For What Should a Sinner Pray?

For What Should a Sinner Pray?

Prayer is a misunderstood subject.  Some religious teachers, radio and TV preachers, and tracts of all kinds teach that anyone can simply pray for salvation, prosperity, health, love, or forgiveness, but the scriptures teach that prayer is for God’s children – those who have obeyed Christ and been adopted into his family. Prayer is communication within God’s family.

When I use the term ‘sinner’, I mean one who has never obeyed Jesus’ command to be born again in baptism.  (John 3:3)  But I must also point out that a person who deliberately continues in a lifestyle of sin after being baptized is in an even worse situation with God.  (Heb 10:26-27) (2Pet 2:20-22)  If we claim to be a Christian and yet live in a way that is wrong in God’s word, we are no different than someone who has rejected Christ completely.

Now, in a general sense, we are all sinners.  We have all come short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23), but if we have obeyed Christ’s commands, we are cleansed, justified, reconciled and forgiven.  (1Cor 6:9-11)  We also need to understand what the Bible means when it speaks of sin. (1John 3:4) tells us that sin is breaking the law – but what law?  God’s law!  The Jews living under Moses’ law would be accountable to that law, but we are living under the New Covenant and are accountable to its commands.  It was in the sin of Adam some 6000 years ago that death came into the world (1Cor 15:22).  Physical death is still here, but God has made provision for us to obtain eternal life through his Son Jesus. (John 3:16-17)

Scripture points out how powerful God’s word is. (Heb 4:12-13)  There is no way around the Word of God – when we listen to it with an open mind, it will have the same effect on the heart that it had on those who heard it on the day of Pentecost and we will want to know what to do to be saved and will be given the same answer. (Acts 2:36-39)

So then, for what should a ‘sinner’ pray?  What can a sinner pray for?  Can they pray for salvation?  Can praying the ‘sinners’ prayer’ save us?  This is widely promoted in tracts and by many religious leaders – but are we ever told to do such a thing in scripture?  NO!  No one was ever told to pray to be saved in the New Covenant.  2Cor 5:17-21 tells us that salvation is found in Christ. And we are told that baptism puts us into Christ.  (Gal 3:27)  We cannot pray for some other way to be reconciled to God.  God did his part by sending his Son to die on the cross and if we are to find salvation, we must follow his revealed commands.  We cannot pray for God to save us if we are unwilling to act on what the scriptures tell us to do. 

In John 9:31, a blind man healed by Jesus told the religious leaders of his day that God does not listen to ‘sinners’.  What this means is that one out in the world cannot get down on his knees and simply pray for Jesus to ‘come into his heart’ and take his sins away.  Jesus has already given us His way of salvation and we must obey His words if we are to gain forgiveness.  If a person rejects what is written in God’s word and refuses to follow it, then no prayer of theirs will be heard.

Some look for a miraculous event at salvation – a flash of light, some spectacular happening, but in the story of the rich man and Lazarus  – when The rich man asks for Lazarus to go back from the dead and warn his brothers, he is told that they must listen to the scriptures they have  (Luke 16:29-31)  Salvation comes from hearing and obeying the word of God, not with some miraculous event. 

Others claim that a ‘sinner’ can pray for the Holy Spirit to come down and save them.  But the Father, Son , and Holy Spirit are in perfect agreement.  It was the Holy Spirit who gave the apostles their message of salvation on the day of Pentecost.  It was the same message that Jesus Himself gave his apostles in Mark 16:15-16. 

The book of Acts is full of people who heard God’s word preached and obeyed it to receive salvation.  In Acts 10, a centurion named Cornelius was told to send and get Peter and listen to the message from him.  (Acts 10:30-33)  Why did the angel not simply tell Cornelius to pray for salvation?  Why have Peter come and tell him the gospel plan laid out by Christ?  Because that is God’s way. (1Cor 1:21)  Cornelius was ready to do whatever God through Peter told him to do.  Or consider Saul on the road to Damascus – he is struck down by a light from heaven, hears the voice of Jesus asking why he is persecuting him, is told to go into Damascus where he will be told what he must do.  After three days of fasting, and praying, God sends Ananias to Saul with the word of Acts 22:16.  Note, Saul’s fasting didn’t save him, his praying didn’t save him, it was only when he was baptized that his sins were washed away and he was saved.  Obeying Christ in baptism is like reinacting the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus showing our faith in his sacrifice.  (Rom 6:3-5)  By doing this, we find salvation, gain new life, and an eternity with him in heaven. 

God wants all people to be saved. (2Pet 3:9)  He seeks out those who are lost to offer them the way back to God.  (Luke 19:10)  In Luke 24:44-47, Jesus told his disciples that the message of salvation would first be preached in Jerusalem.  Any means of salvation that happened before that Pentecost message – like the thief on the cross who lived and died under the Old Testament law,  or any means that have been introduced by men after that time – like the ‘sinners prayer’, is not the plan paid for by the blood of Christ on the cross.  It was the plan preached on Pentecost in Acts 2:36-41 that we are to follow. 

Other people say that a ‘sinner’ should pray for God to send his grace, but we are told in Titus 2:11-12 that God’s grace has already appeared.  We cannot pray for what He has already given us.  We have his word, his plan which contains everything we need.  (Ps 19:7)

And a ‘sinner’ cannot pray for some new revelation or a different way of salvation.  Ps 119:105 tells us that his word is our light and guide.   Can a person pray for knowledge – for God to miraculously put into their mind what to do?   In Eph 3:4-6, Paul says that to understand God’s way we have to read the scriptures to learn what God expects and requires of us.

We, as Christians, can pray for others to hear and accept the gospel and come to Christ.  We can pray for hearts to be opened to the gospel. (Rev 3:20)  But if one will not accept God’s way, there is no use in anyone asking God to save them some other way.  God sent his son to die on the cross to pay the price for our sins so that we could be forgiven when we obey His commands.  But the decision is up to each one of us.  Jesus said his words would judge us. (John 12:48-49)

And we cannot pray for religion. Religion isn’t something we get – it is something we do.  The only way to please God is to yield to His will.  (1Pet 3:12)  When we do evil, God turns away from us.  Christ didn’t come to bring religion, the world is full of religion of all types.  Instead, he came to bring us the truth in the midst of a world full of man’s ideas and interpretations.  (Matt 15:8-9)  (Matt 7:21-23)

There are two types of ‘sinners’ who will be lot and shut out from God on Judgment day – those who have rejected Him and never obeyed his word and those who once did, but continue to live in sin as though they never had.  The one who has never obeyed cannot simply pray for salvation, grace, light, understanding, or religion – all of those are found only in Christ Jesus.  Salvation is found only when we obey the Lord, be buried in baptism, raised to new life, and enter the narrow way to heaven.  (Matt 7:13-14)

The scripture assures us of God’s willingness and ability to forgive. (1John 2:1-2)  Are you willing to give up the doctrines promoted by men and just follow the scriptures.  Open God’s word, read it for yourself, and obey the words of Christ.  Jesus said that we must believe in him (John 6:29.)  And that we must repent of our sins. (Luke 13:3)  Jesus said that we must confess our faith in Him (Matt 10:32), and that we must be baptized – immersed in water- in order to gain the forgiveness of your sin. (Mark 16:16), (Acts 2:38), (1Pet 3:20-21)

Prayer cannot save you, but obedience to the word of God will!