So after you’ve written a bunch of stuff you start getting search engine hits. Some, and hopefully a lot of them are relevant to your subject matter. Sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are very irrelevant to your subject matter. The number one search topic on this blog? Short term memory loss. I wrote a post a while back that used short term memory loss as a metaphor or something and now I get a bunch of hits which I feel pretty bad about since these people are looking for help for themselves or loved ones facing this difficult issue. I’m sorry for the misrepresentation.
I’ve gotten some other ones, but I want to specifically talk about the second most popular search term. I wrote a post comparing baptism with the sinner’s prayer and since then I have gotten several hits on the phrase: “sinner’s prayer.” I don’t feel like the post I wrote had enough to do with the actual subject so I want to correct that now. There are people out there looking for answers. They want to know “is the sinner’s prayer effective?”, “is the sinner’s prayer legitimate?”, “the right way to say the sinner’s prayer.” To me this means that they are searching for the truth. Maybe they want simple assurance that they will go to Heaven, maybe they feel the Spirit working in their hearts and don’t know what to do about it, maybe they are just confused about life and God and spirituality. I have no idea, but the questions in those search terms lead me to believe that they are looking for answers so I will try and take a stab at giving a somewhat meaningful answer so that if they land here again they might actually read something relevant to their questions.
Is the Sinner’s Prayer legitimate? I think the answer to this question is largely dependent on the person. Most people, myself included, don’t believe that there really is such thing as a “Sinner’s Prayer” in the sense that there is no certain prayer required to become a Christian. I do believe that when God shows you the truth of the Gospel and you respond to it by offering up a prayer of surrender that it is legitimate. It has nothing to do with the prayer, but the heart and desire to follow Christ and surrender your life to him.
Is the Sinner’s Prayer effective? I think this depends on the legitimacy as we talked about in the last part. The prayer does nothing except communicate the position of your heart. It would be effective if it reflected a truly surrendered heart and a true desire to follow Christ. The prayer isn’t going to save you but it will effectively communicate your desire to surrender your life to Christ as Lord.
What is the right way to say the Sinner’s Prayer? As we have established there are no magic words to say, there is no secret password to open the doors to Heaven. The right prayer is the one that reflects a contrite (or broken) heart that wants to give up everything to follow Christ.
So I hope that those who are searching for the answers find them. They are not in a certain prayer. The answers are in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In Him becoming a man, dying to pay our penalty, rising to overcome death for us, and seated at the right hand of the Father as the firstborn among many. Don’t be fooled into thinking that there are magic words to get you into the kingdom. The words that reflect a heart that has surrendered to Him are the only words that matter.
Paul talks about the words that flow from the heart:
But what does [the righteousness of faith] say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 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. – Rom 10:8-10 NKJV
but on the other hand Jesus talks about words that do not reflect the heart:
“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ – Mat 7:22-23 NKJV
The heart is what matters. A heart surrendered to Christ brings salvation, but those with empty words and a disobedient heart will be told to depart from his presence. So if you landed here under the search term “sinner’s prayer” I hope I was able to at least deal with the actual subject you were looking into.