“There will be plenty of people in hell who said the sinner’s prayer.”
That’s what I told the host of a nationally broadcasted Christian radio program when he tried to force a reluctant caller to “just say this prayer” to be saved. To the host’s chagrin, I intervened (and for some reason haven’t been invited back since)!
A lot of bad theology is hidden behind the phrase, “Just say this prayer and you’ll be saved.” Think about these Scriptural realities:
-Jesus never led anyone through a sinner’s prayer.
-The disciples didn’t either.
-Nor did the Apostle Paul.
The Sinner’s Prayer is the Bigfoot of the Bible, talked about a lot, but nowhere to be found. This yakking Yeti doesn’t even leave a fake footprint.
Listen to this zinger Jesus shot in Matthew 7:21 about those who think they can just say the right words and be saved, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
And what is the Father’s will? Jesus answers that question clearly in John 6:40, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Saying a prayer is not believing in Christ, believing in Christ is believing in Christ. Now, having said that, somebody may be expressing their faith in Jesus in the form of a prayer, which is great! But just saying “the magic words” (a.k.a. “Lord! Lord!”) doesn’t save anyone.
Many “just say these words” defense attorneys turn to Romans 10:9-10 to make their case, “…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
But it’s hard for me to believe that, if saying a prayer is essential for salvation, God would confine this command to just one passage of Scripture. And it’s impossible for me to believe that, if saying a prayer is required for salvation, that some form of Sinner’s Prayers wouldn’t be sprinkled across the Gospels and the book of Acts.