Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.
The Sinner’s Prayer
Prayer is one of God’s sanctifying instruments. The Lord Jesus defined eternal life in this way, “…this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). This “knowing” has the emphasis upon knowledge from personal experience. This fits into one of the main verses about how “knowing” comes about. “But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
Knowing comes about by taking Jesus into one’s experience e.g. “receiving Him.” Jesus described it as an ongoing relational interaction in John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.”
Prayer is an audience with God through asking, praising, worshiping, and yielding. However, the practice of prayer takes many forms of expression.
One is to seek His presence, ask to be with Him and come to know Him through personal experience (John 1:37-39). The knowing appears when the assurance of eternal life grows within the heart. It is this foundation of knowing Christ by personal experience that births an individual into the family of God (John 1:9). God manifests His reality and basic moral principles within the human heart (Rom. 1:19, 20) as the nutriment in its soil that allows response to the gospel message. This is the work of God’s Holy Spirit.
When the reception of the gospel is not met by sin and/or rebellion, the message about Christ will be welcomed and embraced. People can then experience knowing Christ as they meditate on His life recorded in the New Testament. People often project themselves into a story they are either reading or seeing in a TV drama. When they do this in hearing the story of Jesus life recorded in the Gospels, they become like those who eye witnesses and heard Him. The Lord Jesus not only prayed for those who had walked with Him but for those who would believe in the future: “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in me through their word;” i.e., the New Testament (John 17:20 NASU; Rom. 10:9-17; 1 John 1:1-3).
The context of the salvation prayer (Rom 10:13) is woefully neglected. Many who pray the “sinner’s prayer,” show no repentance of a lifestyle of self centered sin. Others whocalling upon Him by naming Him the “Lord” of their lives demonstrate the reality of conversion by a changed life. Jesus said: “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21). When the context of Romans 10:13 becomes a part of the “sinner’s prayer,” it is manifested by a life of prayer reflecting: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. . . . For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” (Rom 10:10-12). The “calling” speaks of a continual practice, not simply a single act that does not establish a life practice, i.e., a “believeth unto righteousness.” The whole experience must be a “…to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; ” (Rom. 6:16). As Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life;” (John 10:27).
Prayer that experiences a saving relationship with the Lord has this assurance:
“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:10-13).
Related reading: Unanswered Prayer - Part II; Prayers Not Answered? Why?