I remember the first time I ever mentioned I wasn’t a fan of the sinner’s prayer. I was a college pastor in Tampa and I was speaking to about 50 students on a Thursday night. I quickly mentioned in my message that the call for the sinner’s prayer isn’t found in the Bible. Nor does the call for salvation require a prayer. You would of thought I said Jesus was a purple woman with an afro with how many people wanted to talk to me angrily.
I get it. When you came to know the Lord, you probably prayed the sinner’s prayer. It is in almost every tract and when you take most evangelism training classes, you do your best to memorize this prayer. I personally prayed this prayer. LIKE A THOUSAND TIMES!
Plus, if you go to a church that does a call for salvation prayer every service, that routine becomes a staple to your heart.
Hear me out. I am not saying if you prayed the prayer your faith is illegitimate. What I am saying is that the prayer wasn’t the thing that made your faith legitimate. Far before you bowed your head and closed your eyes to repeat that prayer, the Lord was working in your heart and drawing you to himself. Ephesians 2:1-10 firmly places the work of salvation on God and not on you. The reason you prayed the Sinner’s Prayer is because the Lord worked in changing your heart. Jesus is not like some sad guy, insecure, and alone hoping you will accept his friendship. Jesus is active in your salvation, not passive.
If we truly believe we are saved by faith alone through grace alone and not by works. Why would a prayer (which is a work by us) be the thing that saves us.
A book that really helped me wrestle through this as well as the issue of assurance in salvation was JD Greear’s book: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. It is a great short read.
I know this is a sensitive topic. It involves some dialog to explain completely why I am not a fan of the Sinner’s prayer but maybe these videos will help.
Please excuse the cheesiness of the soundtrack.
Here is a clip from a message where I spoke briefly on my problem with the Sinner’s Prayer to my youth group.