According to many mega church pastors and televangelists, repeating these words makes you born again:

“Lord Jesus, I repent of my sins. Come into my heart. I make you my Lord and Savior.”

Really? That’s all there is to it? No weeping or crying out to God for His mercy? I have the power to MAKE Jesus my Lord and Savior? According to most modern evangelists, the answer is a resounding yes!

This kind of prayer is often used by a pastor or evangelist when at the end of the service someone makes an invitation for people to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. They usually conclude with a statement such as, “Because you have prayed this prayer, you are now a Christian.”

Unfortunately, this final statement of assurance of salvation is unbiblical because we are not saved by praying a special prayer. We are saved by the grace of God who calls us to repentance. (Acts 17:30) Salvation is God’s work in us; and though the Sinner’s Prayer can be used in addition to salvation, it is not the thing that saves us.

We need to avoid giving a person a false sense of assurance regarding being saved.

It is okay to help someone pray to receive Christ. It is okay to inform people about what God requires, about our sinfulness, our need for repentance and our need to confess Jesus as Savior. It is okay to guide someone in a prayer of repentance and confession. But it is NOT okay to say that just because they have prayed the prayer, they are now saved; because like I said, it is not the prayer that saves. It is God’s spirit working through a person that leads them to seek repentance and God’s forgiveness. (John 6:44; 6:65)

Now you may look to the mega church pastors and popular televangelists such as Joel Olsteen as examples of how the “Sinners Prayer” has led so many hundreds of thousands to salvation. Although there are many Christians who will testify that they prayed a “Sinner’s Prayer” the day God saved them, there many more in the world who, as a result of being led in a false “Sinner’s Prayer,” are now apostate; they were false converts. (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31)They were false converts because they put their hope of salvation in reciting a scripted prayer instead of truly trusting Christ to forgive them of their sins against God. I guarantee you that many of those hundreds of thousands of people who belong to those mega churches are false converts; Because Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” And 2 Corinthians 7:10 teaches us that, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

The purpose of this article is not to discourage genuine Christians or cause them to question the authenticity of their faith because their conversion story includes a “Sinner’s Prayer.” Many people have truly been saved along with saying the Sinner’s Prayer. Rather, the purpose of this article is to plead with Christians to preach the gospel biblically; and if/when a person wants to trust in Christ and believe on him as Savior, that it is done properly.

The altar call
The altar call is another custom in nearly all Christian circles. Immediately following the sermon the congregation will sing a hymn during which the preacher calls men and women to walk to the front of the auditorium (the “altar”) to make a public decision to “accept Christ.” I think it’s interesting that in many services I have heard the pastor conclude with words like, “With every head bowed, and every eye closed, simply raise up your hand if you want to make Jesus your Savior.” Then salvation is offered to all who will but come to the front and receive it.

This practice, although widespread, is relatively new in the Christian church. For nearly nineteen centuries no one had ever heard of the practice! Charles Spurgeon, that passionate winner of souls, although well acquainted with the practice, firmly refused to adopt it and even criticized it severely saying: “Sometimes we are inclined to think that a very great portion of modern revivalism has been more a curse than a blessing, because it has led thousands to a kind of peace before they have known their misery; restoring the prodigal to the Father’s house, and never making him say, ‘Father, I have sinned.”

God is not constrained to saving souls in the confines of the church walls; nor is He limited by words in a scripted prayer- because God knows our hearts.

My prayer that I spoke when I was saved was, “God if you’re real, show me.” And God, in His great mercy, was faithful to do exactly what I had asked. No church service, no altar call, just me and God alone in my room. After that I was never the same.

The point is we need to remember that salvation is not gained by walking down to the front of a church or by praying someone’s prescribed formula prayer. Salvation is given freely by God. We must never leave the sinner with the impression that he or she can in any way manipulate God into granting salvation- But we must impress on them that their sinful condition can only be remedied by repenting of their sin and crying out for God’s mercy.

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