Doctrine Page - The Sinner's Prayer


What is "the sinner's prayer"? It is basically an evangelical phrase referring to a prayer offered to God by a sinner who wants to change their relationship with Him. Here are a few of the better known examples:

“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.”

“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.”

"Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen"

Is there anything wrong with saying those words, or expressing those sentiments sincerely? Of course not.

The problem is that it has been falsely taught and accepted as the way of salvation... that just praying those words saves a person and their devotion to Christ afterward is encouraged, but not required.

We can get any number of different opinions and personal comments regarding the Sinner's Prayer (or any other religious topic for that matter), but ultimately it doesn't matter what I, or anyone else, thinks or believes. All that matters is what the Lord has stated in His Word since it is truth (Ps 119:160) and it will judge us in the last day (Jn 12:48).

So, Let's examine what the Scriptures say about the Sinner's Prayer:

Number of times The Sinner's Prayer is used:
Number of times The Sinner's Prayer is mentioned: zero
Number of times Jesus told someone to pray for salvation: zero
Number of times any apostle or elder told someone to pray for salvation: zero
Number of times anyone in the New Testament told someone to pray for salvation: zero

If the sinner's prayer is required by God for salvation,
it would be included in the Bible as a command and example for us to follow!

(some examples where The Sinner's Prayer would have been instructed if it were true)
Acts 2:37 - Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Acts 2:38 - Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Question: Peter had an audience of thousands that were asking how to be saved...
why didn't he tell them to sincerely recite a prayer?
Acts 8:30 - So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
Acts 8:31 -  And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.
Acts 8:35 -  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.
Acts 8:36 -  Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
Acts 8:37 -  Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
Acts 8:38 -  So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
Acts 8:38 -  Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.
Question: Phillip must have taught the Ethiopean about confessing and baptism as part of preaching Jesus (based on the Ethiopean's words & actions), but why didn't Phillip teach him about the Sinner's Prayer?
Acts 9:6 -  So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
Question: Why didn't the Author of Salvation tell Saul he only needed to pray to him to be saved?

(more NT coversion examples)

Note that in this last example, the Lord knew that Saul was praying after the encounter on the road to Damascus, but even after the prayers, Saul was still in his sins! His sins were not washed away until baptism.

Acts 9:11 -  So the Lord said to him, “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 22:16 -  And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’


Consider carefully: Should we not be concerned that the Holy Spirit-inspired apostles didn't teach or write anything about praying for salvation? Is it wise to base one's eternal destiny on a belief that is nowhere found in Scripture? The phrase and practice of the Sinner's Prayer didn't even appear until the 17th-18th Century! Why would we base our salvation on what is clearly a man-made doctrine?

God's Word repeatedly associates hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, baptism, and life-long faithfulness with salvation in the New Testament age (see here for many examples!). Prayer is encouraged and commanded repeatedly, but not once as a condition for salvation.

So who is right? "Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar."


How Do The Following Ideas Measure Up Against Scripture?
Faith Only Salvation
Many Roads to Heaven
Serve God In My Personal Way
The Rapture
Speaking in Tongues
Jesus Created By God
Original Sin
Calvinism's "TULIP"
Don't Judge