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.
I. FROM HISTORY.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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." (