Since we established that God does not answer the prayers of those who are opposed to his holiness (http://straitupword.com/2015/09/29/is-god-deaf ), we must take a look at what is typically known as the sinner’s prayer.
During the Reformation, many attempted to break away from the doctrines in Catholicism by creating their own doctrines of salvation. Notably, these creeds evolved into salvation being obtained through prayer. The rise of the sinner’s prayer exploded among many travelling evangelists in the late 20th century at large tent meetings, encouraging those who heard the word to come to the front to receive salvation.
So what is the sinner’s prayer? It is a prayer said by an unbeliever, who after hearing the gospel recites a confession and acknowledgement of being separated from God:
“God, I am a sinner and I acknowledge that. I ask that you come save me and fill me with your Holy Spirit. I believe on your Son Jesus Christ and because of that I have inherited eternal life. Thank you Lord for your love and salvation in Jesus’ name.”
There are a few things I find errant with the whole call to salvation using the sinner’s prayer. First, if someone has to ask you if you want to be saved, the person preaching wasn’t under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the word preached wasn’t a message of salvation. Some messages consist of tithes, offerings, and anecdotes of green eggs and ham, and we wonder why no one comes up for prayer?
Second, acknowledgment and confession are intellectual exercises that fall short of doing something. True faith requires action. How many people will confess they are saved because they said the sinner’s prayer, but never return to church for spiritual instruction in righteousness? The attendance rosters for many churches are loaded with names but where are the people? Boasting about a membership of 3,000 souls saved via the sinner’s prayer is meaningless if 100% of them do not adhere to Jesus’ call to take up their cross and follow him (1).
Third, sinners are never instructed in scripture to pray a prayer of salvation. They are to hear the gospel of peace and glad tidings of good things (2), repent of their sins, and be baptized. In fact, when Apostle Paul stated “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Jesus from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (3) that was not intended to be a prayer for salvation. Paul was demonstrating what could happen after hearing the gospel preached. It is the method of justification, not a prayer for justification. The use of the future tense “shall or shalt” denotes something that takes place at a particular time in the future. Without hearing the preached word first, there can be no reason to confess and believe.
For example, let’s take a look at what happened at Pentecost (4). Peter preached the word and their hearts were pricked. They asked Peter what did they need to do in order to be saved and he instructed them to:
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (5)
To repent means to have regret before God and change your mind. It is the godly sorrow that causes you to reconsider your spiritual position against the Lord. Baptism takes place when the individual decides to associate him or herself with the ministry of the one who shed his blood. At Jerusalem, Peter was preaching to devout Jews (6) and these men associated themselves with the ministry of Moses. Baptizing in Jesus’ name is a symbolic act that serves as an outward witness to others. Not only does it mean they were associating themselves with Christ, the Messiah, they would also have the “answer of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (7) and being buried with him by baptism into death, like Christ was resurrected from the dead, they would also reflect God’s power to raise them up to experience newness of life (8). And when one is baptized with the Holy Spirit, it is an element of baptism that is performed by Jesus only. Without his spirit, no one is empowered to witness, live holy, or be sealed until his return. (9)
So what about the publican who asked God to be merciful to a sinner like him? (10) It was a warning to the self-righteous who thought less of others, not a prayer of salvation.
If we are honest, we all know that words are meaningless without action. To work the work of God is to believe on the One whom God has sent (11) because the true work was completed on the cross at Golgotha, but in order to see the inward working of faith in HD (High Definition), one must do what the scripture requires, which is to respond to the person who committed his life and the authenticity of his ministry by repentance and baptism. These are not works of salvation. It is a biblical response to the call of salvation.
- Matthew 16:24
- Romans 10:15
- Romans 10:9
- Acts 2
- Acts 2:38
- Acts 2:5
- I Peter 3:21
- Romans 6:4
- Ephesians 4:30
- Luke 18:13
- John 6:29