14 December 2010
Why don't you lead people in the sinner's prayer?
I have been asked a few times over the last year or so why His Feet on the Street does not end witnessing encounters (or, more recently, open air opportunities) with what is generally known as the “sinner’s prayer”.
The sinner’s prayer is commonly employed at the end of most evangelical church services as an opportunity for an individual to receive Christ through either a prepared or spontaneous prayer from the pastor after (hopefully) sharing the gospel.
After sometimes appealing to lost people with, “Jesus is standing at the door of your heart knocking and wants to come in”, the guided prayer usually goes something like this…
“With every head bowed and every eye closed, please repeat this prayer after me: Dear God, I know that my sin separates me from You. Please forgive me of my sins. I thank you for dying for me. Come and live in my heart and help me be the person you want me to be. Amen.”
The pastor sometimes goes on to say, “If that prayer was the intent of your heart (and you really meant it), God heard you and saved you. Congratulations, you are now a child of God.”
So what’s wrong with that? Why doesn’t His Feet on the Street (HFOTS) use the sinner’s prayer and invite people to come to Christ after they present the gospel?
Let me be very clear on this; HFOTS absolutely invites lost people to come to Christ. If we didn’t invite, appeal, urge and plead with lost people to come to Christ, then we failed to convey the biblical gospel message. As a matter of fact, the moment we begin our witnessing encounters or open air opportunities, we have already started the invitation.
Pastor Jeff Noblit (Grace Life Church of the Shoals) say’s that, “If you do not give an invitation, then you have not preached the gospel. If there is no inviting of men to Christ, there is no gospel being preached... period.”
After a person has heard a biblical gospel invitation to come to Christ that invitation does not, and never will, end, (because God’s Word does not return void) until that person comes to faith in Christ or dies and stands before Christ in Judgment.
Praise God for that!!
Pastor Noblit also says, “God forbid we insinuate to people that the only real time you can get saved is when we sing three verses at the end of service. The invitation begins when we start preaching and may not end for years.”
HFOTS urges and appeals for the lost to come to Christ! We exist as a ministry because of the Great Commission and because of our compassion to reach the lost. What an utter failure we would be if we did not invite the lost to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
But what about the sinner’s prayer?
The reason HFOTS does not lead people in the sinner’s prayer is because we proclaim what the Bible commands; repentance and faith in Christ.
The Bible explicitly commands sinners to repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ for salvation. No where in the Scriptures will you find one person leading another person in a sinner’s prayer for salvation.
Why would they need to?
Ray Comfort of Way of the Master explains it like this, “If a man committed adultery, and his wife is willing to take him back, should you have to write out an apology for him to read to her? No.”
In other words, you shouldn’t have to tell the man, “Now say, Dear wife” and he say’s “Dear wife.” And you say, “I’m sorry I slept with that woman” and he say’s, “I’m sorry I slept with that woman.”
Ray goes on to say, “Sorrow for his betrayal of her trust should spill from his lips. She doesn’t want eloquent words, but simply sorrow of heart. The same applies to a prayer of repentance. The words aren’t as important as the presence of "godly sorrow." The sinner should be told to repent—to confess and forsake his sins. He could do this as a whispered prayer, and then you could pray for him.”
If God is drawing an individual to Himself, and working repentance in that person’s heart, then that last thing we should do is interfere with the supernatural working of God.
When a person is truly repentant and has a godly sorrow for their sins, you will never have to lead them in a prayer; repentance will flow from their lips.
Remember, its faith alone in Christ alone that is needed for salvation; not a sinner’s prayer. If a person is trusting in a “prayer” for their salvation and not Christ alone, then that person is still lost in their sins.
His Feet prefers to follow the biblical mandate of preaching the full gospel and calling sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. We would rather let the Holy Spirit do His task of convicting the lost of their sins and bringing about a godly sorrow that leads to repentance instead of us possibly giving someone a false sense of salvation because, instead of looking unto Christ and Him alone, they are now trusting in a prayer they mimicked.
All for Him,