The sinner’s prayer


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One technique used by evangelists is to ask those who respond to their message to pray what is called the “Sinner’s Prayer”. The wording of this prayer varies; here is one version.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.

This practice isn’t found in the Bible. There are several accounts of people believing the gospel and being saved but there is no record of any convert being asked to say this or any other prayer.

The Bible doesn’t say anything about this specific prayer but it does record prayers made by sinners and tells us what the results were. I would like to examine four of these prayers and try to learn from them what kind of prayer God answers.

The first two are found in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”
Luke 18:10-12

A good name for this prayer would be the Jack Horner prayer.

Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner,
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said “What a good boy am I!”

The Pharisee was doing what Jack Horner did, bragging about what a good boy he was.

The tax collector prayed.

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Luke 18:13

Jesus gave his evaluation of the prayers.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 18:14

The prayer of the first sinner, the Pharisee, was rejected because he wouldn’t acknowledge that he was a sinner. The tax collector confessed that he was a sinner and his plea for mercy was granted.

The other two prayers were made by the criminals who were crucified with Jesus.

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
Luke 23:39

He had no interest in anything beyond an end to his suffering and a continuation of his present life.

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Luke 23:40-42

He knew that he and Jesus would both soon be dead and he didn’t ask Jesus to change that, but he also believed that Jesus was a king and wanted to be part of his kingdom.

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Luke 23:43

Jesus gave him more than he asked for; he would not only be part of Jesus’ kingdom but would be with Jesus in Paradise until the kingdom was established on earth.

Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Mark 1:14-15

Repentance and faith are essential for salvation. The only “sinner’s prayer” that God will listen to is one that expresses these elements.


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Jesus sacrificed his life for the whole world; not just part of the world, but
everybody who has ever lived, and everybody who will ever live, down to the last
born on Earth. That says quite a bit about how Jesus feels about me.

He may not like me-- at all. In point of fact Jesus just may quite despise me, and
candidly declare that I am not the kind of people with whom he cares to associate.
Nevertheless, Jesus went to the cross for me too in spite of his disgust for me as a

Now, as I said-- in so many words --Jesus may not be especially fond of me, but
there's no doubt in my mind that he at least cares for me. So I played upon his
Father's sympathies back in February of 1968 when I prayed a very selfish prayer
that went something like this:

"God; I know I'm a sinner. I would like to take advantage of your son's death."

Seeing as how Jesus gave his life for the whole world, then God couldn't very well
refuse my request; now could He.

Rom 5:6-8 . . Christ died for the impious. Very rarely will anyone die for a
righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ
died for us.


It may be that the practice of having people repeat a prayer after us, is infringing upon the work of the Holy Spirit. The message may need time to germinate in the person's heart before he fully understands that he is doomed by his sin and that the penalty of his sin is an eternity in Hell. He also needs to understand that God's love has provided a way through the death and resurrection of His Son. In short, the sinner needs to be convinced by the Holy Spirit to repent and turn to God through Christ. The sinners prayer does not bring the conviction needed to save a person. It may in fact hinder a real conversion by causing the person to place his trust in a prayer he repeated after someone, instead of crying out to God for mercy out of a heart convicted of sin.