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What’s Wrong With The Sinner’s Prayer by A.W. Tozer

Can you also try and imagine this scene where Jesus is leading some new “disciples” in the “sinner’s prayer”?

“Wow! There are so many that came forward for salvation tonight!” (The multitude applauds.) “Now, it’s very simple. You just repeat this little prayer after Me, and then you’re a Christian! Now it doesn’t really matter whether you fully understand the prayer…it works just the same. Now ready? Repeat after Me… Dear Jesus…Come into my heart…” and so on…

As you can see, when we try to picture Jesus Himself using our modern methods of evangelism, it seems completely foolish. I think this is a very good test for any method. “Could I see Jesus doing this?” or “Could I see Jesus preaching or teaching this?” Since the Bible tells us, “Walk in the manner that He walked” (1 John 2:6), we should always try to compare our actions and message to the Master’s.

It is obvious that there is no “set” sinner’s prayer. There are many variations, with different lengths, different wordings, different endings, etc., but the contents are usually the same. The prayer usually includes phrases like, “Dear Jesus,” “Come into my heart,” “I admit I have sinned” (at least the better ones contain this last statement – there are some who do not even like to mention sin in their “sinner’s prayer”), “Fill me with Your Spirit,” “In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Extremely harmless…nothing wrong with a prayer like that, right? Wrong! It isn’t the wording that’s important, it’s the state of the heart of the one saying it.

I believe that a true “sinner’s prayer” will gush out of anyone who is truly seeking God and is tired of being enslaved to sin. (Matt. 5:6) The very act of “leading someone in a prayer” is utterly ridiculous. You will find nothing even remotely like it in the Bible, or among the writings and biographies of those in Church history. It completely savors of crowd and peer pressure tactics, and (please forgive me) brainwashing techniques. I do not believe that Jesus wants to have his disciples “repeat after Me,” I believe He wants them to follow after Him! (Matt. 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 16:24, 19:21; Luke 9:59; John 12:26, 21:19,22; 1 Peter 2:21; Rev. 14:4.)

As with the altar call, the practice of having someone repeat a prayer with the minister probably originated from the best of intentions. And no doubt, there are those who have “followed through,” continuing to pray and walk with God, entering into the path of righteousness through God’s infinite grace. But also, like the altar call, the so-called “sinner’s prayer” is one of those tools that make it alarmingly easy for someone to consider himself a Christian, when he has absolutely no understanding of what “counting the cost” (Luke 14:28) really means.

The greatest reason I believe that God can be grieved with the current use of such tools as the “altar call” and “sinner’s prayer” is because they can take away the conviction of the Holy Spirit prematurely, before the Spirit has time to work repentance leading to salvation. With an emotional splash that usually doesn’t last more than a few weeks, we believe we’re leading people into the Kingdom, when really we’re leading many to hell – by interfering with what the Spirit of God is trying to do in a person’s life. Do you hear? Do you understand that this constitutes “spiritual abortion“? Can’t you see the eternal consequences of jumping the gun, trying to bring to birth a baby that isn’t ready?

We are so afraid that we’ll see a “big one that got away,” that we’d rather rush someone into a shallow decision, and get the personal gratification of seeing him “go down the aisle,” than take the time to fully explain things to him, even it if takes long hours and nights of travailing prayer for his soul. We just don’t “have the time” to do things God’s way anymore. (In contrast to this, look at the amount of time and effort Jesus took to explain salvation to one mere Samaritan woman – John 4:3-42.)

But God would rather see one true convert than an ocean full of “decisions.” Oh, can’t you see what a mess we’re in? What we’ve done to the Gospel? And when those “converts” no longer want to fellowship with us, when they want to go back to their old friends and their old way of life, we have the nerve to call it “backsliding,” when we stood in the very way of them ever “front-sliding” toward the cross! Oh, it breaks my heart to think of that awesome day, when God will judge those who have “stumbled one of these little ones.” (Mark 9:42).

About annagracewood

Slave of Christ. Reformed. Mama of many blessings. Homemaker. Homeschooler. Author. Blogger. Passionate about Christ's glory, my children, homemaking, writing, the church, books, animals, and domestic violence awareness. Lover of good coffee.

8 responses »

  1. Great post! I praise God for you!

    Reply
    • This is great! But A.W. Tozer did not say or write this. This is the work of Keith Green which was inspired by A.W. Tozer.

      Reply
  2. This is a great post to counter the common misunderstandings of postmodernism influencing the church. I was wondering where you got these quotes from A.W.Tozer, was it from one of his books or a sermon?

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Sinner's Prayer

  4. I don’t think the “sinners prayer” should be dismissed like this as it were something that is wrong. We are to open our hearts to Christ, repent of our sins, and confess with our mouths. Keith Green also says the sinners prayer has sent more men to hell then all the brothels in North America. If a person says a prayer that is “sinners prayer” material and means it with his or hers heart they do become one of God’s children. I believe Keith Green is a brother in the Lord I just think some of his messages were maybe laced with pride at times.

    Reply
    • You touch on several different issues in this. 1) Some who have prayed the Sinner’s Prayer are genuinely saved; however it wasn’t the prayer that saved them, it was God’s grace shown by drawing the sinner to Him. 2) The Sinner’s Prayer could only be part of someone’s condemnation to hell by the person falsely believing themselves to be saved by it when in fact they weren’t; however if God intended to save that person they would have been saved. Period. 3) Whether Keith Green’s lyrics were sometimes laced with pride I don’t know. I have only heard a few of Mr. Green’s songs but have liked the ones I have been able to hear. Thanks for coming by and taking the time to comment. God bless you. ~ Anna

      Reply
    • Show me in the Bible where it says we are to “open our hearts” ????? That is non-sense. People take Romans chapter 10 and John chapter 1 in the wrong context. It is not right to twist scripture into something that it is not. The Word (Jesus Christ as stated in John 1) has the power to convict and transform. To receive Him, means to take to “heart the Word”. Without the true Gospel being preached, how can a person “receive” Jesus (Bunch of health and wealth, watered down gospel being spoken these days). How can a person be saved when all they have heard are lies, including the lie about repeating something to get your golden ticket to heaven.

      Reply
  5. Baptists vote to keep the Sinner’s Prayer…again

    Preuters News Agency
    London

    Meeting today in London, a convention of the world’s Baptists narrowly endorsed the continued use of the Sinner’s Prayer as the hallmark act of Christian conversion. Here is the final draft of the convention’s statement on this issue:

    “Baptists today again affirm the Sinner’s Prayer as the act by which a sinner is justified before God. To be clear, it is not the recitation of the prayer itself that saves, nor is it necessary to endorse a set order of the words to be prayed, nor must the prayer be verbalized to others. What is necessary for salvation is this: A genuine, heartfelt prayer that 1.) acknowledges one’s sinfulness and hopeless state of perdition before God 2.) cries out to God with true repentance of one’s sins 3.) petitions God for his free gift of salvation 4.) asks Christ to indwell his heart/soul 5.) commits to abandoning his prior sinful lifestyle and promises to follow Christ and his righteousness.”

    Controversy over this statement simmered for the entire three days of the convention. A group of younger Baptists from the developing world pushed for the removal of the Sinner’s Prayer from the Baptist Statement of Faith, declaring that it was unscriptural and lacked any evidence of use in the Early Church. These young people read statements from the Early Church Fathers from the convention podium, noting that requiring a prayer (spoken or thought) for salvation was unheard of in the Early Church. This assertion created quite a stir as many of the older convention attendees were not accustomed to hearing appeals to the “catholic” Church Fathers as a source of authority for Baptist doctrine.

    The younger group put forward a new, brash, proposal as the new official Baptist Act of Christian Conversion:

    “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”

    This proposal prompted outrage from the majority of convention attendees. One prominent Baptist pastor from the United States summed up the majority’s sentiments by this statement:

    “Too Lutheran.”

    Reply

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