Now I am not talking about a genuine, honest prayer that a repentant sinner prays in his own words to ask a Holy Just God to save them from their sins and ask for mercy. "The Sinner's Prayer" I am talking about is an unbiblical teaching that was created during the 1950's by Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ and author of Share Jesus Without Fear. This concept in which a person could repeat a prayer by a person leading them and that the person repeating would be saved. This is also called in some circles, "Decisional Regeneration." No one, and I mean no one is saved because they prayed a prayer. It is not reciting the words or a phrase that saves anyone. We are saved by grace through faith and it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Let's put it this way, if a person has to repeat a prayer to get saved, it shows several things.
The Person Does Not Understand The GospelIf the person has no clue what to pray or why they are even praying in the first place, chances are they do not understand what the gospel is. One time I asked a person what they thought the gospel was, and they told me it was a type of Christian music. That may be true, but it's like the difference between an elephant trunk and a car trunk. Both are trunks, but different types. Instead of using the "Sinner's Prayer", explain the gospel to the person you are witnessing to and make sure they understand it. When we pray we need to pray with understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15). Qualify them and ask them questions to see if they know what they are doing.
They May Not Understand What Repentance Is or the Need For ItOne time I was witnessing with a newbie and he asked the person he was sharing with, "Are you a sinner? Do you need forgiveness?" and the person said he was a good person and didn't need to be forgiven for anything. So my witnessing partner said, "Ok, well if you repeat this prayer after me you can be forgiven and be right with God." and the person agreed. Hold the phone Henrietta! This person just said he did not need forgiveness and does not understand the seriousness of his sin and how it affects his standing with a Holy and just God.
It Gives The Person Praying a False Sense of Security When He May Not Really Have It.If the well-intentioned evangelist after praying the prayer with the person and says to him, "Well congratulations, you are now a child of God. Welcome to the family brother/sister Christian." and the person goes away thinking he is ok, when he may not be. That person then thinks they have "fire insurance" or a "get-out-of-hell-free card" and that is all Jesus is to them. They go on sinning and their lives do not change because they think they are ok.
The problem with this is that it's not our job to assure the sinner of forgiveness, but the Holy Spirit. According to Ephesians 1:13 the Holy Spirit is given by God as the promise or IOU note that they are saved and will receive the promises of heaven. To be honest...sometimes I have a hard time telling who is saved and who is not. I have experienced many times that people who have gone witnessing with me over the years, hard core fearless laborers, just walk away from the faith and say they love something else more than Jesus. That is frightening to me. It doesn't mean that they lost their salvation...but rather they didn't have it to begin with (1 John 2:19).
Do Not Be Deceived!
The reality is that not everyone who calls himself a Christian really is (Matthew 7:21). That's a sobering thought. But one that we need to consider. People claim to be many things in this world. They claim to be a good person (Psalm 14; 53); claim to love God (1 John 4:20); they claim to know God (1 John 4), and so on. Most of the time it's not that we are playing the hypocrite or pretending to be a Christian when we are not. It's that we are deceived in thinking we genuinely are when we are really not. The bible warns us "not to be deceived" many times (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 1:6, Galatians 6:7; James 1:16), but to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (Lamentations 3:40; 1 Corinthians 11:28; and 2 Corinthians 13:5).
So let us continually examine our hearts and always be in prayer diligently searching the scriptures to see what God expects of us, and how we can draw closer to Him each and every day. In an upcoming blog post I will share some scriptures and help you understand what it means to be in the faith to see if you truly are a child of God.