Ray Comfort (of Living Waters Publications) puts it, we would place no value on an apology from an adulterous man if he had to repeat it word for word from someone else feeding it to him. For the same reason, the rote repetition of the sinner’s prayer shows very little sorrow, repentance, faith, and commitment.
John MacArthur shared similar thoughts, contrasting the typically recited prayer with thee “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner” prayer prayed by the tax collector in Luke 18. When you consider the two, the difference is night and day. The sinner’s prayer is almost always a cheap substitute for the true feelings of a life-changing repentance and faith that lead to full obedience.
It gives a false sense of safety
Because it is cheap, it opens the door for belief in salvation without repentance, obedience, and fruit bearing. Sadly, this country is filled with at least one generation of people who have this false sense of safety. You know, the type who live lives that are anything but Christian but still claim to be on their way to heaven because they were “saved” 20 years ago by repeating a prayer. For this reason, Paul Washer refers to the prayer as a flu shot, something people get one time and go on living as though they don’t have to worry about anything anymore because it was all taken care of in the past. “That sinner’s prayer has sent more people to hell than anything on the face of the earth,” Washer said in another sermon.
It’s biblically inaccurate
Most importantly, the sinner’s prayer simply doesn’t exist in the Bible. The more I researched for this article, the more I kept coming across articles, videos, and sermons by denominational leaders that proclaimed this truth, and it’s a thrilling thing to see. Though many tracts have tried to base the concept in Revelation 3:20 where Jesus said “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” – leading to the idea that we must ask Him in – the context shows us that He was talking to an unrepentant church that had shut Him out. It has nothing to do with inviting Him in to give us salvation.
If the sinner’s prayer were a biblical method of being saved, you would think that at least one of the many conversions we see in the book of Acts would have made use of it. Or that it would have surfaced somewhere in Jesus’ teachings or in Paul’s writings. But it doesn’t. It’s simply not in the Bible. As bestselling author Francis Chan asked in a YouTube video, could a person really sit down and read the Bible and come to the belief that they needed to say a prayer to be saved? Or would they believe that they need to repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit as Acts 2:38 says?