Monday, December 14, 2009

The Sinner's Prayer

As our good futuristic friend Spock might say, "Fascinating...very fascinating." This is how I feel after researching our topic more, especially this area of "the sinner's prayer." What is meant by 'the sinner's prayer?' Something like this:
Heavenly Father, I know that I have sinned against you and that my sins separate me from you. I am truly sorry. I now want to turn away from my sinful past and turn to you for forgiveness. Please forgive me. I believe that your Son, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, that He was raised from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become my Savior and the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. I pledge to grow in grace and knowledge of you. My greatest purpose in life is to follow your example and do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen
Or something like that.
One can do a search on the history of the sinner's prayer and find a plethora of information. Here is what I have found.
First, as examined last week, we are saved by grace through faith and not of any work on our own. So does this include 'the sinner's prayer?' I believe in my response to one of the comments last week, I expressed my thoughts more clear in this statement:
Many believe they are saved because they prayed,when the reality is that they prayed because they are saved.

For instance, yesterday, to God be the glory, a soul was saved at our church. The person had made a profession of faith a few years ago, but had been struggling with doubt. Their words when being dealt with was, "I don't know if I am saved, I said the prayer, but I don't know if I meant it." Another perfect example of what I am burdened about. Their salvation was based upon THEIR PRAYER and THEIR WORK. This has caused so much doubt amongst Christians today.
So, what about that prayer? Where did it start? Well, as we should with any topic, we will begin by searching our Bibles. Unfortunately, there is not a 'sinner's prayer' to be found. Throughout the history of the early church, there was no use of the 'Sinner's prayer.' Finney and the Methodist began using a 'mourner's bench' and 'anxious bench.' They began what we call 'altar calls.' They would use soft music, dim lights, and spiritual coaxing (because apparently the Holy Spirit needed help) to convince people to come forward and deal with God. We then arrive to the 20th Century and our 'Billys'. Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and Billy Bright (Campus Crusades). Because of the style of their meetings and need to 'hurry' through their invitations, their use of the 'sinner's prayer' became popular.
This sinner's prayer was accepted by Baptist and put into action. From there the 'easy believism' was naturally spawned. There is a great division amongst Baptist today over 'easy believism.' The reality is, perhaps both sides are in some error for the debate is centered on the sinner's prayer and abuse ot it. Perhaps it shouldn't be used at all.
Thus we learn that the sinner's prayer is not a 'foundational doctrine,' but in reality a young man made device. Turn on your T.V's (if you have one) or radios and listen to the modern 'Gospel Preaching Preacher.' Probably the program will end with an invitation to say some prayer and be saved. While I am NOT saying that folks that said 'the prayer' are not saved, I am saying that many have a false hope because of it and/or struggle with doubting their salvation because of it.
I have grown up and today pastor an Independent Baptist Church. I have gone soul winning since I was weeks old (didn't participate a lot, but I was there). I have attended Trinity Baptist Church (Jacksonville-in the late 70's), People's Baptist Church, Temple Baptist Church (Dayton, Ohio, Pastor Flemming), Alapata Baptist Church (Miami, FL), Moraine Heights Baptist Church (Dayton, OH), Fairhaven Baptist Church (Chesterton, IN), and Cozaddale Baptist where I currently pastor. I have seen literally 1,000's saved on soul winning visitation through the outreaches of these churches. I have gotten on the bus after visiting a couple hours and heard shared all the numbers of 'souls saved.' Five on Tuesday night, 10 one Saturday morning, etc...then you go back and visit those homes and there is not one intention in that 'convert' to ever darken a church door. They are visited a few weeks and then disappear.
To what did we attach our confidence in their 'decision?' To be honest, the only ones we 'counted' were those that did what? Prayed! That's how we 'sealed the deal.' Now again, I am not saying that none of those were saved. I am not saying that Billy Sunday never saw a convert. I am not saying that Billy Graham never saw a convert. What I am saying is that just because there is some success doesn't mean it is right. One must look at the harm it is causing on the other side.
So many are basing their salvation on their prayer. We don't feel someone is saved unless they pray. People then look back to their prayer as 'the token' of their salvation. This is wrong.
What is our token of our salvation? It is the blood of Christ! When I want to look back on to what my salvation is based, it is the blood of Christ. Anything else will lead to doubt because it is my work.
That convert that was saved yesterday, after saying, "I said the prayer, but don't know if I meant it," was determined to 'repray' and be saved. Praise the Lord for this study. Months ago, we would have quoted Romans 10:9-13 and told her to pray (please be patient for Romans 10 explanation-it's coming next week), but we did not do this. We started at the beginning with Adam and Eve and sin and the lamb sacrifice. We spoke of the Passover and the blood that brought salvation. We went to the New Testament and read Scripture of Christ's death, His promises, and His Resurrection. We read verses such as John 3:15-18, 36; John 5:24; John 6:35; John 6:47; John 11:25; Acts 16:30-31....Believe!
With tears in her eyes, she saw it. It was not her work that saved her, but her belief in Christ and His atonement. Her token was no longer her prayer, but His Blood, death and resurrection. It was not a work she had done, but His mercy He saved her! "I don't doubt anymore." Oh that others could find this peace!