Across the world sinners listen while preachers declare the story of Christ. They wait patiently as the sermon closes, wondering what God wants them to do in order to obtain salvation. Unfortunately, most preachers are telling them to pray for salvation. The sinner is told something like this: "You need to pray to God, confessing you are a sinner, ask Christ into your heart as your personal Savior and ask him to forgive your sins." Such prayers may seem beautiful and sincere, but they will not procure salvation and forgiveness of sins. There are a number of scriptural reasons that demonstrate this fact and reveal the sinner s prayer for salvation is not God s will.
First, the sinner s prayer is not God s will because the Bible teaches that God does not answer the sinner s prayer. In John 9:31 the Bible says, "Now we know that GOD HEARETH NOT SINNERS: but if any man be a worshiper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth." This very clear statement was made by a blind man who had been healed by Jesus. The Pharisees could not abide the idea of Jesus being perceived as a healer and a righteous man so they accused him of being a sinner. This prompted the blind man s statement about the sinner s prayer. If Jesus had been a sinner as the Pharisees charged, God would not have answered his prayer because God does not hear (answer) sinners. Therefore, Jesus must have been a godly man since God answered his prayer. When a sinner prays to God today for salvation, will God hear and answer their plea for salvation? According to John 9:31, such a prayer will not be answered by God!
Though the words of John 9:31 were not spoken by Jesus himself, they are true just the same. The statement was based on teachings from other scriptures. One such passage is Proverbs 28:9 where the Bible says, "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, EVEN HIS PRAYER SHALL BE ABOMINATION." One who is in sin, who has consistently turned away from God s law, their prayer is an abomination to God! Will God answer such a prayer? Will God answer a prayer that is an abomination to him?
Proverbs 28:9 is not the only passage where this is taught. In Psalms 109:7 David discussed the sinner when he said, "...let his prayer become SIN." According to David, the prayer of the wicked was sin! What has been noted up to this point surely proves that God does not answer the sinner s prayer.
Second, the sinner s prayer is not God s will because it is not the plan inspired men of God commanded the sinner to follow. Please note Acts 2:36-38 where Peter had been preaching to the Jews on the day of Pentecost. As he spoke to this multitude of sinners he convicted them of murdering the Christ. In verses 36-37 the Bible says, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
Having been convicted of their sinfulness, these Jews wanted to correct their standing with God. What did Peter tell them to do? Did Peter tell them to pray? Did he tell them to ask Christ into their heart as their personal Savior? In verse 38 the Bible tells us what Peter said: "Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." He told them to repent and be baptized. When sinners asked an APOSTLE what to do about their sins, he said NOTHING ABOUT THE SINNER S PRAYER! This is because a sinner s prayer is not the plan God has prescribed for the sinner s salvation! Since the sinner s prayer is not God s plan for salvation, it is fair to ask; WHY ARE PREACHERS PREACHING THE SINNER S PRAYER TODAY!?
Third, the sinner s prayer is not God s plan for the sinner to obtain forgiveness of sin because it did not obtain forgiveness of sin for Saul (the Apostle Paul). In Acts 9 we have record of Saul s journey to Damascus during which Jesus appeared to him. Saul asked Jesus what he would have him to do. He was told to go to Damascus and wait there for further instruction. While waiting in the city, the Lord spoke to a Christian named Ananias. In Acts 9:11 Jesus told Ananias, "Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for behold, he prayeth." Please take note of the fact that while Saul was awaiting instruction, he prayed. He prayed FOR THREE DAYS while he waited to find what to do about his sin.
In Paul s recounting of these events in Acts 22:16 when Ananias spoke to him he said, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Please note that after THREE DAYS OF PRAYING this sinner STILL HAD HIS SINS! All his praying didn t wash them away. For his sins to be washed away he had to be baptized! Therefore, the sinner s prayer is not God s plan because in the case of Saul the sinner, praying to God didn t take away his sin.
The Bible clearly teaches the sinner s prayer is not God s will for the sinner to obtain salvation. However, the case of Cornelius supplies an example of a sinner praying to God and his prayer being recognized by God. Does this contradict what has already been learned? Did God make a special exception with Cornelius? In Acts 10 there is record of the story of Cornelius and his conversion. Cornelius was a praying man (Acts 10:1-2), and in Acts 10:31 Peter told him, "...thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God." Is this an example of God hearing the sinner s prayer for salvation and granting salvation based on that prayer? Absolutely not!
God was not answering the prayers of Cornelius by giving him salvation. Cornelius was an upright man who prayed often. God appreciated the prayers he prayed and the life he lived. In Acts 10:4 an angel said, "...Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God." The fact that God noticed these prayers is no sign that he saved him because of those prayers any more than God s appreciation of his uprightness is a sign that he saved him by those works!
In fact, Acts 11:14 records him being told (after praying) that he should call for Peter "...who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved." You see, Cornelius had never heard the story of Jesus. How could he have been saved by prayer without hearing of Christ? The fact is, he wasn t saved until he heard the story of Christ and obeyed the Gospel.
This happened in Acts 10:48 where Peter "...commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." This is the same command Peter gave to the Jews in Acts 2:38. This, not the sinner s prayer, is God s plan for the sinner to obtain salvation.
Prayer is a privilege that is reserved for those who are Christians. In James 5:16 the Bible says to Christians, Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN availeth much. It is the prayer of the righteous, not the sinner, that obtains God s favor and blessing. When a Christian falls into sin, prayer is God s blessing to offer rescue from this fallen state. But God never commanded the alien sinner, one who has never become a Christian, to pray for salvation from sin.
Did you once pray the sinner s prayer? Are you expecting God to save you on the basis of that prayer? Surely you can see this is not God s plan. Surely you can see you have not taken the proper steps for your salvation. God wants to save you but it must be on HIS terms. God s terms are clearly stated in Acts 2:38. "Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." While there is still opportunity, take these steps and God will wash away your sins.