Speaking the Truth in Love

Speaking the Truth in Love

Sinner's Prayer

   A. "The Sinner's Prayer" is a common Protestant denominational
      appeal and plan of salvation. It is often presented at the end 
      of the service when people want to know how to be forgiven of  
      their sins in order to be saved. The words may vary but the    
      elements are usually the same. The assurance is given that if  
      they say these words sincerely, God will save them.
   B. Where Did It Come From?
      1. It is important to establish that the Sinner's Prayer is not
         from the Scriptures.
      2. Nowhere in the New Testament is anyone told to pray to
         receive salvation and become a Christian.
      3. Since the Sinner's Prayer doesn't come from God's Word, it  
         must have originated with men.

   A. Mourner's Seat - 1700s
      1. In 1730's and 1740's a preacher named, Eleazar Wheelock used
         a technique called the Mourner's Seat. 
      2. He would target sinners by having them sit in the front     
         bench (pew). During his sermon he would tell these front    
         row sinners that "salvation was looming over their          
      3. After his sermon those in the hot seat were usually open    
         to further counsel and exhortation. False conversions       
         were multiplied.
   B. Cane Ridge Revival - 1801 called Second Great Awakening
      1. In Cane Ridge Kentucky a  "revival" lasted for weeks.
      2. In response to the preaching, the intense heat and long
         periods without food people rolled in the aisles, barked    
         liked dogs and became delirious. 
      3. All of these responses were said to be the Holy Spirit. 
      4. One wonders whether people affected their reactions to
         escape the long periods of preaching.
   C. The Anxious Seat - Mid-1800s
      1. Charles Grandison Finney (1792 - 1875) took Eleazar
         Wheelock's "Mourner's Seat" and renamed it the "Anxious
         Seat" and developed a conversion system around it.
      2. Finney wrote about his system. "The church has always felt  
         it necessary to have something of this kind to answer this  
         very purpose. In the days of the apostles, baptism answered 
         this purpose. The gospel was preached to the people, and    
         then all those who were willing to be on the side of Christ,
         were called out to be baptized. It held the place that the  
         anxious seat does now as a public manifestation of their
         determination to be Christians."
      3. Many accepted Finney's "Anxious Seat" and others objected. 
      4. The practice was essentially a psychological technique. It
         manipulated people's emotions to make a tearful profession
         of faith without a true conversion. Its success was         
         dependent upon the ability of the preacher to stir up his 
         audience's emotions.
      5. John Nevin, a Protestant minister, wrote a book called The
         Anxious Bench. He described Finney's Anxious Seat as
         "heresy," a "Babel of extravagance" "fanaticism," and
   D. The Inquiry Room & Prayer - Late 1800s to Early 1900s
      1. In the 1860s Dwight Moody (1837 -1899) took Finney's
         Anxious Seat and modified it. Moody asked those who
         responded to his message to join him and his counselors in a
         room called the "Inquiry Room."
      2. In the Inquiry Room some questions were asked, some
         Scripture was read and then counselors prayed with potential
         converts. Prayer was considered the last step of Moody's
         conversion process.
      3. R. A. Torrey succeeded Moody in 1899 and he modified
         Moody's system to include "on the spot" street conversions.
         Torrey's method made popular instant salvation with no
         strings attached.
   E. Billy Sunday Popularizes "Crusades" - Early 1900s
      1. Billy Sunday was a well known baseball player from Iowa.
         After a conversion experience in a Dwight Moody Chicago
         mission, Billy left baseball to preach.
      2. Billy Sunday was a very popular and entertaining speaker.
         He preached fire-and-brimstone sermons with a great deal of
         antics, showmanship and humor.
      3. Sunday preached that one could be saved by simply walking
         down his tent's "sawdust trail" to the front where he was
         standing. Later people were said to be saved if they       
         publicly shook Sunday's hand and said that they would follow
   F. Sinner's Prayer - 1940s to Present
      1. Billy Graham became the next big crusade preacher.
      2. Graham used counselors to tell those who responded to his   
         "altar call" to pray. 
      3. Graham's conversion method began with a prayer from what
         he called His "Four Steps to Peace with God." This          
         originated from a tract called "Four Things God Wants You to
         Know" 50 years earlier.
      4. In the 1950s Bill Bright coined the expression "The Four
         Spiritual Laws" which ended with the so called "Sinner's
         Prayer."  "Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on
         the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and       
         receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving  
         my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the     
         throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to

II. Passages Used to Support the Sinner's Prayer.
   A. John 1:11-13
      1. For years many denominational teachers have used the phrases
         "just receive Christ into your heart" and "Trust Jesus as   
         your Personal savior." The method of doing this is often
         the "Sinner's Prayer."
      2. "Even in his own land and among his own people, the Jews,
         he was not accepted. Only a few welcome and received him.
         But to all who received him, he gave the right to become
         children of God. All they needed to do was to trust him to
         save them. All those who believe this are reborn!" (John    
         1:11-12 Living Bible)
      3. While we are to trust in Jesus and receive Jesus by faith   
         into our hearts, nowhere do the Scriptures say that's all 
         one needs to do to be saved.
   B. Revelation 3:20
      1. Consider how this passage is misused as a basis of
         evangelizing Christians. "Here is a promise of Union to
         Christ; in these words, I will come in to him. i.e. If any
         Sinner will but hear my Voice and open the Door, and
         receive me by Faith, I will come into his Soul, and unite   
         him to me, and make him a living member of that my mystical
         body of which I am the Head" (John Webb, Christ's Suit to
         the Sinner, p. 14, mid 1700s).
      2. Many denominational preachers base their plea to sinners "to
         let Jesus come into your heart" upon this passage.
      3. Jesus' words are not to those lost in sin and outside of    
         Christ, but to lukewarm Christians. Rev. 3:14-20
      4. This passage cannot be used to appeal to those who are not
   C. Romans 10:9-10
      1. Notice that nothing in this passage mentions praying for
         salvation or a Sinner's Prayer.
      2. What it does say is one must confess Jesus as the Lord and
         believe from one's heart that God raised up Jesus from the
      3. If one argues that this passage states the only things
         necessary for one to be saved, he would have a problem.
      4. There is no mention of recognizing one is a sinner. 
      5. There is no mention of repentance or turning from sin. Jesus
         said, "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all
         likewise perish." (Lk. 13:3).
      6. And there is no mention of baptism for removing sin. Jesus  
         also said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved;  
         but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mk. 16:16)
      7. Belief and confession are unto salvation or lead to         
         salvation, but salvation is not complete until one truly   
         repents of his sins and is baptized into Christ for the   
         remission of his sins.
   D. Rom. 10:13
      1. This text is not instructing prayer for salvation.
      2. Paul is quoting a promise of the Old Testament about the
         availability of salvation with the coming of Christ.
      3. The action of "calling on the name of the Lord" does not
         refer to prayer but belief and obedience to the commands of
         the Lord. 
      4. Calling on the name of the Lord includes:
         a. Belief (Rom. 10:9)
         b. Confession (Rom. 10:9)
         c. Repentance (Acts 2:21, 37-38)
         d. And baptism (Acts 22:16).
   E. Luke 18:13-14
      1. Is this an example of the Sinner's Prayer that saves and
         makes one a Christian?
      2. This prayer was offered by a Jew who lived under the Law of
         a. As a Jew he would have already been a child of God.
         b. As a Jew he was in covenant to God.
         c. As a Jew he could pray and receive forgiveness for his
            sins from God.
         d. As a Jew he lived before the death of Christ and the
            offering of salvation through Christ.
      3. The prayer of the tax collector is not an example of a      
         prayer that a sinner might pray today to be saved.

III. No One Was Ever Told To Say the Sinner's Prayer To Be Saved.
   A. Those on Pentecost. Acts 2:37
      1. Did Peter say, "Just say the Sinner's Prayer and you shall  
         be saved from your sins and become a Christian."?
      2. Yet, that is exactly what you will hear over and over again
         from so many preachers.
      3. Why can't these denominational preachers simply give the
         answer Peter gave in Acts 2:38?
      4. The reason so many denominational preachers can't give
         people Peter's answer is they don't believe it!
   B. The Samaritans and Simon. Acts 8:5-6,12-13
      1. Was it, "And when they believed Philip's preaching, they
         prayed the "Sinner's Prayer" and received Jesus into their
         hearts and were saved?"
      2. The modern preaching "crusades" go out preaching Christ.
      3. What happens when people believe the preaching?
      4. What are they told? They are told to pray to get salvation,
         but this is not what Philip preached to the Samaritans.
   C. The Ethiopian eunuch. Acts 8:34-35
      1. And after preaching Jesus, the eunuch wanted to know how
         to become saved. And Philip said, "If you pray the Sinner's
         Prayer and ask Jesus to come into your heart, you may." And
         right there in the chariot as they rode down the road the
         eunuch said the Sinner's Prayer and received Jesus into his
         heart and was saved?
      2. How many times do preachers today tell people that
         wherever they are they can be saved by simply saying the
         Sinner's Prayer?
      3. Doesn't it seem strange that we hear so much about the
         Sinner's Prayer today and yet we don't read about it in the
         New Testament, and Philip didn't preach it here when it
         would have been most convenient. 
      4. (Acts 8:36-39)
         a. When Philip preached Jesus he didn't preach the
            Sinner's Prayer, he preached baptism.
         b. Why didn't Philip tell the eunuch to pray for salvation?
         c. He would not have had to stop the chariot.
         d. He would not have had to go down into the water.
         e. He would not have had to get wet.
   D. Saul of Tarsus.
      1. The account of Saul's conversion is found in three places 
         (Acts 9, 22 & 26).
      2. Saul was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus.
      3. Saul had arrest warrants to arrest Christians to bring them
         back to Jerusalem for trial and to be put to death.
      4. On the road to Damascus he was blinded by a great light.
         And the Lord appeared to him.
      5. "So he, trembling and astonished, said, 'Lord, what do You
         want me to do?" (Acts 9:6) and the Lord said "Saul, Saul
         why haven't you prayed to me and said the Sinner's Prayer?"
      6. Then the Lord said to him, Arise and go into the city, and
         you will be told what you must do" (Acts 9:6).
      7. Saul went into Damascus and for three days Saul did not eat
         food or drink and he prayed (Acts 9:9,11).
      8. If there was ever anyone who should have been saved by
         prayer it should have been Saul!
      9. But the Lord sent Ananias to Saul to tell him what to do as
         He had promised Saul. 
         a. And Ananias said "And now why are you waiting? Get
            down on your knees and pray the Sinner's Prayer to
            wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord"?
         b. Ananias said "And now why are you waiting? Arise and
            be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the
            name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16).
            (1) Saul was told to arise, not get down on his knees.
            (2) Saul was told to be baptized to wash away his sins.
            (3) The act of being baptized was the act of calling on  
                the name of the Lord.
      10. Even after three days of praying Saul was still in his   
          sins and in need of cleansing.

   A. If you have not yet become a Christian, and want to do so, do  
      not pray the sinner's prayer.
   B. Instead, obey the gospel just as those people did as recorded  
      in the book of Acts.
      1. As Ananias told Saul, "And now why are you waiting? Arise
         and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the
         name of the Lord." (