What if? With those two words, you could form many questions.
1. What if there’s someone present who’s not a Christian?
2. What if today is someone’s first-ever time hearing the Gospel?
3. What if someone has a form of godliness but doesn’t bear the fruit of a Christ-follower?
Many similar questions work their way into my preparation for Sunday morning worship services. These services are for leading others in our corporate worship of Jesus Christ. And in that context, evangelism and discipleship can and should take place.
My focus is on the invitation and subsequent salvation prayer. Some have called it the sinner’s prayer, but I DO NOT like that description. It drips with poor theology. Over the last century, too many people have been deceived that they’re Heaven-bound because they repeated a prayer. And the life of willful sin they continue does not look anything like following Christ.
Despite that, I still make an evangelistic appeal at the end of nearly every Sunday service. About once a month, I use a prepared salvation prayer. It happens after the general invitation; some individuals have already responded and received God’s help in the altars.
Why do I ask the congregation to repeat a salvation prayer with me? It’s because of those “what if” questions.
4. What if there’s an unchurched individual in the congregation whose heart has been awakened by grace?
5. What if someone has fallen from grace and needs to get back on track with following Christ?
6. What if a church member doubts the validity of their salvation because of spiritual warfare?
So, what value do I find in using this salvation prayer?
It’s about salvation. Salvation is what we all need. It’s not God’s will for anyone to repeat a prayer and continue living in willful sin. Jesus came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). I won’t list all the Bible says about this, but I suggest you meditate on Romans 6:1-2, Romans 8:1-3, and 2 Timothy 2:19.
It’s about commitment. This prayer is a verbal and audible step of faith. It could be the first time a person publicly declares their faith in Christ. And in that good God-moment, I’m glad to help it become a reality for their soul. An unchurched or unconverted soul might not know how to act on what the Holy Spirit is doing in them. Through this prayer, I aim to help them commit to trusting Christ alone.
It’s about helping people right now. The best time for a person to believe in Christ is always right now. When the Holy Spirit draws the person through His convincing grace, it’s not always visible. Sometimes I can spiritually discern it, but sometimes I can’t. So, by faith, I transition into the salvation prayer and trust God for the results. Now is always an acceptable time for someone’s new birth. The fullness of time has come, and Christ has done the necessary salvation work. And I want to lead people to faith in His vicarious atonement and victorious resurrection right now.
Here are a couple of valid questions that you might ponder. Why invite the whole congregation to pray the salvation prayer? Why not demand that only the unconverted walk the aisle?
First, there’s no biblical command for anyone to walk a church aisle for salvation. That means people can be born again at home, in their car, or standing in the congregation while we pray in unison. Secondly, praying this prayer does nothing to hinder a believer who is already secure in their salvation. It helps them learn a prayer they can use when the Holy Spirit uses them in a one-on-one evangelistic moment. Plus, it’s a moment of humble outreach as we help others see the normalcy of praying out loud to God.
Pastorally speaking, I like to be laser-focused on evangelism, discipleship, and worship on Sunday mornings. All other parts of ministry and life can wait for another time. The eternal souls of men, women, and young adults hang in the balance. And my goal is to point them to Christ.
Here’s the final “what if” question.
7. What if the person says they prayed this prayer and got saved, but they didn’t?
Salvation is of the Lord! In the next-steps process, one of our staff can discover that. In these ministry moments, we individually encourage them to follow the Lord in water baptism, unite in local church membership, and consider a service opportunity. As well, I trust the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do for that person. I’ll leave them in the hands of our all-knowing and always-compassionate Savior.
Because curiosity is natural, I’ll share an example of the salvation prayer.
Father, I am sorry that I have not fully obeyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner, and I cannot save myself. Jesus, I believe You are the eternal Son of God who died on the Cross, shedding Your sinless blood for my sins. You rose from the dead for my new life. I ask You to save me. By faith, I receive Your forgiveness for my sins and the gift of eternal life. I trust You as my Savior. Because You are my Lord, I commit to turning away from my sinful past. And I commit to living for you as a wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ. AMEN!
You see, my fellow believer, our call is to make disciples of Christ. I’m less concerned with pleasing the conventional thoughts of religion and most concerned about pleasing God. The worst pastoral sin I could be guilty of is ignoring Christ’s Great Commission.
Here’s the baptism service I follow. There are two questions that the new convert must be ready to answer.
1) Do you believe that Jesus Christ, as God’s only begotten Son, paid the full penalty for your sins on the Cross, and do you confess Him before this congregation as your personal Savior and Lord?
2) Do you believe that Jesus Christ rose from the grave so you can rise to a new life and live for Him?
Because of your public profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and your determination to follow Him, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and you will be saved.Tweet
4 thoughts on “7 “What If” Questions about the Salvation Prayer”
This is a great article. I wish all pastors would frequently and deliberately give an opportunity for people to consciously make a decision to move toward Jesus as Lord. Tomorrow afternoon we have plans to meet with just a handful of people in a church meeting. I will not let that opportunity pass without giving the chance for them to know Jesus personally even though I believe they are probably all already believers.
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I appreciate you reading and taking the time to make this comment. Being deliberate and intentional is the best way to approach evangelism and discipleship. After all, our calling is to help every individual move closer to God and His salvation through Jesus Christ.
I am praying for your Sunday afternoon meeting. God is prone to pull divine favor from His sovereign sleeve for those who seek to grow His Kingdom.
I love this, I was saved in my apartment in Gulf Breeze all alone, and 32 yrs old, I cried out to God. I knew it was real, although in my ignorance, with no church no friends or anyone to lead me, I was a baby in Christ. Made alot of mistakes along the way. But the Lord never let go of me. And I’m forever grateful for that!
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We praise God for your testimony. God is faithful!