The sinner’s prayer is something frequently referred to by preachers today. Joel Osteen asks those who are not saved to pray with him at the close of every sermon. The prayer is asking Jesus to “come into their lives.” He might also ask them to raise their hand in the air (for dramatic effect?).

He’s certainly not alone in this and we don’t mean to necessarily single him out. The idea of a “sinner’s prayer” or a “salvation prayer” is widespread. Wikipedia documents several examples including from Billy Graham. “Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen.”

How Scripture answers "How is the sinner’s prayer used in scripture?"

Not a single passage describes a “sinner’s prayer” or any prayer related to or connected with one’s being saved or converted. The only passage most used to justify such a prayer1 actually qualifies “calling on the Lord” not as any sort of prayer. Rather, Paul1 ties it to belief (heart) and confession (mouth). Further, we see the phrase used again by Paul2 to describe the ongoing worship that the saved engage in as a local church. Indeed, we can go to other passages to see a more complete definition, including Paul’s own conversion. There is no such thing as a “sinner’s prayer” in Scripture! And take heed, Jesus warns that there will be those who think they are justified in “calling on the name of the Lord”, but they will be condemned3.

If you were “saved” by praying a prayer, please reconsider what God says — not what Joel Osteen or Billy Graham say — about how one comes into a relationship with Him. He knows better than any preacher or so-called “Pastor”. Read for yourself in His Word (we suggest the book of Acts). Or, consider what we’ve assembled from His word about salvation with their supporting scripture-blocks.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Anyone that “calls on the Lord” will be saved.

Paul’s letter to Gentiles primarily, arguing their equal inclusion/access to God. However, he also speaks to his kinsmen (Jews) stating his desire for them to be saved as well (vs 1). He goes on to say they are zealous for God but without knowledge…specifically knowledge of His word (vs 8). He then says they need to believe with their heart and confess with their mouth in order to be saved – all of which seems to be summarized into “calling on the name of the Lord” in vs 10.

The verses immediately following lay out the process — “How then will they call on Him…”  (vs 14) and proceeds to walk through what leads someone to “call on the Lord.”  The prerequisites are first hearing (someone being sent to preach) and then believing/obeying the gospel message.

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul says that the saved is anyone who “calls on the name of the Lord”.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

In this context, “calling on his name” is confessing that Jesus is the Christ (obviously, after one believes that He is the Christ). There is no “prayer” mentioned in this context at all.

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Salutation to the church in Corinth, those sanctified in Christ and all those that “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul’s introduction to his letter to the church in Corinth. Just after this Paul says, “I give thanks to my God always for you…” (vs 4)

Scripture-block application to this question

It’s evident in Paul’s use of “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” in his address to the church in Corinth that it means worship — all ongoing worship that the saints in Corinth, and indeed any congregation (“every place”) would engage in.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many powerful deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’

Not everyone who appeals to me will enter the kingdom of heaven; only the one that obeys my Father’s will.  On that [judgment] day, many will claim they did good works in my name, but I will denounce them saying, “I never knew you. Go away from me, lawbreakers!”

Jesus’ conclusion of his sermon on the mount (chapters 5-7). He goes on to give the illustration of the wise man – the one that does the things he hears from Jesus – versus the foolish man – the one that hears but does nothing.
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus says that on the last day there will be those claiming that they called out to Him and even did miraculous things in His name, yet He will tell them to depart.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

The point Jesus makes is that one must do or act on (e.g. be obedient) the things Jesus says in order to be proven faithful in the end.

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