The Sinner’s Prayer–Is It Deceptive?

Have you ever considered the possibility that many who have prayed the sinner’s prayer have been terribly deceived?

As you read these words, do you consider yourself to be a Christian?

When you became a Christian, did you pray the sinner’s prayer?

Maybe something along these lines…

Lord Jesus, I believe that you are God the Son, Who became a human being like me in order to give Your life for me. I believe that you defeated death and hell when you rose to life from the dead. I confess that I have sinned, and I’m sorry for my sin. Come into my life. I accept You as my Lord and Saviour. The desire of my heart is to live my life for You. Enable me to be the person You want me to be. Thank you for forgiving my sin, and for giving me eternal life.

Through the years, I have led lots of people to pray a prayer along those lines. As a matter of fact, I just copied and pasted those very words (in the prayer above) from a page on our web site. (It’s here.)

Most Gospel tracts, The Four Spiritual Laws, Steps to Peace with God, Evangelism Explosion,  etc. include a similar prayer.

So why would I suggest that the prayer might be deceptive?

Here is my concern.

First, let me emphasize that I realize that many of us, when we share the gospel, make it a point to emphasize that the prayer has to represent the true condition of the heart. We stress that if the words of the prayer don’t reflect the true intention of one’s heart then it is nothing more than empty words. We try to make clear that the sinner’s prayer is not a magic formula that, when repeated, guarantees salvation.

But in spite of all the warnings, there are dangers.

Unfortunately, it is all too common for someone who is living an ungodly life to conclude that their sinful behavior is really no big deal. “Because,” they reason, “I prayed the sinner’s prayer when I was young! All is well!” They assume that praying the sinner’s prayer resulted in their spiritual affairs being set in order. Everything has been fixed.

Sadly, these people do not understand Biblical salvation. And, even more sadly, these people may be some of the most difficult people to reach with the truth about salvation. After all, they are convinced that they already have the truth!

It is just this kind of situation that caused Jesus to ask, “”Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lu 6:46)

He also said this: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” (Mt 7:21-23)

This is why it is so important for us to examine ourselves and to encourage others to do the same!

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2Co 13:5) (Read more about self-examination.)

We must not base our confidence of eternal life on a prayer we once prayed. We must not base our assurance of salvation on a memory of an emotional moment in the altar of a church.  We must not base our assurance on the testimony of someone else who was present when we supposedly received Christ. Understand that there is no way on earth that they can know what happened in our hearts!

This is not a matter of how many (or how few) tears are shed! This is not a matter of feelings of great release and happiness!

It is a matter of Jesus Christ and His place in our lives. Is my life really all about Him? Is my goal and purpose in life to glorify Him? If He is truly in me, then my life (including my attitude about sin) will be radically and totally transformed! I’m talking different… really different!

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2Co 5:17)

Am I trying to complicate salvation? No! On the contrary! Salvation is so simple that a child can truly trust Jesus!

In truth, I’m trying to uncomplicate it! It’s simple! We realize the horror of our sin and it’s consequences. And we cling to Jesus as our only hope!

But we don’t trust the sinner’s prayer or our past experiences! We trust Jesus!

Are you perhaps one who has been deceived by trusting in the sinner’s prayer instead of trusting Jesus?

If so, right now would be a great time to acknowledge that. Now would be a great time to recognize the horror of your selfish, self-centered life, your helplessness to fix your own life, and the destruction that you are plunging toward.

Now would be a great time to recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ is your only hope. Then, in childlike faith, to simply receive Him into your life as King, Commander, and Lord.

He will save you! But not just because you prayed the sinner’s prayer.

Are you trusting Jesus? Then He is radically changing your life–now and forever!

The time is coming when all who mouthed the sinner’s prayer without genuine repentance… whose hearts are full of themselves (instead of Jesus)… will face a holy, just, righteous God Who will pronounce just judgment. The Bible says that they will then go into everlasting destruction (2 Th 1:9).

Those who truly trust Jesus will live lives that demonstrate His Lordship. And, wonderfully, they have already passed from death into life (Jn 5:24).

Are you trusting Jesus? Trust Him! Don’t just say some words. Really trust Him! You will never be the same!

Stay in the battle!

Steve Hall

“”Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lu 6:46 NAS95)