Just for Catholics

The Sinner's Prayer

Question: You say that you believe and that you are saved right now. I suppose this is the result of some form of prayer said with sincerity and published by some Protestant or Evangelical group.

Answer: No, I am not saved because I said a prayer. Many wrongly assume they are saved because they said the "sinner's prayer" or because they went forward in an evangelistic meeting or signed a card. This false idea is not much different from the Roman Catholic doctrine that a person is born again by submitting to water baptism. It is arguably worse than baptismal regeneration, for Christ did command his disciples to be baptized, but He never conditioned salvation on walking up an aisle and repeating a formula.

The truth of the matter is that salvation is not something that humans do; but something that God does for and in us. Salvation is of the LORD (Jonah 2:9). The prayer for mercy, faith, repentance, the obedience to baptism, love and holiness issue from a new heart that the Lord grants to undeserving sinners. Salvation is not something we can earn or achieve. God, the one and only Saviour, declares: "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." Therefore the Scriptures conclude: "So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (Romans 9:15,16).

We are the lost, helpless sinners, and we cannot by our will or action attain salvation. We are totally dependent on the sovereign mercy of God. In the Bible we don't read about the lost sheep seeking and finding the shepherd; rather we only read how the Good Shepherd seeks and finds the lost sheep.

You seem to be surprised that I claim to be saved right now. Yes, I do have eternal life, and I know it. How so? Am I being presumptuous? No, rather, I am confident in the Word and promises of God. You know John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." By God's grace, I believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. I trust in Him for my salvation. I know my faith is genuine because I love God and seek with all my heart to obey His commandments.

Now, since I believe in the Son of God, the Bible assures me that I "have everlasting life." Eternal life is my present possession. I thank God for His amazing love -- all glory to Him!

The so-called "sinner's prayer" is at best the expression of true faith. Such faith can only be recognized whether it is alive or dead by the fruit that it produces. On the other hand, the "sinner's prayer" could also be the occasion of terrible self-deception because the unrepentant and unbeliever could be easily induced by to parrot a few religious sentences. A million sinner's prayers will not keep you out of hell unless you truly believe in the Lord Jesus, as evidenced by a consistent life of practical holiness and love. 

Copyright Dr Joe Mizzi. Permission to copy and distribute this article without textual changes. < BACK TO Q&A