It is common to hear preachers say, “If someone in the audience wants to be saved, they simply need to say ‘the sinner’s prayer.” The preacher will then lead them in a prayer that goes something like this: 

Dear Lord I am a sinner and need to have my sins forgiven. I ask you Jesus to come into my heart and save my soul. Thank you Lord for saving me!  Amen.”

As simple as this process may sound, it is not found anywhere in the Bible! There are many cases in the Bible of sinners being saved, but nowhere was anyone told to say a “sinner’s prayer.”  However, there are two passages that do in fact discuss what might be termed a “sinner’s prayer”.

            John 9:31

“Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.”

             1 Peter 3:12

“For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.

The Bible is clear that God does not hear (answer) the prayers of sinners. We are referring to someone who is not a Christian and wants to be saved. Salvation does not come through a prayer.  A non-Christian sinner who wants to be saved is told that he must…

  1. Believe the gospel (Mark 16:16)
  2. Repent of his sins (Acts 2:38)
  3. Confess that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 10:10)
  4. Be baptized for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38)

After he has done what God tells a sinner to do to be saved, as a child of God he now may pray to God and have confidence that his prayer will be heard. But he did not become a Christian by saying a prayer!

Prayer belongs to Christians. If a Christian sins, he can pray to God for forgiveness. See this case.

            Acts 8:13-22

Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip…And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money saying, Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.  But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!  You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.”

Simon became a Christian, yet later sinned as all men do from time to time. He was told by Peter that as a Christian, he needed to repent of the sin and pray to God for forgiveness. This is an example of a Christian who has sinned, praying. But there are no examples of someone being told to pray in order to become a Christian. Though it is widely believed that people become Christians by saying a “sinner’s prayer,” there is no support for such a belief in the Bible.

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