Note: The following discussion has been carried over from another blog and since my blog has become the new hotspot for debates between Roman Catholics and Protestants, it has been continued here.
Before beginning, I will admit that my views concerning this subject are biased because as a child I prayed the sinner’s prayer, while failing to make a true commitment. That paired with an unbiblical understanding of the perseverance of the saints led me to place my confidence, of the security of my salvation, in my praying a prayer rather than in my bearing of fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).
Do I think there is a better evangelism paradigm than the sinner’s prayer? Yes, when coupled with an inadequate presentation of the Gospel the sinners prayer is dangerous for several reasons.
1. I think it is rooted in our desire for closure rather than Scripture and our desire to see Biblical converts.
2. I think it flows out of an unbiblical understanding of the great commission; we are called to disciple not merely evangelize.
3. I think it leads believers to place their assurance of Salvation in an act rather than in God.
4. I think it oversimplifies the Gospel.
5. I think it does not maintain an equal understanding of Christ as both Savior and Lord.
Do I think that praying the sinner’s prayer is unbiblical, heretical, or just plain bad? No, I just think there are better methods of concluding a Gospel presentation and I am positive that someone with more experience and wisdom could point me to a better method than anything I could suggest as well. I do not think this is a question of what is Biblical or unbiblical but about what methods convey the Gospel with more clarity.
Disclaimer: This all depends on what sinner’s prayer you pray and how you present the Gospel. When coupled with a Biblical Gospel presentation praying a prayer, as an outward sign of an inward commitment, is a very Biblical thing. What should be avoided is presenting the Gospel as “pray this prayer and you are always saved,” that is unbiblical. A proper presentation of the Gospel should always result in a proper understanding of prayer, in this case a prayer of commitment and submission to Christ. Honestly, would not want to pray to the God who purchased them with the blood of His only begotten Son? I think communication with the Father is a natural result of receiving the Gospel message and we should stress the importance of communicating with the Father. What we should avoid is stressing the mechanistic repetition of a prayer that does not flow forth from the heart; it is my conviction that our desire for closure causes us to do that very thing. This is why I would suggest praying a simple prayer for the individual, encouraging them pray there on there own, or encouraging them to go home a talk to God about their new life in Him.
Finally, just share the Gospel; immerse yourself in God’s Word so you know the Gospel and share it like crazy. It is my prayer that we would combine a mature knowledge of God with an ever-increasing passion for God and go tell the world. For some reason it seems that the more you know about God the more boring you become and I think we need to change that. The Puritans call this “logic on fire” the more you know of God the more your passions burn for Him.
Keith, I am with you to a point. I think we have put to much emphasis on the prayer itself without explaining what is actually taking place. I will not say where, but you know, I heard that prayer recited to hundreds of children. There was nothing about being sinners and in need of a Savior, nothing about committing your life to the Lordship of Christ. I believe that we must show people their sin and seperation from God, let them know God has provided a way back to Him, and explain what it means to truly put their faith in Christ. Once you have made those things clear and a person has decided in their heart that they want to commit their lives to Christ then finishing that conversation with a prayer of commitment as the outward expression of the inward heart is something I would encourage. It immediately displays the importance of communication with the Father and for the first time the person is brought before the Throne covered in the blood of Christ.
As I said above, we must do a better job of explaining or teaching during the gospel presentation. Many time I hear a shallow gospel, with hey your seperated from God, but guess what, Christ died for you, you can have an eternal relationship with God, just pray this prayer….and that is dangerous ground.
Hey I revised it a little hopefully it makes more sense now.
Yeah I agree with woody when he said that he hears so little of the gospel shared.
Simply I think people do not know the gospel it is not in the process of saving them, so in turn they do not know what they are sharing so we get statments in evangelism like: “Have you ever been baptized? Well the real wuestion is have you ever asked Jesus into your heart to make him Lord and Savior? Would you like to do that now? (Insert prayer) Now all you have to do is read your Bible. Good bye we are leaving to go back to America, where a different person will come down for a week and try to make a disciple out of you!”
It makes me cry, but I end up just being mad. And NOBODY says anything to correct those who “evangelize” like this. It is all over the church. I am going to be sick now….