Many people teach that one simply needs to pray the sinner’s prayer to be saved. And when you tell them that we do not read in the scriptures of accepting Jesus as your personal savior, they may respond that they have prayed the sinner’s prayer. So where would we go with this? Where does it teach that simply praying saves someone? Some use Luke 18:13 as a proof text. In this passage we read of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The tax collector says, “be merciful to me, a sinner.” In verse 14 Jesus says that this tax collector was justified and not the Pharisee. Is this then the formula the Lord left us with for salvation? A couple of points need to be made.
First, notice verse 9. What we are reading is a parable. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Therefore the story uses something we can relate to, but it is making a spiritual point. What is the spiritual point of this parable? Verse 14 tells us. “Everyone who exalts himself will be abased and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Is Jesus teaching what to do to be saved? No, He is teaching the heart that is required to receive justification. The Pharisee had a heart of look at all the things that he had done. The tax collector had a heart that recognized that he was undeserving and needed mercy. It is only that kind of heart that will receive justification.
Further, where do we see any person offering a prayer and being saved? I would expect to find it if it was the case. In Acts 8:38 why didn’t the eunuch simply pray to the Lord to be saved? Because that is not how one is saved. In Acts 10:4 we see that Cornelius has been praying about salvation. Why didn’t the angel simply say that he was saved since he prayed? Because he couldn’t be. Acts 11:14 tells us that he still needed to hear the words to know what to do to be saved. How about Lydia in Acts 16:13 who was down by the river with other women praying? Why wasn’t she simply saved by praying? Because praying does not save and no one will find any example of any unbeliever being saved by prayer alone. Yet the world says we need to simply say a prayer.
Various Sinner’s Prayers
I would like for you to notice one person’s idea of the sinner’s prayer. This was on the internet. It said to be saved you need to say these words:
“Dear God, I confess that I am a sinner and am sorry for all the wrongs that I have done. I believe that your Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross for my sins. Please forgive me and I invite you, Jesus, to come into my heart and life as Lord and Savior. I commit and trust my life to you. Please give me the want to be what you want me to be and the want to do what you want me to do. Thank you for dying for my sins, for your free pardon, for your gift of eternal life, and for hearing and answering prayer. Amen.”
A website says that this is what you must say to be saved. Where does the Bible say this? Look at each of these statements and show me where in all the examples of conversion we read any person saying even one sentence of this thing! You will not find it.
Even more troubling to me, is if we are going to believe that saying certain words will save us, then why is it that everyone has a different “sinner’s prayer?” How is it that all the other websites say something complete different? Does it matter what words I say or not? If the words matter, then we ought to be saying the same thing. We ought to go to the scriptures, find the words we need to say, then make sure everyone says them so as to be saved. If the words do not matter, that is just is simply a good heart responding, then why wasn’t Cornelius already saved in Acts 10? We read that he was a devout man, feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always (Acts 10:2). He should have already been saved, but he was not.
The point is that we never read that saying words alone can save us. In fact, the Bible teaches the opposite. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus said that the people who only say words will not be saved. Only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of heaven. James goes further in James 2:19 telling us that even the demons believe and tremble. Yet we obviously know that demons are not saved. The Bible teaches emphatically that words do not save. If words only save, then where is the need for repentance? Where is the need for confession of sins? Where is the need for living faithful to the word of God? Where is baptism for the forgiveness of sins? Where is the need for loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? There is no room for them if prayer only saves. Let us do what the Bible says for salvation, not what man says for salvation