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the sinners prayer for salvation
The Sinner's Prayer
I have noticed a rise in criticism of the Sinner's Prayer. Critics usually cite the absence of an example in the Bible, and refer to neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever having used it. This then becomes the precedent to argue against using it. "Well, if it's not in the Bible, it's not scriptural, therefore it should not be done". Another statement I have read, and heard says that "just by saying one prayer does not automatically make someone a Christian", or similar. It sounds so "right" that one could be excused for agreeing with this view.
Whilst I fully understand where this idea could be seen as correct, I also see it as very limited, and extreemly narrow in its scope. I agree, that a simple prayer such as this can not save a person, I have to say that it is also true that it can. It does and it always will. It worked for me. Now, I don't base my assertion on JUST my own experience. That would be way too subjective, and even narrow minded. But I will say that there are conditions to saying the sinners prayer.
For those who don't know what the sinners prayer is, here is a sample of it.
"Dear Heavenly Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son. I believe He died on the cross for my sin. I repent of my sin, and ask you to forgive me. I believe You raised Jesus from the dead, and I receive Him now as my personal Savior and Lord. Thank you that My name is written in the Lambs Book of Life, and I know that when I die, I will be with you in Heaven for all eternity. Amen"
Now the words are not ritualistic in the sense that these are EXACTLY the words to use. One can just cry out "God , HELP!", "Jesus save me", or whatever expresses a cry from the heart to God.
The argument against the prayer, as outlined above, seems to be two-fold.
- There are no examples of it in the Bible, and
- One simple prayer cannot save someone.
I will deal with these in order.
1. There are no examples of such a "model" prayer, so it should not be implemented. This is not exactly correct. True, there is no actual example, but the word "repent" is used. Jesus started His Earthly ministry with the cry "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand ..." (Matt. 3:2 as just one example) It is found in several places. It is a call to ACTION. Repent simply means stop, turn around and go in the opposite direction. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a specific moment in time. A call to action, NOW. Not gradually, over a long period of time.
You have to be able to say, "I turned at midday, on the 3rd of January, and started my journey following after Jesus" It is SPECIFIC. In another incident, Jesus taught Nicodemus, that a man must be born again. That certainly is not a gradual process (relatively speaking). We all have a birthday. Our mother will usually remember the hour. So, it is not against logic and reason to conclude that though there is no example, it is consistent with the overall teachings of the Bible. To ask someone to pray, which should include the action of repentance will therefore be a specific event in their life. They will be able to look back and "point to the day" it happened.
There are other doctrines and teachings that are also NOT mentioned in the Bible, yet we do not challenge them as wrong. (of course some do challenge these as well).These would be. the Rapture. That word is often used, but it's not mentioned in the Bible. The Trinity is another. We talk about, and teach about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, (the Trinity), without having ever seen the word in the Bible.
2. One simple prayer cannot save.
This also has some merrit, but is incomplete. I agree that a person mouthing some form of the sinners prayer is way too simplistic to "assure" salvation. There are two aspects to this. One is the assumption that it is not possible, and the other is that it requirers a change in the person for it to be real. I say, it is indeed possible.
I am an example of the prayer working. Before I prayed, I was one person, and after I prayed, I was another person. Not that my individual personality changed, but that I become something/someone on the inside that was TOTALLY new. I was Born of the Spirit, and I KNEW it. Now, this is not an isolated example. I am surrounded and accompanied by millions of individuals who all have a story that may be unique, but share the same commonality.
Though the prayer was very short, the result was (and still is) a long, and ongoing walk. It was merely the STARTING POINT. Change does come, and fruit of salvation begin to develop, but the point is that there was a starting moment. It was at the time of praying the prayer. Suppose that a person does not have time to somehow grow and display the virtues of Christian character needed, for them to be "recognised" as born again, or a true follower of Christ. Would salvation be unavailable to them. Of course not. If an old person, on their deathbed, repented, and said the sinners prayer, would they not be saved?
The reality is that they WOULD be saved, because of the heart attitude.
The heart of the matter is this.
Salvation is God's business. He is the One who does the saving. Not you, not me, not the pastor or the evangelist. We are merely vessels that God uses to bring others closer to Himself. In doing so, we lead those who are ready to make the decision to follow after Jesus Christ, to Him. We lead them in prayer. We should also continue to lead and disciple, and train and teach after that. It does not stop with just praying.
But then there are things that we cannot do. We cannot make that person believe, nor make them be genuine. We can't make them "mean it". It's something only they alone can do. But, at the same time, we can't really know what IS going on inside them. But God does. He is the One who decides whether or not the pray-er of the simnners prayer is actually born again, or "faking it". Not our business anyway. It's between God and the other person.
Now, time will (usually) demonstrate to us, whether or not they were genuine. But that's another issue.
For those of you that are more visual, here's a clip from you know where.
I don't know this guy, but I have listened to what he says etc. It's good.
I like it because it's short and to the point. Blessings.