Monday, September 28, 2009

Saved By The Sinner's Prayer

God, be merciful to me a sinner! -Luke 18:13

This month I heard a young preacher say to a student group, “You’re not saved by a prayer. A prayer won’t save you.” This seems to be a popular view among some on the internet. Somewhat related, Anglican Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori called an individual salvation formula “heresy.” I disagree.

Are we saved by a prayer? According to the Bible, yes. Prayer is simply talking to God; calling to God. Must we do something to be saved? Again, according to the Bible, yes.

“If you confess with your mouth,” “believe in your heart,” you will be saved (Romans 10:9-10). “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10:13; see Joel 2:32). The “Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him” (Romans 10:12).

The tax collector prayed what has come to be known as the Sinner‘s Prayer, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Did that prayer save him? Well, Jesus Himself said, “This man went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:13-14).

The thief on the cross prayed, “Lord, remember me.” Did this prayer save him? Yes, we have Jesus’ word on it, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). Jesus saved him, but a prayer saved the thief in the sense that he had to pray, believe, ask.

The Gospel (Good News) is that Jesus, God the Son, died for our sins, was buried, and on the third day rose again (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Jesus has done the work of our salvation. He made the once for all, perfect sacrifice by shedding His blood for us (1 Peter 1:18-19; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12). But we are not automatically saved; we must repent, receive, believe, ask God to save us.
We are to “receive / accept” Jesus. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

We are to “believe” in Jesus for salvation (John 1:12b; 3:16, 36; 5:24; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 4:3; 1 Timothy 4:10). “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).

We are to “ask.” Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).

We are to “repent,” turn from our sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:37-38; 3:19; 26:20; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter 3:9).

How are we saved, regenerated? “For by grace you have been saved through faith..” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are saved by the grace of God. But wait, it also says we are saved through faith (also Luke 7:50; Romans 3:28; Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 3:17). James 1:21 says we are saved by the implanted word. The point is that a whole lot of things happen simultaneously at regeneration. We are saved by grace; but on the other hand we are saved though faith, by the word, by calling on the name of the Lord. You do not enhance the grace of God by denying the necessity of believing and calling on the name of God. You do not detract from Jesus’ blood atonement by pointing out the role of repentance and faith.

“Dear Lord, I know that I’m a sinner, that I’ve done things that are wrong in Your eyes. I believe You love me and died on the cross for my sins. I believe You rose again and are living today. I ask You right now to forgive me of all my sins and to come into my heart and save me. Help me to make You the Lord, the Boss, of my life. Help me to live for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Will someone be saved if they pray this or a similar prayer? If they pray it and mean it, of course they will be saved. You have God’s Word on it.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, September 28, AD 2009.

Related Articles:
The Roman Road of Salvation
Also see Gulf Coast Pastor Articles in lower right hand margin. 


  1. David: I agree with you and the reason is the verse you gave above along with the thief's statement to Christ on the cross. The most important thing is that the person believes in Jesus Christ and all that entails for salvation, which is usually followed by some kind of a prayer.

    We also cannot say that a person is genuinely saved because they pray a certain prayer. This is my objection to using prayer as a sign. The fruit later on is the real sign of a person's true regeneration. Not that they prayed a prayer or came forward.

  2. You can count me as one of the people who teaches frequently that people are not saved by a prayer. I do not mean that prayer is not involved in salvation. What I mean is that one can recite a sinners prayer and still be lost.

    Moreover, the Bible's teachings on assurance nowhere ask us to "think of a time when you accepted Jesus into your heart," even though it does teach that such a time really does happen. Biblical assurance is not based on any prayer or past religious experience. Throughout the book of 1 John, it is based on three things: 1) ongoing faith in Jesus, 2) changed behavior, and 3) love for the saints.

    Personally, I did pray a sinners prayer at the time of my conversion. But I know that my memories and feelings can be deceptive, so I don't base my assurance on the sincerity of that prayer. I base my assurance on the God who is currently giving me grace and continually working faith in me.


    2} Let’s meditate Acts 8:14-17 below:

    Acts 8:14-17, “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, PRAYED FOR THEM,, THAT THEY MIGHT RECEIVE THE HOLY GHOST: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”

    Nothing is mentioned in Acts 8:14-17 that the Samaria had believed the word of God except the phrase, had received. It is erroneous to use these verses to support that salvation could come about simply by receiving the word of God instead of believing. Thus, the absence of certain factors, such as, repentance of sin; confession of sin; and the requesting for the Holy Spirit in Acts 8:14-17, do not give any strong proof that they did not exercise prior to their conversion to Christianity. The phrase, had received, in Acts 8:14 implies that Samaria should have believed in Jesus at that time. Did they receive the Holy Spirit immediately after believing? No, they did not receive the Holy Spirit in Acts 8:14 until Acts 8:17, “(that mentions that)…laid they their hands on them and they received the Holy Ghost.” As there is an obvious gap between Acts 8:14 and Acts 8:17 in which they believed and yet the Holy Spirit was not with them, it implies that believing does not attract the immediate receipt of the Holy Spirit. As the phrase, prayed for them, is mentioned in Acts 8:15 with the phrase, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, it implies that requesting for the receipt of the Holy Spirit is acceptable from the Scriptural point of view. As praying with the receipt of the Holy Spirit in Acts 8:15 should be associated with baptism, it implies baptism in the past should be accompanied with also praying with the receipt of the Holy Spirit in addition to sin cleansing as mentioned in Acts 22:10.

    4} Let’s examine Acts 8:26-37 below to determine whether these verses do support sinner’s prayer:

    Acts 8:26-27, “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise…And he arose, and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians…had come to Jerusalem for to worship…” Acts 8:37-38, “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and he eunuch; and he baptized him.”


  4. To compare your Calvinist brethren to liberals like the apostate ECUSA "bishop" Katherine Schori is unchristian and unacceptable. It is also absurd.

    Calvinists believe that a man is saved the moment he truly accepts Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour and is simultaneously regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

    Since men can make false professions, however, you cannot say that every man who recites the "sinner's prayer" is saved, unless you hold to Zane Hodges theology, which is unbiblical.

  5. Nicholas,
    Apparently you agree with the similarity, since I did not even refer to Calvinists in the first paragraph. Could you be the one comparing Calvinists to this view?

    You should be aware there is a wide diversity of views among Calvinists. Some believe in regenertion before faith, etc., etc.

    As I've said previously, if a man prays the Sinner's Prayer and means it, he is saved. Period. We have God's Word on it.
    David R. Brumbelow

  6. My another nick name is Zuma Musa. I declare that I am a Christian instead of Muslim. The reason why I proceed to Muslim website to defend Muslim should not create riots is I could not tolerate how ISIS oppress Christians.

  7. Repentance has been interpreted by some people as recognition that Jesus is the Lord instead of praying a prayer that acknowledges our sinfulness and to ask God for forgiveness of their sin. Discuss.

    In order to comprehend the word, repentance, let’s meditate 1 John 2:4, “(that mentions that) He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (KJV)” As the phrase, keepeth not his commandments, is mentioned in 1 John 2:3 with the phrase, the truth is not in him, it gives a significant truth that a person, who simply proclaims with his mouth to believe in Jesus and yet does not keep God’s commandment, would not have the truth in him. As the truth is not in him at the absence of God’s commandment in him, do you think he could be saved since 1 John 2:4, “(even calls him to be) …a liar…”?

    The same is mentioned in 1 John 2:3, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” As the phrase, we know him, is mentioned in 1 John 2:3 with the phrase, if we keep his commandments, it implies that we could only be able to proclaim to know God if we keep God’s commandment. Or in other words, we could not mention we could know God if we refuse to keep God’s commandment. Thus, it raises a query whether a person could proclaim to know God if he proclaims to believe in Jesus and yet insists not to keep God’s commandment since 1 John 2:3, “(comments that he could only declare himself to) know him, if (he) keep(s) his commandment.”. As he could not proclaim himself to know God due to he insists not to keep God’s commandment, could he be saved then?

    When Jesus was confronted by a person who requested him Matthew 19:16, “…what…shall I do, that I may have eternal life? (KJV)”, His immediate response towards the way to eternal life was Matthew 19:17, “…if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” The commandments that Matthew 19:18, “Jesus said, (are) Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not hear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” For instance, if the way to eternal life is simply to Matthew 19:21, “…come and follow (Jesus and to believe in Him without the repentance of sin)”, why should Jesus mention in Matthew 19:17, “(that his ambition to) enter into life (could only be met by) keep(ing) the commandments.”? Thus, it raises a query whether a person could be saved if he proclaims to believe in Jesus and yet insists not to keep God’s commandment.

    James 2:10-12 relate keeping God’s commandment to obeying them. James 2:10-12, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”

    1 John 1:6, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” As the phrase, walk in darkness, is mentioned in 1 John 1:6 with the phrase, If we say that we have fellowship with him…we lie, it implies that we must not walk in darkness in order that we could comment ourselves to have fellowship with Jesus. As we could not proclaim to have fellowship with Jesus as a result of our insisting in disobeying God’s commandment, could our faith save us? 1 John 1:6, “(even mentions that we) do not the truth” when we insist to walk in darkness.

    The word, Repentance, has been mentioned in Acts 8:22 to interlink with getting away from our wickedness instead of simply our recognition towards Jesus as Lord. The following is the extract: Acts 8:22, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” The same is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:21, “(that) …many which have sinned already, and

  8. Mark 16:16, “(mentions that) He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Could water baptism save a person? Let’s meditate Acts 19:2-6. Acts 19:2-6, “He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.” From the above event, did they receive the Holy Spirit after John or water baptism (Acts 19:3)? No, they did not receive it since they only received it at Acts 19:6. Did they receive the Holy Spirit when Acts 19:5, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus”? No, they did not receive the Holy Spirit even though they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. They only received the Holy Spirit Acts 19:6, “…when Paul had laid his hands upon them, (since it mentions that after he laid hands upon them), the Holy Ghost came on them…” As the Holy Spirit did not come upon them after John’s or water baptism (Acts 19:3) or baptism (Acts 19:5), it proves that water baptism could not save a person. There is no scriptural verse to support that God would grant the Holy Spirit at the time of laying hands except Acts 19:6. What If laying hands might not necessarily be accompanied with the receipt of the Holy Spirit & that only Acts 19:6 is the exception due to other reason, those people, who rely on laying hands to receive the Holy Spirit, might not be saved as a result of the Spirit does not come to them. Thus, the only source to receive the Holy Spirit & to have confidence with their salvation could only be through asking God to grant them the Holy Spirit by sinner’s prayer. We must not presume ourselves to have the Holy Spirit. Or else, we could regret eternally when Jesus would tell us He never knows us in Matthew 7:23.

    1 Corinthians 12:3, “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God called Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” Could we use this verse to support that those people who call Jesus to be their Lord could have received eternal lives? No, it is not true since Matthew 7:22-23, “(mention that) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” As Jesus would mention to them who have called Jesus to be their Lord Matthew 7:23, “I never knew you”, it implies that they do not belong to God. Romans 8:9, “(gives the possible reason why they could not belong to God is they do not have the Spirit of Christ in them since It is mentioned that) …if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” The phrase, by the Holy Ghost, in 1 Corinthians 12:3 might possibly be interpreted as the Holy Spirit is outside their bodies to stimulate them to call Jesus as Lord instead of being interpreted as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to cause them to acknowledge Jesus to be their Lord. If that is so, it is irrational to use 1 Corinthians 12:3 to conclude that all the people who proclaim Jesus to be the Lord must be God’s saints.

    Is it true that those Charismatic people who could perform miracles in Jesus’ name belong to God? Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? & in thy name have cast out devils? & in thy name done many wonderful works? & then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” As the phrase, in thy name done many wonderful works, is mentioned in Matthew 7:22-23 with the phrase, I never knew you, it implies that Charismatic people could not proclaim to belong to God as a result of their miraculous work performed in Jesus’ name.


What do you think?