started struggling with some lust and jealousy issues. Related to my past though I didn’t understand it at the time. I questioned how I could be saved with things like lust and jealousy in my heart. Then a guest evangelist came to our church and preached that if you didn’t know when you were saved, or know what you said than you werent saved. This destroyed me. It has been 12 years and I have not consistently rested in my salvation since. Did understand of Christs substitutionary death when I prayed I asked myself. I know I understood and embraced it shortly after if not but did I need to pray at the point after if that was the case? I am tormented by this and it has stolen all of the joy I first had and caused me to be angry at God. I don’t know if you make comments but I would sure appreciate hearing from you.

  6. Bro. Szekely said

    Dear Steve,

    Thank you for opening your heart unto me. Mine breaks for yours. I pray that I can be a help to you…Let me start with this:

    1. Steve – WHY would you need to come to Christ?
    Can you tell me why you need the Lord Jesus Christ? I believe you can tell me why you go to the grocery store or to the gas station, and you should be able to tell me of your greatest need.
    –Do you see yourself as a sinner undone before God…a transgressor of His Law and not living up to God’s Standard, the Law? Remember Galatians 3:24, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith”…also, Romans 7:7, “…I had not known sin, but by the law” (also Romans 3:20).
    –Steve, not you or me or anyone can keep God’s Law. If we’ve broken one commandment, the Bible tells us that we’re guilty of the whole Law. James 2:10, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (also Galatians 3:10).
    –SO: you must know your need of Christ…you must know your standing before God.

    2. How do you view sin? Even though we still sin, our attitude toward sin should, and needs to, change…that’s called repentance, which is a change of heart, mind, and direction on sin. Repentance IS NOT salvation, but repentance is needed before a person will be humbled to receive Christ. 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”

    3. Have you, or are you trusting in…do you have the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for who He is and for what He says He can do?
    –Who is Jesus Christ? He is God.
    –What does He say He can do? He can be your substitutionary payment for your sin debt.
    –This faith, this belief, this trust, is a saving faith, a saving belief, a saving faith: John 1:12, “But as many as received him (the Lord Jesus Christ), to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name”…do you see that? “Even to them that BELIEVE ON HIS NAME” = that believe on HIM…for who He is and for what He says He can do! They became the “sons of God” = children of God = saved = justified before God!

    Steve, there are so many other Scripture texts that tell us that salvation is not in a program, a process, or a prayer…but it’s in the Lord Himself…it’s not what you pray or the words you say…it’s when we believe and trust in Jesus Christ alone to be our propitiation, our satisfaction for our sin payment before God…and as John 1:12 says, through this, He gives us power to become the sons of God ~ He saves us!!!

    I want you to understand that when you become a child of God, that speaks of RELATIONSHIP. Once you’ve trusted Christ as I’ve stated above, YOU are a CHILD OF GOD…forever. Example: No matter what my children ever do – good or bad – they’ll always be MY CHILDREN…this speaks of relationship.

    Because of our relationship as children of God, we have FELLOWSHIP with God. WHEN we sin, it breaks our fellowship with God. NOTE: God never breaks fellowship with us ~ it’s always us breaking our fellowship with Him…and it’s because of sin. But fellowship can be restored with God, “If we confess our sins, HE is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9.

    Please understand, Steve, that fellowship can be broken and restored, but the relationship a believer has with God cannot be broken…Christ cannot be crucified afresh.

    It breaks my heart to hear of the torment you are going through, and for so long. If what I’ve written doesn’t make much sense, or if it’s hard to be understood, I’d love to talk with you personally. Sometimes what we want to say becomes difficult to type into words. If you want to talk over the phone, let me know and we’ll figure something out…but whatever happens Steve…I pray that you become settled in the Lord’s salvation for you.

    I pray to be a help to you…I am praying for you.

  7. Steve said

    I know and understand all of the doctrines and scriptures that you spoke of. There is no doubt that
    I understood I was a sinner and knew only Christ could save me. I was convicted of this and prayed for faith. I am not sure if I knew at that moment of prayer how He could save me, ie. Christs substitution on the cross for me. I do know that I began to have a tremendous hunger for the Bible and believed in it’s inspiration and authority. Soon my eyes were opened to Gods plan of salvation in Christ. It was as if blinders fell off. Like spurgeon speaks of in his conversion I felt that I had never heard the gospel before though I know that this was impossible. I just didn’t have ears to hear or eyes to see before. The gospel became a personal reality at this point and I embraced it with all of my heart. Was it necessary to pray again at this point? What is the recieving in John 1:12? There was no doubt in my mind then that I recieved him and was saved. Was I decieved because I didn’t pray again for salvation when the gospel was opened to me, even though I embraced it fully? It changed my life! I completely understood that I had a relationship with Christ. I understood Ephesians 2:8 & 9. I understood 2 Corinthians 5:17 personally because I was a new creature. I hungered for prayer and Bible reading. I hated sin and
    wanted to please God. God did this in my life. Nobody witnessed to me and asked me if I wanted to pray. It was all his leading, though he did use the witness of other christians lives with me. I don’t really fit into anybodies system of conversion ie 1. hear sermon 2. come forward 3. repeat prayer. My girlfriend (now wife) who was a christian can testify of the change in me. All I talked about was God. It was hearing an evangelist talking about this packaged salvation and saying that if it didn’t happen like this for you then you’re not saved that destroyed me. It really has hurt my trust in God and caused me to fall back into old sins. I have never just walked away from faith, but I have never had the same peace that I experienced knowing that God loved me and I was His child.

  8. Steve said

    Hey it’s me again. I wanted to say thanks again for having the courage to address this topic. Especially as an Independent Baptist Pastor. I am starting to realize how foolish this idea of “repeat after me” is. This Easter Sunday I was particularly bothered by it. Our pastor is a great man of God also an Independent Preacher. However he does the same thing i.e. “repeat after me”. Then after he said “if you prayed that prayer, we’d like to know about it by you raising your hand”. It seems as though we are taught to believe in our own repeating. I’m sure many place confidence in this alone. I remember asking a Marine that I had met if he was a Christian? His response was “I prayed before” speaking of The Sinners Prayer. Also I am bothered by the fact that the only verse Baptists seem to use for an altar call is Romans 10:9. We as independents are so big on hermeneutics! Why do we take one verse and place so much emphasis on confessing and calling when as you have shown the vast majority of scripture emphasizes belief and trust. It’s really no different than other denominations taking the one verse that says whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved and preaching that you must be Baptized with water to be saved. We cringe at the thought of their ignorance with regard to that interpertation and use the same method to reach the conclusion of a need for a “Sinners Prayer”. I think that we have a
    hard time as Baptists letting God be God and feel that we need to do everything. We have a hard time leaving things in His hands. A recent occurrence comes to mind. I had brought a friend to a Wild Game Supper at church. I knew he went to another Baptist church, but didn’t know of his spiritual state. Well the same thing happened. i.e. “Every head bowed, every eye closed” and the “Sinners Prayer”. Then with everyones eyes still presumeablly closed the evangelists asked if you prayed to raise your hand. Well after the service a man I know who has a ministry to military people asks my friend if he has a church home. He then says to my friend, “I noticed that you had raised your hand saying that you prayed”. Needless to say I was extremely embarrassed. I know discipleship is important, but I don’t think that being a spiritual version of the Gustapa is condusive to winning a new christians trust. Surely God needed the ma to open his eyes when he was asked not to, because He’s not capable of working in peoples lives when we’re unaware.

  9. Bro. Szekely said

    [I’ve been away for awhile, Steve…sorry for not responding before and sooner…]

    But what great comments you make. I agree whole-heartedly…and I’ve been in similar situations that you write on about your Wild Game Supper.

    I asked an Evangelist to come to our church to preach [this man also does the “wild game supper” outreaches…]. We had a young lady visiting with us who [I believe] God was dealing with for a long while. I and a few others talked with her about her sin debt that needed to be paid and about the Lord Jesus Christ wanting to pay that debt for her…she was witnessed to this for over 2 years, but when she started coming to church, it was more consistent and intense. But Steve, even though she heard the Truth of the Law and Gospel, it did not register. I was personally amazed…I even saw it on her face…you know, like the “deer in the headlights” look. I explained to the ones who had contact with her that we won’t “pick the fruit before it ripens” and we will not pressure her to make a profession. I remember before I got saved…I was witnessed to for years by different people.

    Anyway…she came to the meeting with this Evangelist. During the invitation, it was almost as you described in your comments. She raised her hand “to be saved”, the Evangelist talked with her after the service [unfortunately, I didn’t know this was even going on], he asked her “the rundown” of “salvation questions” [Don’t you want to go to Heaven; You believe you’re a sinner, right; etc], and then he came and told me that she was “saved”.

    Well, we had a fellowship dinner after the morning service. I went to her during this time. Steve, I asked her, “What happened to you today”? Steve, I got 4 other answers from her BEFORE I had to ask her…”Did you get saved?”. Her response…”Well, yea”. She was smiling during her response, but [and I don’t mean to be critical, I just want to be discerning] if you were just born-again and freed from the bondage of your sin and knew that your sin debt had been covered by the Blood of the Lamb, would it have taken you 4 RESPONSES to tell that to me???

    BTW: She hasn’t been back to church since…and it’s not because of lack of “follow-up”.

    I like to ask people 2 questions like you asked that Marine, “Are you a Christian…and how did you become a Christian”? Their response will tell you in what they are trusting for their salvation. “Well, I prayed…”; “I go to this Baptist Church…”; “I grew up with it…”; “I knew it all along…”. It doesn’t sound like “Salvation of the LORD” to me, my friend.

    Steve, I really am thankful for your responses. You told me that you are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation, and in Him alone. That’s by grace through faith! I want to encourage you with this: Don’t trust in a prayer, but trust in Jesus. Prayer comes from a child of God…not to be a child of God. There was that time when you were convicted and convinced of your sin, you repented, and you received Christ by believing on Him…now that’s salvation, my brother! I knew someone who said to me, “Did I say the right words in my prayer…did I ask in the right way…” Isn’t that obsurd! What is so damaging today is this “sinner’s prayer” thing…Romans 10:9,13 taken out of context [how do we know this? Read vs14…”How then shall they call on him IN WHOM THEY HAVE NOT BELIEVED?]…Salvation is not in a prayer…salvation is in the Lord Jesus Christ…and we recieve that salvation by believing on who He is and on what He says He can do.

    Fight the good fight, Steve. Go beyond the first oracles of God…Be settled in His salvation for you, and do great and mighty things in His power, mercy, and grace. Love God back, my brother…He loves you, and He truly desires to use you…to have you do business in great waters for Him. Time is too short…the Lord’s return is before us…I pray bitterness and anger won’t hold you back. Lord bless, my brother.

  10. Steve said

    Thanks for your response Bro. Szekely! The situation you spoke of is really a shame. It’s sad that maybe she did exactly what the evangelist said and understandably didn’t like the results. I think some people make “soul-winning” very unspiritual, kind of like a used car salesman approach! The term “soul-winning” in itself lends itself to this in my opinion. Jesus said that no man can come to Him except the Father draws him. Really only God can win a soul either through us, or in spite of us. I think that people lose perspective of the fact that it’s Gods’ work (because it’s spiritual) and we are used by Him in it and turn it into a mind only type of decision and feel that they are convincing someone, not God drawing them. Anyway, I’ve got to run! I’ll write soon!

    In Christ
    Steve

  11. Bro. Szekely said

    Great comments, Bro. Steve! I too loathe the “used car salesman” approach to “soul-winning”…knowing the terror of the Lord, I must try to persuade men…but if the Lord doesn’t draw them, they will not be saved. Today the delivering / saving of a soul has been boiled down to some sort of checklist…and if a person answers correctly, a square can be checked off…where’s the contrite heart? Where’s the conviction? Where’s the brokenness over sin? Where’s the conversion and transformation? God forgive us…God help us.

    Lord bless, my brother.

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