Christianity Today very graciously asked me to contribute to the “Sinner’s Prayer” discussion by distilling some of the ideas in my forthcoming book, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart for an article. Here is an excerpt of that article:
“Belief and repentance are the only prescribed biblical instruments for laying hold of salvation. They might be expressed in a “sinner’s prayer,” but they are fundamentally postures of the heart toward God. It is possible to pray a sinner’s prayer and not have repented and believed. It is also possible to repent and believe without articulating such a prayer.”
“Shorthand phrases for the gospel can serve a good purpose, insofar as everyone knows exactly what they mean. But in light of the fact that so many in our country seem assured of a salvation they give no evidence of having, and so many others are unable to find assurance no matter how often they pray the prayer, I believe it is time to put the shorthand aside and preach simply salvation by repentance toward God and faith in the finished work of Christ. Or, at least, to be careful to explain exactly what we mean when we call for a response to the gospel.”
“Ultimately, my concern is not on what words or actions we might use to express our faith in Christ, but that we don’t substitute those words or actions for repentance and faith. “Praying the sinner’s prayer” has become something like a Protestant “ritual” we have people go through to gain entry into heaven. As “gospel shorthand,” it presents salvation as a transaction one conducts with Jesus and moves on from rather than the beginning of a posture we take toward the finished work of Christ and maintain for the rest of our lives.”
You can read the whole article here.