“The Sinner’s Prayer”

By Weldon E. Warnock

Recently, I heard a preacher tell the story of his visit to a hospital where a man with a terminal disease was saved through prayer. Many call this “the sinner’s prayer.” It might be prayed anywhere, such as the bedroom, corn field, driving along in a car, a church service, as well as a sick bed in a hospital. Friends in all candor, we do not read in the word of God about an alien sinner being saved by prayer. In fact, the expressions, “The sinner’s prayer,” is not found one time in the Bible. Such is the figment of a man’s imagination.

In the world-wide commission of Jesus, given after his resurrection, he never said anything about prayer. He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16), and that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:47).

In all the cases of conversion recorded in the book of Acts, not one time was an alien sinner told to pray. On Pentecost, the inspired apostle Peter told the Jews, after they had asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Nothing about praying, here. When Philip preached Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch the first thing the eunuch asked was, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Philip, after hearing that he believed that Jesus is the Son of God, baptized him (Acts 8:35-38). No prayer, here. This harmonizes with what Jesus said in Mark 16:16. In the conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:14-15) and the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:30-33), we do not read of them being told to pray. However, they were baptized after faith and repentance. The Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8). All of them did what Jesus said to do in the great commission, and for the same purpose Peter stated in Acts 2:38 — for the remission of sins.

Saul of Tarsus, who was praying, was told by Ananias to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Here was an alien sinner who was told to quit praying, get up, be baptized, and wash away his sins. “Calling on the name of the Lord” is an expression that means “appealing to the name of the Lord,” or “appealing to the authority of the Lord.” This is what a person does, rather than just what he says. The word “call” is the same word translated “appeal” in Acts 25:11 where Paul said, “I appeal to Caesar.” In other words, Paul is saying, “I will call upon Caesar.” He has the power as emperor to exonerate me. To be saved, we need to appeal to Jesus, obeying him.

The blind man who had been healed by Jesus rightly said, “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31). This comports with Proverbs 28:9, “He that turneth his ear away from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination.” Yet, preachers say that an alien sinner can pray for the forgiveness of sins, and God will forgive, while at the same time he ignores water baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38) and the plain teaching set forth in the examples of conversions in the book of Acts.

87 Ormond Dr., Scottsville, Kentucky 42164

Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 11 p17  June 1, 2000