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The Sinners Prayer - Can It Save Us?

Many preachers and evangelists today teach that we must pray the sinners prayer and accept Christ into our heart as our Lord and Savior. A preacher once told me that nearly all preachers teach the sinners prayer. I suppose he thinks that just because nearly all teach it, that this makes it right. I agree with him that "many", if not nearly all, do teach it. It makes sense as well that they do because Jesus did say that "many" will follow the "broad" path to destruction. Yes "many" will follow what the majority follows. Jesus even tells us why... partly because of false teachers. (Matthew 7:13-15)

Many teach that at the time of the sinners prayer, we are forgiven of our sins (washed of our sins)... and that baptism (which is when our sins are actually washed away) is obedience after we are saved.

In spite of all the Scriptural evidence we have before us they still choose to deny Christ.

They believe baptism is an outward sign of an inward change. Ironically, this concept is nowhere to be found in the Bible. It is a man-made philosophical viewpoint with no Scriptural proof whatsoever.

I am not surprised at these teachings, although they are false, as this is what I once thought myself... I was among the "many" and agreed with the majority.

After careful study of the Scriptures, I learned the truth and the truth is able to save us... it is able to set us free.

The truth is that the sinners prayer is not once mentioned in the Bible... it is fabricated by men.

The truth is that the Bible teaches that baptism is when our sins are washed away and we are forgiven unto salvation... not prayer.

Yes, we do pray for forgiveness of sins when we sin after we are saved (1 John 1:9) and God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins. However, God does not respond to the prayer of an unsaved sinner...

Proverbs 15:8-9 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight. The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.

Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.

Psalms 34:15-16 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

Psalms 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

Isaiah 59:1-2 Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Isaiah clearly tells us that the unsaved sinners "iniquities have separated" him from God... his "sins have hid His face".

The apostle Peter wrote a similar statement as those of the Old Testament writers...

1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

John wrote that God does not hear sinners, but He does hear "any man" that worships Him... "and doeth His will"...

John 9:31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.

Jesus said "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you"... we must be "in Christ" to "ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."...

John 15:7 "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."

If we must be "in Christ" for Him to give us what we ask for, then there is no way an unsaved sinner can ask and receive salvation through prayer, because an unsaved sinner is not "in Christ"... he is out of Christ until he is "baptized into Christ". There is no instruction nor any example of anyone being able to get "in Christ" by prayer... the Bible clearly teaches that the only way to get "in Christ" is to be "baptized into Christ"...

Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Colossians 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

If there is another way for someone to get "in Christ" then God forgot to inspires someone to write it in His Word.

There is not one example in the Bible of a person praying to God for salvation through Christ.

Can an unsaved sinner pray to God and receive anything?

Can an unsaved sinner pray to God for faith? Not according to the Bible...

Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Can an unsaved sinner pray to God to be born again? Not according to the Bible...

1 Peter 1:22-23 Now that you have obeyed the truth and have purified your souls to love your brothers sincerely, you must love one another intensely and with a pure heart. For you have been born again, not by a seed that perishes but by one that cannot perish-by the living and everlasting word of God.

Can an unsaved sinner pray to God to be converted? Not according to the Bible...

Psalms 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

Can an unsaved sinner pray to God for salvation? Not according to the Bible...

James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

So what exactly is an unsaved sinner supposed to be praying for?

According to the Bible there are no instructions anywhere that tell us to pray to be saved.

I would surely believe that if Jesus wanted us to be saved through prayer that He would have given us an example or at very least He would have instructed us to pray for salvation.

Jesus nor any of the apostles ever taught or wrote that we must pray to be saved.

God only hears those who worship Him and do His will.

A prayer similar to the "sinners prayer" was first started around 500 years ago. The actual "sinners prayer" started in the Billy Sunday era (he died around 1935) and was later formalized during Billy Graham's ministry.

Understand that no one in the Bible, not the first person, ever prayed the sinners prayer to be saved.

C.S. Lewis used the term "a great cataract of nonsense" to describe how people use a modern idea to construe Bible theology...

"Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age." (Learning in Wartime, 1939)

You might ask a preacher or even your preacher if you already have one, and if he believes in the sinners prayer, to show you where Jesus or the apostles taught the sinners prayer. Then ask him about Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:3, Galatians 3:27, Colossians 2:12, 1 Peter 3:21, and watch his actions as he responds and perhaps tries to avoid the passages... or he may possibly try to tell you these passages do not mean what they say. Generally speaking, they will usually either try to avoid discussing them or attempt every effort to explain them away.

Most surely, if Jesus Christ wanted us to pray the sinners prayer to be saved, He would have at least mentioned it once in the Scriptures... wouldn't you think so?

I believe He would have at least given us the words to pray. Instead of saying, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved"... He would have said "He who believes and prays the sinners prayer will be saved"... but Jesus never said to pray for salvation... not even once.

However, Jesus does tell us clearly what we must do... go back to the page "WHAT MUST WE DO TO BE SAVED?" and read again what Jesus says... or better yet... get your Bible out and search for it... not once does He mention praying to be saved.

The apostles never teach us that praying is what we have to do to be saved. They were asked the question, "What shall we do?" and they answered, "Repent, and each one of you be baptized, for the forgiveness of sins..." (Acts 2:38) This passage must be ignored by those who preach and teach the sinners prayer for salvation. They would rather use something that is not in the Bible to instruct people on the way of salvation rather than use the very inspired words that God provided to us. Woe to them!

Some preachers I have asked about the sinners prayer claim that "deliver us from evil" in the "Lord's Prayer" is asking God to save us.

Did Jesus say that this is the prayer that we pray for salvation? No!

If you yank that part of the passage slam out of context, you might somehow come up with the thought that this could mean a prayer for salvation, but in context we clearly understand what it means.

Consider what Jesus is talking about in the context of these passages...

Matthew 6:1 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven."

Matthew 6:6-13 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]'"

For one thing, Jesus is speaking to the Jews who are His disciples.

Notice He says "do not use meaningless repetitions as the Gentiles do".

Jesus is warning them to not practice righteousness before men to be noticed by men.

If we read all of Matthew chapter 6 we will get a better understanding of what Jesus is teaching here, and it is not what to pray to be saved.

He teaches to pray not to be led into temptation, but to be delivered from evil. This is to keep the Christian from being tempted by evil.

This prayer is for people who are saved already, and this particular portion is to keep the saved from falling into the hands of evil.

Jesus is not teaching unsaved sinners WHAT to pray... He is teaching Christians HOW to pray...

"Pray, then, in this way"... other translations have it "Therefore, this is how you should pray".

I believe it would make sense that if Jesus was teaching us to pray for salvation, He would also teach us "what" to pray as well as "how" to pray.

Furthermore, the disciples are a foreshadowing of the church ("called out" as apostles, disciples of Jesus, etc.) and Jesus' teaching would thus apply to the church (the saved) and not the unsaved sinner.

Another passage that many preachers claim references the sinners prayer is Roman's 10:13...

Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Supposedly when someone prays to accept Jesus into their heart, they are then calling on the name of the Lord. However, this is not what the Scriptures teach us.

It seems pastor's forget that just a few verses before this verse that Paul expresses part of what calling on the name of the Lord is...

Romans 10:9 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.

We must confess with our mouth (before other men) that Jesus is Lord.

Remember the eunuch's confession in Acts 8, and how Jesus said in Matthew 10:32 that we must confess Him before men?

We must also believe. So here we have believing and confessing Jesus is Lord as part of calling on the name of the Lord. No prayer is mentioned in these verses.

Think about it... if Paul is somehow claiming that calling on the name of the Lord is nothing more than the sinners prayer then he is contradicting himself in Romans chapter 6. We know that the Bible does not contradict itself and Paul does not mention the sinners prayer in these passages... therefore it cannot be the sinners prayer he is referencing here. Preachers that are preaching this are just plain wrong and are trying to support a doctrine made up by men, not from God.

Consider carefully Acts chapter 2 as I mentioned earlier. This is the first time the gospel message was preached. Remember Jesus commanded the Great Commission "beginning in Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). Peter preached and made the similar statement, quoting Joel 2:32...

Here's Joel...

Joel 2:32(a) And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered:

Now Peter...

Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Now remember that at the same time Peter was preaching this first ever gospel message in Jerusalem that he obeyed what Jesus taught the apostles and preached exactly what Jesus commanded them to teach, which we learned in Luke was "repentance and remission of sins", not the sinners prayer. Peter finished the gospel message and told the people what they needed to do to "call on the name of the Lord"...

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

You see... Peter told them exactly what calling on the name of the Lord is, and exactly what Jesus commanded the apostles to preach.

Let's see how these two passages harmonize with one another so well...

(And it shall come to pass) = (Then Peter said to them)
(that whosoever will) = (every one of you)
(call on) = (repent and be baptized)
(the name of the Lord) = (in the name of Jesus Christ)
(shall be saved) = (for the remission of sins)

Calling on the name of the Lord would include repentance and baptism for the remission of sins.

Furthermore, we have the story of Paul's salvation in Acts 22...

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Hmmm... seems apparently clear that baptism washes away our sins, not prayer... and baptism is no doubt included in calling on the name of the Lord.

Calling on the name of the Lord is to call on Him in the way He has appointed for salvation.

Remember also that when "calling on the name of the Lord" is used in the New Testament that it is referring or quoting Joel. If it means praying to God to accept Jesus into our life... how is it possible that Joel could have done this? It's not... this is not what Joel is alluding to and it is not what the writers of the New Testament are trying to communicate to us.

From these passages quoted here we learn that "calling on the name of the Lord" involves "believing"... "repenting"... "confessing Jesus as Lord"... and "baptism".

No where does it reference praying the sinners prayer.

Pastor's teaching the "sinners prayer" are teaching a false doctrine. The "sinners prayer" will not save you.

Please do not let someone tell you these passages do not really mean exactly what they tell us, and that God hears the unsaved sinner when the unsaved sinner wants to be saved, because there is absolutely no Scripture to support it.

The blood of Christ through obedience to the gospel is what saves us... we must hear the gospel, repent, confess Jesus, and be baptized. There is NO OTHER WAY!

It is what the Holy Scriptures prove... please read the evidence for yourself.

God bless you!

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