"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."A closer look at this prayer yields an interesting contradiction. To pray the prayer you are required to know what you supposedly can't know or understand until after you are saved. Notice what the praying sinner, the unsaved person, is required to know and understand: he or she apparently knows that God exist; the praying sinner understands he broke God's law; the praying sinner understands repentance is necessary and possible; the praying sinner knows and comprehends exactly who Jesus is: the Son of God who died, is raised, and hears prayers; the praying sinner desires forgiveness and seeks help to avoid sin; the praying sinner gives an invitation to Jesus; the praying sinner makes request to receive the Holy Spirit; the praying sinner prays in Jesus' name; and last but not least, according to these same people, the praying sinner is demonstrating his faith. They say this prayer is "Merely a Tool to Communicate Our Faith" (this comment is on another of their pages). No Bible verses for saying this prayer are offered. No Bible verse is given to demonstrate that this is the tool to show your faith. Does the reader recognize the inherent contradiction in this teaching?
WHICH COMES FIRST: THE PRAYER OR THE SPIRIT
These same people who says that the lost but praying person can't do any of this without first having the Holy Spirit. One of the difficulties people have with the "sinner's prayer" approach to salvation is that you ask to receive the Holy Spirit in the prayer. But this contradicts what they say about first needing the Holy Spirit to understand all of the things you required to understand in the prayer: which includes praying to receive the Holy Spirit. It's a which came first question, the chicken or the egg? Which comes first here, the Spirit or the prayer? It's impossible to tell from their writing. You are led in a circle of realizing all of the particulars of the Gospel and your sinfulness. So then you pray for the forgivness and for the Holy Spirit which you supposedly needed to say the prayer in the first place. From a related web-site comes their rendition of 1 Corinthians 2:13-15:
When we tell you this, we do not use words of human wisdom. We speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit's words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren't Christians can't understand these truths from God's Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them because only those who have the Spirit can understand what the Spirit means. We who have the Spirit understand these things, but others can't understand us at all.This is not Scripture you have just read; rather, it is an erroneous interpretation by these folks of what Paul is saying in that 1 Corinthians 2 passage. And the interpretation contradicts the prayer they say is necessary for salvation. Do you first need the Spirit to understand anything about the Gospel and your sinfulness, or do you first need to sincerely say the "sinner's prayer" to get the Holy Spirit? In the final analysis, the explanation and teaching is contradictory and falls on itself.
IS THE SINNER'S PRAYER THE BIBLICAL STEP TOWARD SALVATION?
I believe that the Bible gives clear instructions for how to become a Christian. Those at the sinner-prayer.com web-site think so too. I studied the web-page containing this prayer to see what Biblical justification would be offered in support for praying to receive salvation. Here is what they offer in the way of chapter and verse support:
Sin is man's problem (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Man may think he knows the right way, but it usually ends in death (Proverbs 16:25). Reconciliation to God can only be accomplished through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:6-15).
NO SCRIPTURAL SUPPORT IS GIVEN
What they teach next has no chapter and verse support. They continue by explaining that the "Sinner's Prayer" is something spoken when the sinner recognizes his sinfulness and his need for salvation. No example of anyone in the Bible saying such a prayer is offered. No passage of the Bible is cited whatsoever in support of saying the prayer for salvation.
Also, after giving the "sinner's prayer", the site follows by saying, "if you decided to repent and receive Christ" you are in God's family. That's it. Simple as that. A prayer is a communication to God and therefore implies that God is listening to the prayer of the sinner. After advising the sinner that all that was necessary for salvation was to pray for it, the need for repentance is added presumably as another step for salvation. They give no Bible reference, though many passages could have been cited to show the necessity of repentance for salvation (see Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19). So why didn't the web-site say to repent of your sins and give Biblical support for it? Why do they instead ask the sinner to say a prayer that cannot be found in the Bible?
Maybe they think that their words are more persuasive than God's! After all, they think that God's words are impossible for the unconverted to understand. But they also ask you to trust them by saying a prayer which they give no Biblical support for. So the sinner they are appealing to cannot understand God if He says to them what the Gospel is and how to obey it, but the sinner will understand the contents of their prayer? That makes very little sense.
On top of that, the site adds that, besides repenting, you must "receive" Christ. They again offer no scripture in support, but on another page on the same web-site, John 1:12 is cited to show that Jesus must be "received." It still remains to be proven that "receiving Jesus" is done through their "sinner's prayer". Where is the passage of text that says "receive Jesus by saying the 'sinner's prayer'"?
Let's give the people who created the "sinner-prayer" web-site some credit: They are correct that knowledge of Jesus' Gospel is essential (Rom. 1:16; Acts 16:31). And the web-site correctly says knowledge of sin is necessary for salvaiton, or else what would one be repenting of (Acts 17:30)? And though the developers of the web-site don't give chapter and verse, repentance is also essential for being added to God's family (Lk. 13:3). And though they don't give chapter and verse, "receiving" Jesus is essential (John 1:12). But, the question remains: is it accurate to say that the so-called "sinner's prayer" is part of the "basic steps to becoming a Christian"? We would disagree that this prayer is a step to salvation.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT RECEIVING JESUS?
To receive Jesus according to God's plan must result in forgiveness of sins and the hope of salvation for eternity. And the Bible shows some "basic steps" for receiving such blessings. In Acts 2:21, Joel was quoted as saying, "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Strangely enough, the Sinner-prayer web-site didn't point to this verse, even though only a few verses later the same people were repenting and being baptized. They were not told to say the "sinner's prayer" in Acts 2:38,41. And when Ananias came and preached Jesus to Saul, he didn't tell Saul (later called Paul) to say a "sinner's prayer". Instead, Ananias said, "And now why do you delay, arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on his name." So it looks like the Biblical way to ask God for salvation is to be Baptized. Peter said essentially this in 1 Peter 3:21. He said that the antitype of the water Noah was brought safely through (v.20) is Baptism which "now saves you." He explains that it is not a washing away dirt of the flesh, but it (baptism) is an appeal to God (i.e. a prayer of sorts) for a clean conscience; it (baptism) saves you through the resurrection of Jesus.
And there is more. In Acts 8, when Philip "preached Jesus" to the Ethiopian Eunuch, the next verse says that the Eunuch asked to be baptized! Why? Could it be that when Jesus was accurately preached, that the sinner understood that God's grace is first received in the waters of baptism? Why else was there the urgency to baptize the Jailer in Acts 16? Verse 25 says that it was already past midnight when Paul "spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house." Then right after that, Paul was out baptizing the jailer in the middle of the night!
THE REAL APPEAL FOR SALVATION
Acts 2:21 in conjunction with Acts 2:38, and Acts 22:16, and this passage in 1 Peter seems to give pretty strong evidence that God's salvation is received at baptism. Baptism is how and when a person calls on God to be saved. Many other verses can be cited to show that when faith and adult baptism converge, then the gift of salvation is the result (see Galatians 3:26,27 and Colossians 2:12). This is further supported by passages like Romans 6:3-5 where "walking in newness of life" follows being buried with Christ in baptism. That the blessing of salvation occurs at the point of baptism explains why Jesus commanded the disciples be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). And Mark records that "he that believes and is baptized shall be saved, and he that does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). This is why we can say with a great deal of confidence that baptism is an important step of salvation, but the so-called "sinner's prayer" is not.
EXAMPLE OF THE ERROR - NOTE THERE'S NO SCRIPTURAL SUPPORT
God hears prayer for salvation
Praying to be Saved - not the "Sinner's Prayer"
Repentance is real change beyond believing only
Legalism is not the strict adherence to God's word