by Michael D. O'Neal, © 1994




Whether or not this printed study persuades a great number of people, it is this author's desire and prayer to God that you, friend, will be persuaded. The importance of the subject matter cannot be stressed too strongly. It is not a trivial subject. It is not merely an argument over technicalities. It concerns the extremely important matter of how a sinner is eternally forgiven and made ready for heaven.

Heavenly Father,

May the Holy Spirit glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in this effort. Open the eyes of this reader to the truth.

In Jesus' name, amen.

Unsaved people (who are often religious) may confess that a person is saved by grace through faith, but they often contradict themselves by saying that WORKS are ALSO necessary for a person to be saved or to STAY saved.

This teaching is clearly contrary to scripture, as is seen in Rom. 11:6, which says, "And if by grace, then [is it] no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if [it be] of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." (Romans 11:6) Salvation must, therefore, be either by grace or works. It cannot be by grace AND works.

Saved people realize that a person is saved by grace through faith, WITHOUT works, for the Bible says, 8 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2)

Saved people also realize that the object of saving faith is the Lord Jesus Christ, and in particular, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, even as the apostle Paul wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16)

However, there are saved people who, although they recognize these truths, also claim that a person is saved by saying "THE SINNER'S PRAYER."

Well, which is it?

Is a person saved through faith, through prayer, through a prayer of faith, through faith in a prayer, all of the above, or none of the above?

What IS "the sinner's prayer?"

These and other questions that you may have will be answered from the scriptures in this brief study.

This is written in a personal fashion to help bring you, dear reader, to a conclusion and to action.

Before proceeding, however, it should be emphasized that the gospel mentioned earlier is the gospel of 1 Cor. 15:3,4, which says, 3 "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:" (1 Corinthians 15)

Christ's work is what saves a sinner! It is not intended that this study on the response of a sinner TO the gospel should in any way detract from the power of the gospel itself. The fact will be emphasized that there is only one response that renders the gospel effective in the case of the individual sinner.

It is the belief of the author that the use of "the sinner's prayer" is responsible for the lack of assurance in the hearts of many converts today. Christians have often gone through several "conversion" experiences, testifying each time that they were not "really" saved before, but now they are "really" saved. Such "re- tread" conversions are not found in scripture.

Something today is going wrong. While it is true that religious people who are not trusting Christ do need to be saved, Paul's converts had "MUCH ASSURANCE" (1 Thess. 1:5). Sinners converted in our day under one minister get "re-saved" under ANOTHER minister. Some preachers' ministries are such ministries of DOUBT that people get "re-saved" over and over under their own ministry!

It is scriptural for a man to examine himself to see if he is saved (2 Cor. 13:5). However, when he is urged to examine HIS OWN actions for assurance rather than THE LORD'S work on the cross, he is being pointed in the wrong direction. If he gets assurance from what HE has done rather than from what CHRIST has done, he has NOT obtained assurance from the LORD, but from HIMSELF.

Around 1973, this author, having been a Baptist since shortly after he was saved in 1968, became convinced that Baptists use "double-talk" when it comes to proclaiming salvation through faith. Although verses like the above were used to defend the doctrine of eternal security against Arminian groups, it was observed that Baptist usually gave sinners the SAME instructions in bringing a sinner to a "decision for Christ" as did groups who mixed WORKS with GRACE in their doctrines of salvation.

How could two groups which are completely opposite one another on the way of salvation (grace or works) come to an agreement on how the sinner must receive that salvation?

The following pages will reveal the errors of BOTH groups in presenting the gospel of the grace of God to an unbelieving sinner.

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Of the four Gospels, remember that the Gospel according to John was "written, that ye might BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that BELIEVING ye might have life through his name." (John 20:31) Therefore, the Gospel of John is an appropriate place to begin our examination of the Biblical way of salvation.

John's Gospel repeatedly teaches that the way of salvation is through BELIEVING, without ANY mention of prayer.

For instance, Jn. 1:12 says, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that BELIEVE on his name:" (John 1:12) Here, RECEIVING Christ is equated with BELIEVING on Him.

Then there is one of the most well-known passages in the entire Bible, Jn. 3:15-18: 15 "That whosoever BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that BELIEVETH on him is not condemned: but he that BELIEVETH not is condemned already, because he hath not BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3)

Do you really believe that the above passage means what it says?

Do you tell a sinner that if he BELIEVES in God's Son he will not perish, but have everlasting life?

John 3:36 says, "He that BELIEVETH on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that BELIEVETH not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)

Is that enough, or can a person really get saved that way?

It is written in Jn. 5:24, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and BELIEVETH on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24)

Well, does a person who believes on the Son actually HAVE everlasting life, or must he do something (pray) AFTER believing?

Jesus said in Jn. 6:35, "... I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that BELIEVETH on me shall never thirst." (John 6:35)

Our Lord said in Jn. 6:40, "And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and BELIEVETH on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40)

He said again, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that BELIEVETH on me hath everlasting life." (John 6:47)

Isn't it strange that if the purpose of the gospel of John was for people to get life through faith in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the book NEVER tells anyone to pray "the sinner's prayer?" It just says, "BELIEVE."

You say, "Yes, it does say that, but..."

Before you object, examine some more scriptures in John that say the same thing.

The Savior said in Jn. 7:38, "He that BELIEVETH on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (John 7:38)

The repetitive theme of John's gospel to sinners is, he that BELIEVETH on the Son hath everlasting life. This belief is defined in other scriptures as a trust, a dependence, or faith, but it is still a BELIEF. It goes beyond a mere recognition of truth to a REST in that truth, but it is still a BELIEF.

In John 8:24, the Lord Jesus said, "... if ye BELIEVE not that I am [he], ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:24)

He said to Martha, 25 "... I am the resurrection, and the life: he that BELIEVETH in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and BELIEVETH in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" (John 11) Friend, do YOU believe this? Is that all that is required? Did our Lord teach "easy believism?" Did He give sufficient instructions in these verses for a sinner to be saved? Remember why John's Gospel was written (John 20:31).

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According to Peter's account of the conversion of the Gentiles in Acts 10, God "... put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by FAITH." (Acts 15:9) As a matter of fact, the Gentile hearers received the Holy Ghost by faith in the middle of Peter's message (Acts 10:44), before Peter even had a chance to say, "Now, if you want to be saved, repeat after me..."

Although there is a dispensational transition in the book of Acts, most Bible students will agree that the apostle Paul knew the Bible message of salvation for our time. Paul clearly preached in Acts 13:39, "And by him all that BELIEVE are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:39)

One of the BEST illustrations of personal soul-winning after the crucifixion is found in Acts 16, with the conversion of the Philippian jailor.

When he asked, "Sirs, what MUST I do to be SAVED?" (Acts 16:30), Paul and Silas said, BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." (Acts 16:31)

Paul, who preached the gospel by which we are saved (1 Cor. 15:1-4), did not tell the jailor to confess, as some do on the basis of Rom. 10:9; or pray, as some do because of Rom. 10:13; or be baptized, as some do because of Mark 16:16. He said, "BELIEVE."

It is significant that this is the only place in the New Testament in which the question is asked in these words. Could there be any more important place for the Holy Spirit to give a soul-winner the EXACT answer to give to inquiring sinners?

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Bible students who rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) realize that the strongest arguments for instructions about salvation should be based on the Pauline epistles.

Beginning in Romans, this great book records in Rom. 1:16:

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that BELIEVETH; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Paul wrote that the righteousness of God is manifested today,

"Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that BELIEVE: for there is no difference: (Romans 3:22)

Does it strike you as strange that Bible-believing Christians are so timid about using the scriptural words of "believe" or "faith" when telling someone how to be saved, and are so bold about using unscriptural expressions such as "invite the Lord into your heart," and "ask Christ to save you?"

The Bible states in Rom. 3:27,28: 27 "Where [is] boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of FAITH. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by FAITH without the deeds of the law." (Romans 3)

Rom. 3:30 says, "Seeing [it is] one God, which shall justify the circumcision by FAITH, and uncircumcision through FAITH." (Romans 3:30)

Perhaps you are acquainted with most or all of these verses, but do you BELIEVE them? Do you PROCLAIM them? Do you notice that prayer is NOT connected with any of them?

Notice the plain statements of Rom. 4:3-5: 3 "For what saith the scripture? Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, but BELIEVETH on him that justifieth the ungodly, his FAITH is counted for righteousness." (Romans 4) Notice the emphasis on FAITH also in verses 9, 11-14, 16-20.

Rom. 4:24 says, "But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we BELIEVE on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;" (Romans 4:24)

Rom. 5:1 says, "Therefore being justified by FAITH, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:" (Romans 5:1) Peace with God does not come by begging God for it. Some anxious souls have prayed "the sinner's prayer" numerous times without receiving peace. Peace comes by faith in the work of Him who reconciled sinners to God by the cross (Eph. 2:14-17).

Rom. 9:31-33 declares, 31 "But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Wherefore? Because [they sought it] not by FAITH, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever BELIEVETH on him shall not be ashamed." (Romans 9)

It is written in Rom. 10:4, "For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that BELIEVETH." (Romans 10:4)

1 Cor. 1:21 states, "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that BELIEVE." (1 Corinthians 1:21)

In order for a person to be "Pauline" in doctrine, he must emphasize the fact that eternal life, salvation, and the righteousness of God are obtained through BELIEVING.

Gal. 2:16 says, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have BELIEVED in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the FAITH of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." (Galatians 2:16)

Further, Gal. 3:8 states, "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through FAITH..." (Galatians 3:8) Verse 22 says, "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that BELIEVE." (Galatians 3:22) Verse 24 proclaims, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by FAITH." (Galatians 3:24) Verse 26 reads, "For ye are all the children of God by FAITH in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:26)

Eph. 1:13 says, "In whom ye also [TRUSTED], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye BELIEVED, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise," (Ephesians 1:13)

Eph. 2:8 states, "For by grace are ye saved through FAITH; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:" (Ephesians 2:8)

Paul wrote in 1 Tim. 1:16, "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." (1 Timothy 1:16)

The Pauline epistles are absolutely clear. They teach that a sinner is saved by trusting the Lord Jesus Christ.

Trusting Christ is not begging God for mercy. Trusting Christ is relying upon the Lord's death for our sins according to the scriptures, His burial, and His resurrection the third day according to the scriptures.

A sinner is saved by TRUSTING Christ, not even by TELLING God that he is trusting Christ. A sinner is saved by simply taking God at His word, not by ASKING God to be merciful.

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None of the scriptures examined so far say ANYTHING about believing AND PRAYING to be saved.

It is possible to pray in faith; many people pray WITHOUT faith; and many times we exercise faith without prayer. Prayer and faith are two separate things.

Only ONCE in the Pauline epistles is the term "calling upon the name of the Lord" mentioned in the context of salvation, and we will see that even on that occasion the Bible does not teach "the sinner's prayer" as it is taught today.

Where, then, is "the sinner's prayer" to be found?

"The sinner's prayer" is usually found at the end of a gospel tract or a printed sermon. It is often given at the close of a public message or a personal presentation of the gospel.

It takes on various forms:

"Dear God, have mercy on me and save my soul, for Jesus' sake, amen."

"Dear Lord, please forgive me of my sins and come into my heart. Amen."

"Heavenly Father, I know that I am a sinner and that I deserve to go to hell. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I do now receive Him as my personal Lord and Savior. I promise to serve you the best I can. Please save me. In Jesus' name, amen."

"Dear Jesus, I am sorry for my sins. Please forgive me and give me a new heart. Amen."

"The sinner's prayer" is sometimes done in a "repeat-after-me" fashion. This is done in hope that saying the words will somehow bring salvation to the heart. One instructional booklet on soul- winning related an incident in which a soul-winner actually TRICKED someone into praying the sinner's prayer, with the sinner supposing that he was going to be praying for something else! The man was assumed to be "converted," because he said certain words.

A thorough study of the scriptures will reveal the following facts:

1. A person is saved by grace through FAITH, not prayer.

2. No New Testament soul-winner instructed an unbeliever to pray "the sinner's prayer."

3. No unbeliever in the New Testament was saved by praying "the sinner's prayer."

4. God does not promise to answer the prayer of an unbeliever, EVEN WHEN HE IS ASKING TO BE SAVED.

Scriptures have already been given on the first point. The other three points will now be examined, and found to be FACTS.

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Probably the clearest New Testament example of a soul-winning experience is found in Acts 16:25-31. That passage tells about a concerned unbeliever asking the question, "What must I do to be saved?" (As was pointed out earlier, this is the only place in the Bible where the question is asked in these words.)

If an unbeliever were to ask that question of various "Christian" churches today, he would receive a wide variety of answers. however, nearly ALL people of all denominations who try to witness, no matter HOW MUCH they differ on requirements of salvation, will "close the deal" the same way. They will give as final instructions to the sinner something like, "Bow your head and repeat after me," or "You need to invite Jesus into your heart." They will NOT give the instruction Paul and Silas gave the sinner in Acts 16.

They do this because they have been TAUGHT that this is the way to win souls, NOT because ANYBODY in the New Testament ever said anything like that to an unbeliever!

Remember what Paul and Silas answered in Acts 16:31 to the question, "What must I do to be saved?"

"And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." (Acts 16:31)

That, friend, is the BIBLE answer to the question. It is the ONLY CORRECT answer to the question.

If you tell someone that he must walk a church aisle, take a preacher's hand, get baptized, or PRAY "THE SINNER'S PRAYER," you are NOT telling him what Paul and Silas told the man who asked what he MUST do to be saved.

When Peter told Simon to pray for forgiveness in Acts 8:22, he was talking to a BAPTIZED BELIEVER (8:5,12,13). Peter did not tell him to ask God to forgive him for all his sins and to come into his heart. Peter told him to pray that he might be forgiven for trying to buy the gift of conferring the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands. Read the account in Acts 8:13-23. The issue being dealt with in the passage is sin in the life of a BAPTIZED BELIEVER.

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One of the main proof texts for "the sinner's prayer" is Lk. 18:13, which says, "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." (Luke 18:13)

This has led many readers to believe that this is an example of a New Testament conversion, especially since Jesus said in verse 14, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 18:14)

However, before you state dogmatically that Lk. 18:13 is an example of an unbeliever in the New Testament becoming a believer, consider the following facts:

1. Although it is found in a New Testament book, the parable is an OLD TESTAMENT situation, since it is given BEFORE the crucifixion of Christ. The New Testament is not in force until Christ's death. The Bible says in Heb. 9:16,17: 16 "For where a testament [is], there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament [is] of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." (Hebrews 9)

2. The publican made NO mention anywhere in his prayer about the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no evidence he even KNEW anything about Jesus Christ. Yet, that is the only name by which people are saved today, as is found in Acts 4:12:

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

3. The record does not state anywhere that the man BELIEVED or TRUSTED the Lord Jesus Christ. He was begging God for MERCY. Even now, unbelievers often beg God for mercy, especially when they get into difficulties (war, hospital, etc.), WITHOUT trusting God's Son!

4. The gospel by which a person is saved, the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 1:16), is not mentioned, for the simple reason that the great work had not yet been accomplished!

5. Whatever justification it was that the publican received, it was not the justification by which a person is saved after the crucifixion, for Rom. 5:1 says that we are "justified by faith," not by crying for mercy.

Luke 18 is not an example of a New Testament sinner obtaining life through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ, His gospel, and faith are not even mentioned in the passage.

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The New Testament verse most often used to prove to a sinner that he must pray to be saved is Rom. 10:13, which says, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)

The average person does not realize, however, that Rom. 10:13 is the prayer of a BELIEVER, not an unbeliever. The next verse begins, "How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed?"

The implied answer is, "They can't. They must believe before they can call upon God and expect an answer." If the person has believed already (see Rom. 10:9), then he already HAS eternal life BEFORE he prayed! John 3:36 says, "He that believeth on the Son HATH everlasting life... (John 3:36)

Please notice verse 16, "But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath BELIEVED our report?" Obedience to the gospel is not calling on the name of the Lord, it is not being baptized, or anything else. It is BELIEVING THE REPORT.

So, according to Rom. 10:14, verse 13 is a reference to the salvation of a believer, not of an unbeliever. The need of believers to be saved is seen in such scriptures as 1 Tim. 2:15, which says, "Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." (1 Timothy 2:15) Certainly this is not saying that an unbelieving woman will become a new creature in Christ Jesus by having children!

1 Tim. 4:16 says, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." (1 Timothy 4:16) Timothy was not an unregenerate preacher. He did, however, need to be saved from the dangers of deception, distraction, defilement, etc.

Both cases above deal with the salvation of believers from dangers in TIME AFTER they are already saved in the sense of their destiny in eternity!

Preachers have joked about the fact that when Peter was drowning, he did not say, "Lord, DECISION me!" -- criticizing the use of the term "decisions" to refer to converts. However, when Peter DID cry, "Lord, save me," (Mt. 14:30), it was the cry of a DISCIPLE in fear of DROWNING, NOT that of an unbeliever wanting to be forgiven of his sins. There was an earlier case in which this use of the word applied to the other disciples in Mt. 8:25.

If one should object that Rom. 10:13 says, "For WHOSOEVER shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," (Romans 10:13) this question should be considered: Will God give eternal life to WHOSOEVER calls upon the name of the Lord, if that person still believes that his own righteousness will help him be saved?

Can a person who rejects the truth of the atoning work of the Son of God, pray, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" and receive God's salvation? ABSOLUTELY NOT. A man who refuses to rest in the finished work of Christ will die and go to hell no matter HOW many times he calls upon the name of the Lord.

The Bible does not teach that anyone can pray to God anytime he wants to and get saved. It does not even promise an ANSWER to ANY of the prayers of an unbeliever.

When some religious leaders accused Jesus of being a sinner, a blind man who was healed by the Lord 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 man received this truth from the scriptures (the Old Testament was what he had at the time). For instance...

8 "For what [is] the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? 9 Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him?" (Job 27) The implied answer is, "God will not listen to that hypocrite's prayers!"

12 "There they cry, but none giveth answer, because of the pride of evil men. 13 Surely God will not hear vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it." (Job 35)

"They cried, but [there was] none to save [them: even] unto the LORD, but he answered them not." (Psalms 18:41) Do you believe that? Here is a verse stating that somebody was crying to the Lord to SAVE them, but he would not ANSWER!

"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear [me]:" (Psalms 66:18) Here is another example where the Bible teaches that God does NOT promise to hear or answer every prayer.

People ask about "death-bed conversions." In spite of the example of the thief on the cross, God does NOT promise to save those who are dying who have continually rejected His word. Speaking of some wicked people who would one day be in bad trouble, the Bible says, 28 "Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:" (Proverbs 1)

"He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer [shall be] abomination." (Proverbs 28:9)

"And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood." (Isaiah 1:15)

1 "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid [his] face from you, that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59) "Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them." (Jeremiah 11:11)

Notice that zeal and earnestness do not guarantee an answer:

"When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence." (Jeremiah 14:12)

"Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, [yet] will I not hear them." (Ezekiel 8:18)

"Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings." (Micah 3:4)

"Therefore it is come to pass, [that] as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts:" (Zechariah 7:13)

I realize that these are all Old Testament verses. You must realize that Rom. 10:13, which is used to teach that God will save anyone who prays, is a quotation of an Old Testament verse, Joel 2:32, also quoted in Acts 2:21.

Do not assume that God NEVER hears the prayer of an unsaved person. God is omnipresent, and in a sense, He hears everything. However, He does not PROMISE to hear all prayers in the sense of answering them or regarding them.

It is evident that God gives more light to those who respond properly to the light already given them. In that sense, God would probably send the gospel to someone who sincerely cried for salvation. An example of this would be the case of Cornelius, in Acts. 10. However, salvation would not come to the soul in answer to the prayer, but as a result of believing the gospel message. NO ONE today is saved except by faith in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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When a person examines the scriptures, he is jolted by the fact that NOBODY in the Bible asked Jesus to come into his heart. NO unbeliever in the Bible asked God to save him for Christ's sake. NO soul-winner instructed a sinner in the New Testament to pray in order to become a Christian.

He learns that Rev. 3:20 was not an instruction to an unsaved man to invite Jesus into his heart, but rather for a saved man in a local church to open the door for the Lord Jesus to have communion with him.

He realizes that TRADITION was what caused him to believe that a person was saved through prayer. He realizes that TRADITION was what caused him to use "the sinner's prayer" in soul-winning.

If he was himself led to the Lord in prayer, he might well question his OWN standing before God. Can a person be saved who prayed "the sinner's prayer?"

It is an unfair conclusion to say that EVERYONE who prayed at his time of "conversion" is lost.

However, God's word teaches that a person is NOT saved by prayer, but through faith. Now, pay attention: if a person trusted in God's answering his prayer rather than in the substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, he DID NOT pass from death unto life. If he is saved now, he became saved subsequent to his prayer, at the point he put faith in the gospel. It is doubtful that many Christians were saved at the very moment they CLAIM that they got saved.

A person who is still depending upon his prayer is unsaved to this day.

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It is fairly simple to determine whether or not you are one of God's elect. What are YOU depending upon to get you to heaven? Why should God allow you to go to heaven?

Finish the statement: If I should die today, I depend upon the fact that


to get me to heaven.

If you wrote about what YOU have done rather than what Jesus Christ did for you, you are LOST.

If you are trusting in the fact that Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures, you have eternal life (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

If you, for the first time in your life, are trusting in the Lord in such fashion, you should confess Him openly, be baptized (regardless of previous baptisms when you were unsaved), and unite with a Bible-believing independent Baptist church. These actions which follow faith in Christ will not save you or help you to be saved, but they will help you to be a better Christian AFTER you have been saved. For information about living the successful Christian life, write the address found elsewhere in this booklet.

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The practice of leading someone to the Lord by getting him to pray is not found in scripture.

It is evident from scripture that a sinner is born again the moment he believes the gospel from his heart, and no outward sign (though often evident at the time is necessary. However, nearly every soul-winner wants some way to lead the sinner to definitely decide to trust Christ and to know that the sinner has done so. He wants some kind of confession and some definite way of leading to that confession.

While this desire in itself may not be a bad one, caution should be exercised. Any indication from the sinner that he is indeed believing on the Lord Jesus Christ for the first time -- confession from the mouth, a prayer of thanksgiving, a hand-shake, a signing of a tract, a raising of the hand, or anything else -- MUST not be conceived by the sinner as a requirement to salvation, or HE WILL REMAIN UNSAVED. He will not be saved if he depends upon ANYTHING he does. he must depend solely upon what Jesus Christ did for Him on the cross.

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For any believer who may not have ever received any guidance on presenting the gospel to an unbeliever, the following outline is presented.


Tell him that there are basically four things that he must accept in order to get that assurance. Then show him the following four facts:

2. SHOW HIM THAT HE IS A SINNER. Read Rom. 3:23.


4. SHOW HIM WHAT GOD HAS DONE TO PROVIDE SALVATION FOR HIM. Read 1 Cor. 15:3,4. This is the most important part. Explain clearly what the expression, "Christ died for our sins," means. You might use Isa. 53:6, illustrating the substitutionary death of Christ "according to the scriptures" (the Old Testament being the scriptures referred to by Paul).

5. SHOW HIM HOW HE MUST RESPOND TO THE OFFER OF SALVATION. Read Rom. 6:23b. The gift must be received. Read Acts 16:29-31. Explain that believing on Christ is not just acknowledging that the events really happened, but rather that it is TRUSTING His substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection for his salvation.

6. BOW FOR PRAYER. Ask God to speak to his heart. With heads bowed, ask the sinner to trust Christ from his heart. As he does so, ask him to take you hand as an indication. Remind him that he is taking your hand for your sake alone, and that it has nothing to do with his salvation. If he takes your hand, thank God for his conversion.

7. CHECK HIM FOR ASSURANCE. Read Jn. 3:36. Ask him if he is now believing on the Son. If he says, "Yes," point to the text and ask him what THE BIBLE says he has. Once he reads out loud, "eternal life," point out to him that YOU did not tell him that; GOD'S WORD told him.

8. URGE HIM TO CONFESS CHRIST BEFORE OTHERS (not in order to be saved, but because he is saved). Read Rom. 10:11. Explain "the invitation" at the end of the sermon. Offer to pick him up for the next service.

Speak to him about baptism, church membership and the Christian life. You might have tracts, booklets, or tapes that can help on this, or you might want to leave this up to the pastor.

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And now, friend, I commend you to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of all grace, to bear witness by His Holy Spirit to your heart of the truth of the message of this booklet.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your marvelous grace. May you use this feeble effort to help sinners to realize what actually took place on the cross and to place faith in your Son's blessed work. Stir the hearts of sincere believers to emphasize to unbelievers that the work of salvation has been DONE, and that all they have to do is rest completely in that finished work. Thank you for saving me and allowing me to have a part in proclaiming your grace.

In Jesus' name, amen.

Michael D. O'Neal December, 1994

By Michael D. O'Neal
Pastor, Gospel Light Baptist Church
Albany, Georgia
(229) 698-2127
NOTE: The above is the text of the book, "The Sinner's Prayer,"
by Michael D. O'Neal, copyright 1994, not to be reproduced
without permission, and not to be resold. A current
listing of Brother O'Neal's books may be found at:

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