“The Sinner’s Prayer” – All You Need to Get to Heaven?

by Steve Ray on January 3, 2018

When I was a kid, the “Sinner’s Prayer” was a big deal. It was at the heart of everything we knew about Jesus and getting saved. It was almost used as an incantation.

My mom coached me to pray the Sinner’s Prayer when I was 4 years old. We knelt together in front of the green vinyl couch, and she helped me pray,

“Dear Heavenly Father, I know that I am a sinner and the wages of sin is death. You sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I ask Jesus to come into my heart. I know my sins are now all forgiven past, present and future. Thank you Jesus for saving me and assuring my entrance into heaven. Amen.”

Saul of Tarsus reciting the “Sinner’s Prayer”? I don’t think so :-)

It never dawned on me as a young man that such a prayer is never found in the Bible. Nor do we ever see anyone coach sinners to pray such a prayer. The Bible never encourages us to “ask Jesus into our heart.” And the whole idea of sins forgiven into the future with no guilt for future sins is – so unbiblical that I can’t even believe now I ever believed it.

I am grateful to my good mother for loving Jesus and wanting me to be saved. She believed what she was taught and never questioned the Baptist tradition she learned after hearing Billy Graham.

But now that I have read widely and studied these matters from Scripture and the early Church I realize there is much amiss with this Sinner’s Prayer. The Catholic Church is the fullness of the faith and explains salvation as faith in Christ, repentance and water baptism.

You never find St. Paul espousing such a prayer nor St. Peter on the day of Pentecost. My, it is good to be Catholic and cling to the rich and full teaching of the faith.


One of my old favorite Protestant writers, A. W. Tozer wrote, “I believe that a true ‘sinner’s prayer’ will gush out of anyone who is truly seeking God and is tired of being enslaved to sin. (Matthew 5:6) The very act of ‘leading someone in a prayer’ is utterly ridiculous. You will find nothing even remotely like it in the Bible, or among the writings and biographies of those in Church history. It completely savors of crowd and peer pressure tactics, and (please forgive me) brainwashing techniques. I do not believe that Jesus wants to have his disciples ‘repeat after Me,’ I believe He wants them to follow after Him!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

De Maria July 2, 2012 at 10:17 PM

There’s actually nothing wrong with the “Sinner’s prayer”. As long as one doesn’t combine it with the false doctrines of Sola Fide and Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS).

In fact, we have a Catholic equivalent:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

And, yes, it is in Scripture (Luke 18:13).


De Maria

John July 3, 2012 at 10:15 AM

I said this prayer 2 or 3 times growing up and afterwards the guy at the door told me “Welcome to heaven” or something like that. They left happy because they “saved my soul” but I also never saw them again. I was about 12 or 13 and did not go to church at this time so for me the “sinners prayer” had no impact. I think the issue to the prayer now is that it’s well known and linked so much to the sola fidei, sola scriptura. I said it later in life at an “altar call” but again it was a routine or more of a welcome to this church. Now as a Catholic I see things much different so the harm I see is that the “sinners prayer” is sold as one complete act that gets you into heaven. This is in opposition to an everday offering of oneself to the Lord where deeper conversions may be experienced. This is my experience with it but with that said I’m guessing others may have similar experiences.

theresa in Alberta July 4, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Past present and FUTURE!?!? so I can just pray this prayer with great Sincerity, then go out and steal some money, foreclose on a widow or take andvantage of my employee’s, eat drink and be merry, not go to church on sunday because I am commiting adultary and kill anyone who try’s to stop me or tell me no!?!?!? Gee thanks for the great news Steve, I didnot realize I was doing things all wrong eh ;-)

Joe July 6, 2012 at 10:25 PM

The origin of the sinner’s prayer goes back to the Anabaptists of the 16th century, like the Mennonites, and then took greater prominence during the 17th century and Great Awakening of the 18th century. Many Christians today don’t realize that the radical reformers of the 16th century who espoused Believers Baptism didn’t get along with the reformers who supported liturgy to a degree, like Luther and Calvin.

Ken August 6, 2012 at 6:19 PM

Wow, as one who grew up as a Fundamental Baptist this is shocking. I mean it strikes at the core of the purpose one is on earth, namely to lead others to Christ by getting them to say the sinners prayer. We carried New Testaments with us with the “roman road” marked out just for the purpose of leading people to the sinners prayer. We did it at work, the store, at the alter, on Tuesday evening visitations, you name it. To a Baptist (Fundamental), getting people saved was the evidence of our own salvation. The Southern Baptists may adopt this but I doubt the Independent Fundamental Baptists will.
These protestant religions are always evolving and splintering. One reason I came to the Catholic Church, it is a rock.

Alex November 14, 2012 at 4:12 AM

As far as I can make out, that site is not saying the sinner’s prayer is unbiblical, but that it is used in an unbiblical way. I.e., pray this prayer and you’re in. Christ never said “repeat after me”, he said “follow me”
The key words of David Pratt is “when they have not biblically responded to the gospel.”
The sinner’s prayer is sufficient, if the person saying it really has their heart behind it, and as that page was saying, it is very easy for you to make them believe they are “in” when all they did was repeat the words.
(I am protestant, as you have probably guessed by now)

Poor Knight for Christ March 21, 2016 at 8:56 PM

I’ve often wondered if the “sinner’s prayer” leading to Once Saved Always Saved is not the ultimate “work”? For all the accusations that we Catholics rely on our works for salvation (which is a strawman, BTW) wouldn’t this be the ULTIMATE WORK? I say the prayer and I’m saved no matter what.

Carl W. Smith December 7, 2018 at 9:51 PM

I note the issue of the sinner’s prayer, also noting the different religion you each follow as if there are serious issues with each the other person follows. I don’t know where you find the religions named in either the catholic or baptist bibles. That being the case, where do you find the designations of each of the religions that are being referenced in your discussions. It appears that you all are using man’s opinio, rather than using the word of God to resolve your issues. Jesus Christ said, “man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Believe in the word of All-Mighty God, and use it at all times when attempting to serve our Heavenly Father. God Bless you all.

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