Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Where is the sinner's prayer?

Please make sure you read the UPDATE at the bottom of this post.

No, this is not a recipe or cute story about my son... believe me there will be enough of those to come. This is more important than that. Please read... this subject has become a huge burden on my heart and the heart of my husband. We want you to know...

Below is a blog entry that my husband posted on his myspace page. Over the past few months God has completely changed the way we look at the gospel message and the way the gospel is shared. No, the gospel hasn't changed, it never changes! Sadly though, the way the gospel is presented has changed. We truly believe that the reason there are so many in the world claiming 'Christianity' but living a life so completely opposite of Scripture is because of how watered down and 'easy' coming to Christ has become in the modern evangelical church. It's not Biblical and it's not the way Jesus did it.

More Biblical Evidence against the use of the Sinners Prayer

My question is for anyone who can answer (with a Biblical response) where the sinners prayer is found in the Bible. By no response, I am to assume you have no answer. In the Gospel of Mark the 10th chapter verses 17 -22, we see Jesus' encounter with the rich young ruler. This rich man comes to Jesus asking a question that many in the church have asked at one time in their life, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus does something Biblical, shocking, I know. Jesus takes the man through the commandments. When Jesus was finished the man said "I've kept all these from my youth". Jesus then says "One thing you lack, go and sell all you have and give it to the poor". Then the Bible says this man went away sad, because he had great possessions. Let's fast forward 2000 or so years into the future and put this same scenario into most modern day Baptist churches (I'm Baptist so I can say this). What would happen if you have this same man come to the front during the invitation? The conversation would go something like this:

Pastor- "Sir do you believe Jesus is who He says He is?
Man- "Yes."
Pastor- "Do you believe He died on the cross?"
Man- "Yes I do."
Pastor- "Do you want to invite Jesus to be the Lord of your life?"
Man- "Yes."
Pastor- "Well say this prayer and mean it with all your heart....".

Who is wrong here? I can assure you of one thing, it's not Jesus. How come Jesus did things completely different than it is done today, yet today we call what is done in most modern evangelical churches His work? When God is nowhere near the place because of the hypocrisy that is involved in church today.The Bible does speak of this "modern day evangelism" method. In 2 Timothy 4:3-4. "For a time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." Do you know what is so scary about this passage? These "fables" sound like truth, because they will be said by a preacher in "Jesus' name". In closing I pray that if you go to church and you hear the 'say this prayer' gospel, you would question where that comes from? I believe that true Christians want to follow God's way and not mans. Seek the truth out.

By the way, you can't use Romans 10:9-10 ( 'that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation' ) as your scripture to support the sinners prayer. Paul is talking to the church in Rome, a group of believers who were being persecuted for their belief in Christ, not lost people. It goes like this: back in AD 60 when the book of Romans was written, the custom of that day was for the Roman citizens to sprinkle incense on an altar and say 'Caesar is Lord'. If you didn't say that Caesar was Lord than you were killed. A Christian couldn't do that because only Jesus is Lord, saying otherwise would have been (and still is today) a sin. Paul was saying "Jesus is Lord, even if it cost you your life". Also Revelation 3:20 ( 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.' ) isn't talking to lost people either. John is speaking about the church at Laodicaia, the "Lukewarm Church". Jesus is wanting the church to Let Him come in. Jesus isn't knocking on a lost person's heart asking if He can be Lord. HE ALREADY IS LORD, HE DOESN'T NEED YOUR PERMISSION!!!! Jesus wouldn't knock on the door, He would knock the door down. Don't make Jesus out to be a beggar, He is King of King and Lord of Lords.

So, how do you share your faith or lead someone to the Lord without the sinners prayer? Well, I'm glad you asked. I'll go into more detail about that later. Until then check this out.

I've got a Walk Away the Pounds DVD calling my name...

Updated: So, it seems, that maybe I should clarify a few things. Please here my heart in saying that I (we) am in no way saying that everyone who has said a sinners prayer is lost. That would be ridiculous! There are tons of people who God was dealing with and they meant every word of that prayer. I absolutely believe that God supernaturally saved them! I've just recently come to realize that the modern methods of reaching lost people and presenting the gospel is not the Biblical way that Jesus did it. I truly believe that if the gospel was shared the way Jesus shared it there would be more *true* conversions. Should we not follow in Christ's footsteps in every way possible? This can be a hard thing to swallow... I mean of all people, I know! Like I said previously, this is something new to me as well. With all my heart I never want to lead people astray in the way I live or share Christ. I will share something personally from my life about this and then I will leave it alone. Before all of this "sinner's prayer" stuff came about in our lives I began to deal with this on my own... here it is:

When R and I first came to our current church he had a big youth night planned as his first youth service. It was awesome. There was about 40-50 students there. We were blown away. Well, at the invitation time several students came forward. I took 3 girls with me to council with. I went through the gospel and then got to the sinners prayer part and led all three of them in the sinners prayer. After the service I was talking to R and said, "I am so uncomfortable in leading someone in a sinners prayer. Not because I can't do it.. or can't share the gospel.. just because it doesn't seem right. I feel like they should say their own prayer. They don't need me to tell them what to say if they really want to get saved." All of a sudden God just started revealing things to R and I about this and to our pastor as well. I just knew deep inside something wasn't quite right. When I hurt R's feelings I don't need someone to write me an apology and then go and recite it to him, why should we have to do that with God? When people are truly convicted and broken over there sin, repentance just comes naturally. I'm praying hard for the Holy Spirit to speak to hearts through this....


Maryjane said...

I agree fully with your take on the sinner's prayer. I think a lot of people use it as a free "ticket to heaven". Like, they've said the prayer, so they get to enter. But it doesn't work like that. Since God knows our thought life and what's truly in our hearts, it doesn't take a specific prayer to get to heaven. It's a lot more work than that!! Anyway, I agree fully with what you've said. My husband loves WOTM as well. I am struggling with my faith right now, but it's so nice to read other's strength and confidence in the Word. Thanks for making me think about what I am / have become!! I wish I had friends like you around me! : )

Richard J said...

I just ran across this blog, and I am so glad to see people thinking about these tough, necessary questions. You're right, that sinner's prayer isn't in the Bible. (The prayer in my church was even less biblical than the one you gave. It was centered around asking "Jesus to come into my heart." Whatever that means.

I wouldn't discount the Romans 10 verses as part of someone's confession of faith in Jesus. Paul is talking about a radical reordering of a person's life in those verses, where Jesus is the ruler of my life (not me), and I am trusting that He alone conquered sin by His death and resurrection.

Of course, that's not a simple prayer. That is a change of life and thought that only happens when a person is truly made new by the Holy Spirit.

Maybe part of the problem is that we focus so much on a "moment" of conversion, when the Christian life is rally a life, with a conception, birth, growth, and maturity that unfolds over a lifetime.

I look forward to seeing how you guys work this out...

Crystal said...

Thanks for your comment. I just want to clear up a few things though. I do not in any way believe that salvation is achieved by 'works'. It is only by the grace of God. I do believe that genuine salvation is a one time 'specific moment' where God supernaturally changes a person. I believe that sanctification is what takes place after salvation and is something that is ongoing throughout a Christians life. I also believe that a prayer is definitely involved in salvation. I just don't fully agree with use of the "repeat after me sinner's prayer". I will post more about this because it seems that some people are confused! Thanks for your comment!

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

Wow! What an articulate, accurate post! Thanks for bringing this up and explaining it so beautifully. I agree with you 100% and one of my daily prayers is for our churches to return to the bare bones of the gospel and to retreat from the commercialized version that has been preached in our pulpits for too long. (I'm a Baptist too)

I'm am certainly not saying that all churches are not bible based, but so many have watered down the scriptural truths that it's difficult to understand how the church is different from the world. From issues like divorce to church discipline, we vary by shocking degrees from the gospel.

We need to get back to expositional teaching, training Christians how to live in a lost world, and encouraging one another in love and prayer.

Carol said...

I am going to be the oddball and say that I don't agree with you. At least not totally. First of all, you said that Romans 10:9-10 cannot be used because he was talking to believers. True, but he was talking to them ABOUT unbelievers "1 Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.". That's Romans 10:1. What if we include Romans 8 and 11? "8 But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

The problem with the sinner's prayer is not the prayer itself, but when it's taught wrong. Verse 11 says "anyone who trusts in him...". Trusts in Him. I've been in church all my life and have NEVER heard anyone say "say this prayer and that's all you have to do". They have all taught what comes after accepting Jesus and repenting of our sins. The moment you accept Christ you are saved. We all believe that. Whether a prayer is said in your own words or someone's suggested words, if you say it and honestly believe it, you are saved. That, however, is not the end of the story (unless you die then and there). What comes after saying that prayer - baptism, life, etc. - is just as important as the prayer itself. If you or anyone else is/was teaching it as the be all and end all of Christianity, then yes, it's wrong. That doesn't make the prayer wrong, it makes the person leading the unbeliever wrong.

I think the prayer was originally designed as a guideline. Most people that respond to a call are obviously new to this (even some that have been around it forever-myself included) and are unsure of how to pray. I think it was an attempt to make their first prayer a little easier on them. No true Christian leader ever claimed it was quoted from the Bible because they can't show it. Like many things that started with good (and even Biblical) intentions, some people may have taken it and twisted it to their most convenient ideas. Whether it's a preacher because he/she wants to say how many they "led to Christ" or whether it's the person praying it that chooses to ignore the rest of the teachings because that's when it gets difficult.

Teaching chemistry in school is not wrong just because people use chemistry to make bombs. It's what they are taught to do with the chemistry (how to make bombs) that is wrong. In the reverse, teaching that saying the sinner's prayer is all you have to do to be a Christian and leaving out the rest of the Bible is what's wrong. Not the prayer itself.

Like I said, I partially disagree with you. Don't blame the prayer, blame what's taught with it.

Crystal said...

Thanks for your comment Carol! Although we will have to 'agree to disagree' I do appreciate your thoughts. My husband and I are both under the strong conviction that the sinner's prayer shouldn't be used in leading someone to Christ. And when I say "sinner's prayer" I mean the cookie cutter sinner's prayer that we all can probably say by heart! I definitely believe that there must be a prayer when someone comes to Christ so therefore there is always a sinner's prayer involved! I hope that makes sense! I agree that there are many out there who have said the cookie cutter sinners prayer word for word and meant it with all of their heart. And I totally, without a doubt believe that they are saved eternally! I am definitly not discounting anyone who says a prayer of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ with all sincerity. Our main issue is that the whole use of the cookie cutter sinner's prayer is misleading in so many ways. Today we so many people say a prayer and then you never see them again. Sadly in ministry, we have seen that all too often! There must be something wrong with the way the gospel is being presented. You say, "I think the prayer was originally designed as a guideline." But I question why it was ever needed in the first place when Jesus didn't use it in Scripture. One of the best illustrations to help explain this is with the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22). He came to Jesus wanting to know how to have eternal life. Jesus used the law while speaking to him. The ruch young ruler was doing pretty good until Jesus told him what He lacked. Although he had kept many of the commandments he had failed with the first one. His idol was his possessions. In verse 22, it says that he went away sad. Why didn't Jesus lead him in a sinners prayer? Because he wasn't ready to surrender and repent. I'm afraid that in many churches this man would have been lead to say a "sinners prayer" and been given the false assurance that because he had said that prayer he was going to heaven (and boy the devil would definitely use that to deceive). The reason I say this is because this man believed in Jesus. He was a 'good guy'. I'm sure if he would have been asked, 'Do you want to invite Jesus into your heart?" he would have said yes. He probably would have also said that he wanted to make Jesus his Savior. Most people would then tell him that all he had to do was to repeat after them this simple prayer. But this would be all wrong. Jesus of course knew that this man was not ready to surrender and turn from his sin. We must handle the gospel in the same manner as Jesus did. I truly believe that we will have more true converts that way. Salvation is more than 'inviting Jesus into your heart'. Our desire is not to see how many people we can lead in a prayer.. but to see God do the miraculous work of salvation in someone's life. We want to see people transformed by the Holy Spirit! Just tonight I was thinking of someone I know that has as some would say, 'fallen away' but I'm more convinced that this person never really experienced true repentance and trust in Jesus. I'm also certain that until their eye's are opened to God's truth they will continue to believe that the prayer they said was the real deal, no matter what their lifestyle says. I know I have probably gone on longer than necessary but this is just such a passion of ours. It's really foolish of us to think that God can't save someone if we don't use the sinner's prayer when we present the gospel. If we use the law to present the gospel the way Jesus did then the lost will realize the depravity of their own soul and cry out in desperation for forgiveness and salvation! How foolish of us to think that the truth of God's Word is not powerful enough to do that! Our jobs as Christians are to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and even compel men to come to Him. But the work of salvation is only of the Father Himself. My prayer is to bring God the honor and glory through everything I do. And of course that means doing things biblically. This is the desire of my heart! I would love to continue this but I don't want to write a novel... and I may just blog about it again! Thanks again for your comment and if you have any more questions/comments please feel free to post them! Blessings!

Carol said...

Hi Crystal: You mentioned you wanted to stop writing before reaching novel length. Did you happen to notice the length of my post?! I think between the two of us we'll have a whole series of novels before long! The funny thing is that I don't think we have to "agree to disagree" at all. I think we are just arguing the same point but in a different way. You mentioned the rich young ruler. Jesus didn't lead him in a prayer of any kind because he wasn't willing to follow the rest of the teachings. We both agree that the sinner's prayer is useless without learning and following the rest of God's word. So is any prayer said when someone comes to Christ if there is nothing behind it! The only thing we really seem to disagree on is that you blame the prayer, I blame the church/friends/leaders, etc. that don't drill it into the person that it's all about a change in life, not one prayer. I don't consider the sinner's prayer (cookie cutter version or any other) as something to be used to lead someone to Christ. It's said after the decision has been made and should be considered the signature on the contract that you've made with God and that's a lifelong contract.

Anyway, I'll stop now. This has been fun. Thanks for getting me thinking. I'll keep an eye out for anything else we can have a friendly debate about. Like I said, thanks for making me think.