The Sinner’s Prayer as espoused today is not what we find in Scripture. But the sinner must pray. Isaiah said, Seek the LORD while He may be found” (Isa. 55:6). I don’t believe that a prayer is all that is required to be saved, but I believe getting saved begins with a prayer. Cornelius was praying and God heard him so that He would be saved at the preaching of Peter (Acts 11:14).
Saul (Paul) was praying – with fasting – for three days before he got washed and saved (Acts 22:16). Do sinners need to pray for salvation? Sure. I do not believe that the “sinner’s prayer” doctrine as taught by men is in scripture, but I find that all salvation begins with men calling on God. Joel said, “And everyone that calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The Judges record that God responded and delivered Israel from bondage whenever they cried to Him.
I have studied with many people over the years. And without fail, those who followed Christ always relate that they first sought after God. Personally, I remember that I was desperate for answers to life. I had tried being happy and everything seemed to lead to a dead end. And so I sought God. Before becoming a Christian, prior to the moment that God cleansed me by His saving grace at repentance and baptism, I got me a Bible and I prayed over the Scriptures to understand them and to do His will. God answered that prayer.
We who are in the Truth need to further emphasize the importance of prayer in our lives. Romans says in the Gospel “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” That last part, the “faith to faith” part is a theological point that from the beginning to the end of our salvation, it is by faith that we are saved – faith to faith. And when Christians sin, they need to and they must talk to God. God’s salvation is for those who pray to Him. Prayer leads to salvation, prayer is integral to salvation, prayer keeps us in God’s grace. Simon the Christian, formerly “the Sorcerer”, fell into sin and was strongly rebuked by the Apostles. To get back into God’s grace he was told to repent and pray. John the Apostle writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9).
Are you not yet a Christian. Begin praying and seeking the Lord. You will find the Truth and you will be saved. Acts 2 says “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). Seventeen verses later, after the people were pricked to respond, the people were told to “repent and let each of ye be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Peter did not contradict himself. The conclusion from this narrative in Acts 2 is that through repenting and being baptized, the sinner asks God to save. And God is faithful to answer the prayer. Similarly, in Acts 22:16 after Paul had been praying for three days, Ananias was sent to him by the Lord and Ananias told Saul that he would be a witness for Jesus Christ of the things he had seen and heard. Then Ananias said, “Why do you delay? Arise and be baptized (immersion is the only correct mode for a burial, DM) and wash away thy sins, CALLING ON HIS NAME.” I emphasize the last part of that verse to show what Acts 2 said that at Christian baptism, a person is calling on God for salvation. Saul was not saved through three days of praying. That was necessary praying and God surely heard. God said to Ananias, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, FOR HE IS PRAYING” (Acts 9:11). The way God heard the prayers of Cornelius, who “prayed to God continually”, and who was told by the angel that “your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God”, would not be saved for a few days when he would hear the Gospel and respond by believing and being baptized (Acts 10:47; cf Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38).
I will close by asking all to reject the denominational doctrine called “the sinner’s prayer” because it really cheapens the true faith and causes many people to stop short of fully responding to God’s appeal. If you want to be saved and to stay saved, for sure, begin the dialogue with God. But remember that saving faith is obedient (Rom. 1:5; 16:26). If you want to ask Jesus into your heart, then do what he said. “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved…” (Mk. 16:16)
Where in the Bible is the ‘Sinner’s Prayer’?
God Hears the Prayer for Salvation