Birthmark of a Christian: The Sinner’s Prayer

After publishing the first birthmark of a Christian, confession, I had a witnessing experience, where after a lady from Jamaica prayed (what some would call a Sinner’s Prayer), she said she felt the same as before.  I felt it didn’t work, but it should work!  She had been in church for 18 years, but was not saved.  She admitted she was not going to heaven, so I used the training God has given me over the past year, attempting to lead her to the first steps of Christianity, Christ and Him crucified. 

In the birthmark of confession, I learned of an example for the Hebrew word confession (Yadah) and knowing (Yada), and concluded with the Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew, that confession as used by Paul in Romans 10:8-13 was “a covenant between two people or between a King [God] and his people and was considered to be a relationship that could not be broken.”  An everlasting covenant to give thanks, and to praise. 

What happened, or did not happen with the lady from Jamaica?  Two nights before, I had the awesome privilege of leading an older Jewish man to Christ.  He was so concerned he was shaking, and in going through scriptures, He grabbed my hands and said, can we pray now for salvation?  I led him in a “Sinner’s Prayer”, and immediately after the prayer, I hugged him.  I am usually not that emotional in front of someone, but this was an immediate impulse of love and what God had done for Him.   

This experience with the lady from Jamaica troubled me.  This was also not the first time I have experienced someone going through the prayer and they reporting nothing happened.  When I first started witnessing for Christ, I had a serious prayer time with God concerning the Sinner’s Prayer.  In my personal experience, I had prayed it many times, and never got saved.  Other solid Christian friends have reported the same, that their experience was one of strong conviction by the Holy Spirit, and a crying out to God, a surrender to Him.  

Should I even use this “canned” prayer?  When I give an invitation for the person, I will ask, how do we talk to God?  We pray.  I will explain the Sinner’s Prayer, and that I can lead them in prayer, or they can pray by themselves.  The words of the Sinner’s Prayer are a summary of the scriptures I have showed them, and it is not so much the words, but one opening their heart to God.  I will ask them if they understand what they are doing and if they have questions.  If I lead the prayer, I will tell them the Holy Spirit will give me the words, which are different each time, but are basically, admitting you are a sinner, turning (repenting Isaiah 55:7) to God for the forgiveness of sin, believing Jesus Christ died, was buried and rose again for the their sin.  They pray making a surrender, a commitment to Him, but at the end of some Sinner’s Prayer examples, it says, “Thank you Lord for saving my soul.”   

I will not and cannot lead someone to say “Thank you Lord for saving my soul” for I do not know if He did or not.  This is a special moment between the person and God.  In my prayer and wrestling over this, God impressed on me the following:  The prayer is okay, it is a summary; however, at the end of leading a prayer for salvation, I want you to pause, to no longer lead the prayer, and let them pray to me in their own way, and He will take over.  I found great relief in this response from God.   

The technicalities of the prayer, and the method I deliver, does not really matter.  In reading through arguments for and against the prayer, I think there is a generally understanding that is of the utmost importance – salvation is from God, and no amount of prayer, or a precision and accuracy of words will automatically “trigger” salvation. 

Here is one argument against the sinner’s prayer, although this person did vote for the approval of the Sinner’s Prayer in a Southern Baptist convention in 2012.   

A specific “sinner’s prayer,” is not found in the Bible, he maintained.

“If they see God for who He is, their sin for what it is, themselves for who they are, and Christ for who He is and what He has done, then by the grace of God through the Spirit of God they are more than able to call out in repentance and faith…so let them do so.” 

The believer should also be willing to let the person be alone with God, in some cases. 

I think both sides of the argument understand, it is God’s responsibility to save people, and He will!  This is God’s will, that none should perish but have everlasting life – John 3:16.  Each person’s experience is different, which is Biblical.  Just go through the 15+ examples in book of Acts, which is basically, Believe, Repent, and be baptized.  When they received the Holy Spirit is different, which is a different study. 

In being a witness for Christ, I have to trust God, and this is the bottom line.  I understand this is hard, and as humans and in this day and age, we want to capture a “legalistic” document or doctrine, instead of relying on God.  He will draw the sinner, He will send His messengers, His Holy Spirit convicts of sin, judgment and righteousness to come, and the blood of Jesus cleans them.  Where is my part or anyone’s part in this?  To be His witness that He is God and what He has done. 

Although I did not discuss baptism, I feel this is an important part of the Christian faith, and after the first steps to Christianity, I will tell the person they will want to be baptized.  This is usually not an issue, unless the person is from a different religion where they had already been baptized.  I will tell them, if God wants you to be baptized again, he will continually convict you to do so. 

 In conclusion, I will trust in His Word, His Holy Spirit to guide me, His training in prayer time and witnessing experiences.  In the end, it is only by His grace and mercy that anyone has eternal life.  It is His will and His responsibility, and I will trust in Him for what He has done, does and will do.  Thank you Jesus.

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