Is It OK to Pray the Sinner's Prayer?
William Arnold III
My question is this: Is the so called "Sinners Prayer" a good way to have people pray? I know that in scripture, the apostles did not have anyone come forward and pray like many churches do today and thus it is not scriptural. What I would like to know is your opinion on this matter.
First I would like to say that being "apostolic" doesn't necessarily mean that we have to pattern everything we do after the early church. What is important is that we teach apostolic doctrine. They did not have church buildings as we do. They did not have Sunday School or bus ministry either. My point is simply that the apostles did what worked in their culture and in their day and it is "OK" if we do the same as long as it does not compromise the message.
Having said that, I would say that it may be OK to give someone a model prayer to help them confess their sinfulness to God. The Lord himself gave us a model prayer (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4) and I see nothing wrong with praying it word-for-word as long as it does not become "meaningless repetition" (Matt. 6:7). It is true that the account in Matthew says to pray "after this manner," (Matt. 6:9) but Luke actually says "When you pray, say . . . " (Luke 11:2). Thus is it acceptable to pray the actual words of the Lord's Prayer and I do not see a problem with doing the same thing with the so-called Sinner's Prayer. One problem I do have with the Sinner's Prayer is that so many people teach that simply praying this prayer will save someone. However, if we use this only to help lead someone to repentance and tell them that this must be followed by the new birth (John 3:3-5; Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5) then I think it could be useful. Sometimes, "unchurched" people really don't know how to repent and I think we will do well if we can help them along.
One note of caution I would like to give is that I have seen several different versions of the Sinner's Prayer and would not recommend using one that has an actual claim to salvation, any Trinitarian reference or anything else we would find disagreeable.
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