Sinner’s Prayer

The sinner’s prayer usually goes something like this:

“Heavenly Father: I come to you in prayer asking for the forgiveness of my Sins.  I confess with my mouth and believe with my heart that Jesus is your Son, And that he died on the Cross at Calvary that I might be forgiven and have Eternal Life in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Father, I believe that Jesus rose from the dead and I ask you right now to come in to my life and be my personal Lord and Savior. I repent of my Sins and will Worship you all the day’s of my Life!. Because your word is truth, I confess with my mouth that I am Born Again and Cleansed by the Blood of Jesus!   In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Let me be crystal clear here: You cannot obtain salvation through an incantation.

It isn’t the saying of a prescribed set of words which saves, no matter how pious or correct those words may be. We are saved for works, not by works (Eph 2:8-10). The sinners prayer is high piety. It is a works-based salvation at its most insidious. A great many souls read or repeat these or similar words and come away with a false assurance in the power of the words they spoke rather than submitting in faith to the one addressed, repenting and being made into a new creation by the life giving breath of the Holy Spirit. This is not to say that those who believe with their heart and are regenerated by the blood of Christ cannot say this prayer. In fact, there’s really nothing at all wrong with the prayer per se. I’m saying it isn’t the speaking of the words which saves. It is the blood of Jesus that saves.

To the one saved, does it matter if the evangelist is a holy person right with God? No. Can the one who is being saved become good enough to be right with God in order to get saved, even by speaking pious words? No. So who is sovereign in salvation? God alone. Must we confess to be saved? Jesus declared that if we deny him he will deny us. This is the bases of Paul’s statement that we must confess with our mouths – not to become saved, but as the fruit of salvation. A good tree can only bear good fruit and a bad tree only bad. God is Creator and is sovereign even in the bearing of Kingdom fruit. As Jesus explained so eloquently to Nicodemus, you must believe. Life and all else comes after.

About Lance Ponder

Christian author of "Ask James one"; public speaker; husband and father. Available to speak on Creation and the Gospel.
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10 Responses to Sinner’s Prayer

  1. Laura J. says:

    I never really thought about it before, but you’re absolutely right, Lance. The prayer is a ritual no different from saying three Hail Mary’s or an Our Father … the person saying the prayer has to have a true desire in his or her heart to acknowledge a sinful nature, accept the sacrifice of our Savior, and follow Him wholeheartedly.

  2. modsynth says:

    Spread the word, man. This little tent revival technique has run its course, and it’s time to put it away to prevent further confusion. It tends to come in a package deal with emotional music, bowed heads, closed eyes, and a charismatic leader dictating what the passive crowd should say and do. This scene is not a Biblical image of salvation, and much more reminiscent of cult activity.

    However, I hear that if you repeat the prayer of Jabez you’ll get all the material things you’ve ever desired 🙂

    • Lance Ponder says:

      That reminds me of an old movie called Leap of Faith. I think it starred Steve Martin. What a hoot. LOL. Anyway, I don’t think most of the folks who promote it are deliberately being deceitful, but they are misguided. This is just one of whole herd of sacred cows I want to slaughter and serve on a cold plate. 😉

  3. Jerry Hill says:


  4. Todd Beal says:

    Wow!!!  I could not agree any more if tried harder.  Man, America’s churches need to hear this, Lance.  If anyone ever thoroughly and accurately explained this issue, you did.

    Once again, you nailed that board right to the wall!

    • Lance Ponder says:

      As much as I would like to take credit, I learned at the feet (or rather, from the pages of) John MacArthur on this topic. He’s something of a one-topic guy, but his topic is a good one – the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Until we understand the right relationship to have, how can we engage in it?

      • Todd Beal says:

        I would be willing to bet my life income that there is no better way of wording this concept.  Every word in your post is there because the post would suffer if it were absent.  Very few publications (religious or otherwise) rise to this level, Lance.  All cylinders must fire at the same time with unified velocity and purpose to achieve this caliber of content.  If I were a professor of advanced writing, I would make this post required reading, with an attached ‘must pass with an A’ exam entitled, “How Well Do I Understand the Content Structure of This Article” exam.  This is the best of the best.

  5. Mike Gantt says:

    Yes, the “sinner’s prayer” is terrible as an incantation. However, if we seek to live it continually rather than merely pray it, it leads to righteousness. By that I mean that if we lives our lives as if a holy Savior is watching everything we think, say, and do…and we use that awareness to think, say, and do only those things that are pleasing in His sight…then we will live redeemed lives and and His light will be continually shining through us.

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