part of the what is truth? series

The sinner’s prayer is something frequently referred to by preachers today. At the close of every sermon, Joel Osteen asks those that are not saved to pray with him. 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 don’t mean to single him out. In fact, 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?"

There is literally no passage that describes a “sinner’s prayer” or any prayer related to or connected with one’s being saved or converted. The only passage used to justify such a prayer1 actually qualifies “calling on the Lord” not as any sort of prayer. Rather, Paul 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 in Paul’s own conversion. There is no such thing as a “sinner’s prayer” in Scripture! And take heed, Jesus actually warns that there will be those that think they are justified in “calling on the name of the Lord”, but they will be condemned3.

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