This prayer to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord is also sometimes called The Sinner’s Prayer. That’s because we begin by confessing our need for Christ to forgive our sins. This prayer to accept Jesus is used at the time of conversion and personal commitment to follow Christ or at the time of baptism. This article will guide you on how to use this prayer for yourself or with others.
How to use this prayer
It has been my highest honor and privilege to use this prayer to accept Jesus or The Sinner’s Prayer to lead someone to Christ.
From my earliest years as a young Christian to now as a pastor it has been wonderful to lead folks of all ages to Christ using this prayer.
The prayer example that I will give is only a sample of the many different ways you could express or use such a prayer.
1. The Spiritual elements
The spiritual elements and theology you could or would use in such a prayer are as follows:
a. You are a sinner
b. You need a Savior
c. Jesus is the way to eternal life and salvation
d. Jesus died for you
e. Jesus is God’s Son
f. Repentance and confession of sin
g. Acceptance of Jesus as your savior
h. Faith expressed from the heart
i. Receiving forgiveness of sin
j. Commitment to live for Christ
k. Assurance of God’s love and work in one’s heart
2. It’s not all about the words but rather about what happens in our heart.
I usually lead someone in a version of prayer similar to these elements of theology. The important thing about this prayer is the person accepting or receiving God’s grace. It is a work of the heart and as such is supernatural. It is a work of God and not man. Saying a prayer does not save. The true fact of the matter is that Jesus saves! We don’t. Just reciting a prayer like a magic potion will not produce results if it is orchestrated by us without God’s conviction and work in that person’s heart. I am always aware of this when I lead someone to Christ. I ask them if they are ready.
3. Saying the prayer
When I lead someone to Christ, I use short phrases and words to be repeated after me to be prayed from the heart by that person or persons. I then encourage them to get involved in a local church and become a member, read their Bible, pray, fellowship with believers, and witness for Christ.
The following is an example of a sinner’s prayer similar to what I use to lead people to Christ:
Please forgive me for my sins. I believe that you sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins.
I believe that you love me. I believe in my heart who you are. You are the Son of God. I confess with my mouth that I am a sinner. I accept you Lord Jesus as my savior. Please cleanse me from my sin and create a new and clean heart in me. I do believe that you are my savior and I now want to live for you as my Lord and my God. I know that I have eternal life in you because of the work you did on Calvary’s cross for me. Thank you, God. In Jesus Name. Amen.
4. The Scriptures behind the prayer
Scriptures that apply to the bold italic phrases or words of the above sinner’s prayer:
1. forgive me, Luke 7:48; Luke 5:8
2. my sins, Romans 3:23
3. you sent, John 3:17
4. believe that you love me, Romans 5:8; John 3:16
5. believe in my heart who you are…the Son of God, I John 5:12
6. I confess with my mouth that I am a sinner, Romans 10:9-10; I John 1:9
7. Accept…my savior, Romans 10:13
8. Cleanse me…create..new..clean heart in me, Psalm 51:9-10
9. now want to live for you…as my Lord and my God, Galatians 2:20; John 20:27-28
10. know…eternal life, I John 5:11; Romans 6:23
11. the work you did, John 6:28-29
12. on Calvary’s cross, Luke 23:33; John 19:30
My Personal experiences and tips
I can give personal testimony to that fact that saying the words to this prayer does not change your life unless you mean it from your heart. At age 14 a group of young men from a local church were zealous to lead me in a type of sinner’s prayer. It was somewhat forced. I obliged and prayed the prayer, but it really wasn’t from the heart and I was not ready either. It wasn’t until six years later when I was in college that I said this prayer and truly meant it, repenting and turning my life over to Christ.
My personal search and experience began in June of 1979 as a college student at summer break back home working in an industrial plant. A fellow worker and new friend simply invited me to church. He and others helped me begin the process as a seeker by praying for me and witnessing to me. I went to church with my fellow worker. When they prayed at the altar, I would go up with them. After about a month or so of this, I sensed the need to repent of my wrongdoings and could actually feel the prayers of others for me. Later different Christian believers told me that they had been praying for me.
One day I felt the presence of God physically at home and felt called to pray. I sensed a conviction and a need to get on my knees at home and ask Jesus into my life and to forgive me. I had been lonely and empty but after this experience through prayer I felt happy and joyful. Something had changed in my life and heart. I felt like a new person. I had a different outlook on life. Nature and even the trees which previously meant nothing to me came alive with vibrant color and life. It was good to be alive.
I began to tell people about my experience and encouraged others to have a similar experience of giving their life to Christ because it had changed my life. I had a strong desire to read the Bible and sometimes I read as many as ten to fifteen chapters a day. Within three months, I sensed a call to be a preacher in October of 1979 at the college campus.
We never know when others are ready. But this should not prevent us from leading someone to Christ or witnessing. We should always plant the seed through witnessing and prayer. God does the work!
The Biblical and traditional background of this prayer
This prayer uses a variety of key scriptures about saving faith through the atoning death of Jesus Christ.
An early example of the Sinner’s Prayer can be found in chapter 18 of Pilgrim’s Progress written by John Bunyan in 1678.
“God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see, that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away. Lord, I have heard that thou art a merciful God, and hast ordained that thy Son Jesus Christ should be the Saviour of the world; and moreover, that thou art willing to bestow him upon such a poor sinner as I am-and I am a sinner indeed. Lord, take therefore this opportunity, and magnify thy grace in the salvation of my soul, through thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen.”
The Sinner’s Prayer was popularized by evangelist Dwight Moody (1837-1899) who had a heart for reaching the unchurched, especially youth.
Copyright Joe Hethcoat 2011. All rights reserved.