The Sinner’s Prayer
The Sinner’s Prayer is actually a generic term for a variety of prayers that are used when someone accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior. Some are short and simple; others are long and elaborate.
Pretty straightforward, right?
Perhaps Jesus should have told us “Whenever two or more of you are gathered together, you are likely to disagree about something.” So it is with the Sinner’s Prayer.
Do you need to say the Sinner’s Prayer in order to be saved?
Do you need to say it out loud, in public, in order to be saved?
Can you be saved without saying it?
What if you say it but you’re not sure you really believe it?
Must you combine it with baptism for it to be “official?”
And as usual, advocates pull out individual verses from the Bible to support their point of view. As we’ve pointed out elsewhere on this web site, it’s dangerous to pluck a single verse—or a whole list of single verses—to support a particular position or idea. The Bible was written as books and the books themselves must be taken as a whole, especially when exploring important themes like salvation.
Having said that, we’ll go ahead and add our two cents to the discussion.
One of the primary themes of the Book of John is belief in and faith in Jesus as the Son of God And Savior of mankind. That belief is grounded in other beliefs: that we are, in fact, sinners; that we can’t change that on our own; that we do need salvation to assure eternal life in heaven. Belief in Jesus as Savior, then, is the first step toward salvation.
But belief alone isn’t enough. Jesus makes it clear throughout all the gospels that we need to invite him into our hearts and our lives. He won’t push his way in on his own; we need to ask. So the second step toward salvation is to invite Jesus in.
Nothing else is required for salvation. The Sinner’s Prayer is a way to profess your beliefs and to ask Jesus in. As with all prayer, there are no “magic” words. What’s in your heart is what’s important.
We’ve learned that once the beliefs are held and once Jesus is invited in--once you are saved--you start to change. Just as it promises in the Bible.
You may feel moved to be baptized right away. You may be led to profess your faith out loud, in public, right now! Attend church. Read and study the Bible. And begin to act in ways that display the fruits—the evidence—that you are “in Christ.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
All of these probably won’t happen all at once. There may even be some time—some long, uncomfortable time—before you even take the second step of your journey, let alone move far along the spiritual path. Rest assured that God knows your heart. He’ll lead you in His time and in His way if you’ll just remain open to His leading. With the understanding that Satan will oppose you at every step of this journey. (See our section on Spiritual Warfare.) There’s some disagreement about whether baptism is a requirement for Christians. And whether you need to profess your faith publicly. (See Romans 10:9-10) Our experience has been that the deeply held belief and the invitation to Jesus lead inevitably to wanting to be baptized, wanting to profess in public, wanting to study the Bible, etc. With all of us moving at different rates of speed.
But know this: you ARE a saved child of God.
If you’re more comfortable using someone else’s words to express your beliefs and to invite Jesus in, feel free to use the prayer below or another like it.
I confess to you that I’m a sinner, that I can’t change on my own, that I’m in need of salvation.
I believe you sent your son Jesus to be my Savior, my Redeemer, my Lord. Through his death, his resurrection, and his ascension, my sins can be forgiven and I can be assured an eternal place in heaven with You. By Your grace alone, Father, not by anything I say or do.
So I now invite You into my life, Father. I trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I ask the Holy Spirit to live in my heart.
Father, I thank you for your infinite wisdom, infinite grace, and Your infinite love. Help me now to live in a way that glorifies You.
And if you have come to the point in your life where you do believe and you’ve invited Jesus into your heart, welcome to the family!