Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Now ask yourself this question, “Can anyone get up from their table at Subway, set themselves next to a complete stranger at another table, spend 5, 10 or 15 minutes sharing the Gospel, ask them to pray a prayer and assume that person is now saved?” I hope not!
This is important. Many Christians make the cataclysmic and unbiblical mistake of giving the other person a false sense of assurance of salvation, by asserting the person is saved because he prayed a prayer. So, many people walk away from such a conversation still dead in their sins, but believing what they’ve been told. “I believed what my friend told me, and I prayed a prayer. So, now I’m a Christian!”
It is unbiblical confidence in the “Sinner’s Prayer”, as opposed to trusting in Christ followed by ample time for self-examination, that leaves me to believe the evangelicalism practiced by Jack Hyles, Lester Roloff, Bob Gray and a host of others is much closer to an apostate works salvation than they realize. The reason is that like the apostate church, which holds up church tradition as equal or superior to the Word of God, the “One, Two, Three Repeat After Me Evangelicalism” does the same with their own errant traditions. The “Sinner’s Prayer” is a case in point.
There is not a single verse or passage in Scripture, whether in a narrative account or in prescriptive or descriptive texts, regarding the use of a “Sinner’s Prayer” in evangelism. Not one.
Does Romans 10:9-10 Teach the Sinner’s Prayer?
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)
To whom is Paul’s speaking? Believers or unbelievers? He is writing to believers, the Church, in Rome. Neither the recipients of his letter would have taken from this text that Paul was instructing unbelievers to pray a prayer in order to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, nor would his readers have received Paul’s teaching as a suggestion, much less a mandate, to lead the unsaved in a “sinner’s prayer.”
I have never met one legitimate theologian who suggests that Paul’s words in Romans 10:9-10 is an example of either a “sinner’s prayer” or a suggestion that believers are to lead unbelievers in such a prayer, or to “ask Jesus into their heart.” In fact, there is no place in the Bible where it says we “ask Jesus into our hearts”. Such statements are denominational teaching operating outside the confines of Scripture.
It is also interesting to note how Paul switches the ideas of confession and believing, from verse 9 to verse 10. Paul makes it clear that justification by faith (Romans 1:17) comes before confession. Justification does not come as a result of confession.
Both verbs in Romans 10:10, “believeth” and “confession,” are in the present-passive-indicative in the text. This means that those who are truly born again will continue to believe by faith and they will continue to confess Jesus as Lord. The wording in Romans 10:10 in no way whatsoever supports the notion of praying a “one-time” prayer as a means of receiving salvation and the gift of eternal life.
Romans 10:10 ends with these words: “…and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the pattern of the born-again follower of Christ. Those who are saved, those who will forever be saved, are those who confess Jesus as Lord — not as a means of salvation, but as evidence that the salvation to which they cling has been wrought by God and secured in heaven by Him for all eternity. Those persons who claim to be Christians, but do not confess Jesus as Lord, as a regular course and pattern of their lives, should examine themselves to see if they are even in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Honestly, do you believe all of the above could be discerned in a 5, 10, or 15 minute encounter? I hope not.
Walking an aisle in response to the emotional and caring invitation of a pastor does not save anyone. Asking Jesus into one’s heart does not save anyone. Writing the date in the back of one’s Bible to commemorate the day a decision was made to follow Jesus does not save anyone. And praying a prayer does not save anyone.
Zealots need to be very careful about attempting to add another notch in their Bible and not urge someone to recite a prayer without understanding sin, salvation and eternal security and have them put their hope in that, so as to be saved. In that sense, the “Sinner’s Prayer” has done a great disservice to Christ and the untold millions of people who, as a result of praying a prayer, but never being converted, will one day hear Jesus say, “I never knew you…”