You Can Not Be Saved by Just Saying a Prayer

1 Kings 3:5-13 (KJV) 5 In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.

6 And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.

7 And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.

8 And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.

9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?

10 And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.

11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;

12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.

13 And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.

Luke 18:13-14 (KJV) 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Romans 10:10-11 (KJV) 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Acts 16:30-31 (KJV) 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Acts 8:36-37 (KJV) 36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

2 Timothy 1:12 (KJV) For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

When Solomon became King of Israel after the death of his father David, he prayed to God at a special time in which God invited Solomon to ask whatever he desired and He would grant it.  Solomon was a pretty clever guy, and figured that if he asked God for wisdom to rule the nation, God would be pleased and give him unspeakable riches to go along with his wisdom.  And sure enough, God responded to Solomon’s prayer for wisdom by giving him both wisdom and riches.  Pretty good plan, eh?

Is this really what happened?  OF COURSE NOT!  God cannot be fooled that way.  God knew the heart of Solomon, that his true desire was for wisdom to rule the nation.  God added riches, but NOT FOR SOLOMON’S BENEFIT, BUT FOR THE SAKE OF HIS OWN GLORY AND NAME. 

So what does this prove?  Well, it proves that the heart is the essential factor in communicating with God.  The words of a prayer are incidental, but when they do not reveal the true feelings of the heart, they constitute a lie.  

So what’s all this got to do with anything?  Well, it’s like this – a person can pray for salvation all they want to, but to no effect unless the prayer comes from a heart of true faith.  This is what the Apostle Paul means when he  says “for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”, and “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”.

Some well-meaning pastors and evangelists have taken these verses and applied them to what is commonly refered to as “the sinner’s prayer”.  Luke 18 is thrown in for good measure, where it speaks of the publican, who prayed a certain prayer and “went down to his house justified”.  But was it the actual saying of a prayer that “justified” that man?  When we examine the text more closely (see text above), we see that the publican “smote on his breast”.  Why did he do this?  Because his heart was troubled within him.  His sin had separated him from God, and being made sensible of this separation, and longing to have the assurance of God’s forgiveness, his mouth cries out what his heart feels – “God be merciful to me a sinner”.  And this truly is the prayer of a repentant sinner before the Righteous Judge.

Now some might say, “what if he felt this conviction in his heart, but yet refused to pray”.  My answer is this:  then he is not truly convicted, for he is not yet convinced of his doom, esle he would cry out.  But have I just contradicted myself, seeing that I have said that the prayer is incidental but yet the man would cry out if truly convicted?  No, I have not contradicted myself, but I have merely clarified the issue.  You see, the order of events matter.  One must have received the regenerating Spirit within his bosom before he can cry out to God in true converting contrition and repentance.  Consider the pattern clearly established in Romans chapter 10, in particular verses 10 – 11 (posted above).  What does it say?  Let’s break it down:

1.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; [the role of the heart]

2.  and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation [the role of the mouth]

3.  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. [the reason why this takes place – the heart of faith activates the mouth of confession] 

But what about people that are incapable of saying words?  Are they barred from God’s salvation because they cannot pray with words?  Of course not.  Ah, but you say, “they are the exception”.  No my friend, they are not the exception, but in fact, they are the rule.  It is only the heart of belief that saves, or else Paul would have exhorted the Phillipian jailor to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ AND CONFESS HIM” or “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ AND SAY THIS PRAYER AFTER ME” or “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ AND WALK THE AILSE” and so on.  One can add any number of additions to JUST BELIEVING, which is exactly what Paul told the jailor to do – “BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”.  FAITH ALONE IS THE ESSENTIAL MEANS OF ACCESS TO GOD’S SALVATION!  

Some preachers are afraid to let God be God.  Apparently, they do not trust God’s ability to save those that believe.  There must be more to it, they think.  There must be some way, some method, some activity, that we can “seal the deal” and make it sure.  Let’s have them say a prayer, or raise a hand, or walk an ailse, or kneel on an altar, or sign a committment card, or any other innumerable devices which might be used to add to God’s work, which in their minds is simply not sufficient.

Now don’t get me wrong.  We should expect a confession of salvation in some form or another from those that HAVE BEEN saved.  When a person expresses that they have trusted Christ, and express a desire to obey their Lord in baptism, they ARE confessing unto salvation.  They are not confessing to GET SAVED, but they are confessing that they ARE SAVED.  This is a crucial difference and if we miss this understanding we miss the biblical Gospel.  

We must be willing to stand aside and let God do the work of salvation, let God implant the faith, and let God bring forth the fruit of repentance.  We may preach the word, plant the seed, water the ground, but God gives the increase.  But we are often too impatient to wait on God.  Although conversion can be instant, assurance can take months, even years, to come about.  Our testimony must come around to “I know whom I have believed”, not “I know what I prayed”.

Dear friends, don’t be fooled by the shallow promises of smooth preachers.  Jesus said “ye must be born again”.  The Ethiopian Eunuch asked Phillip to baptize him.   The eunuch said, “what hinders me to be baptized?”; to which Phillip replied, “You may, IF YOU BELIEVE WITH ALL YOUR HEART”.  The eunuch’s reply?  “I prayed the sinner’s prayer”?  NO!  His reply was:  “I BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD”!!!  You see, the eunuch had had a born-again experience.  He once was lost, but now was found, was blind, now he sees! 

Only God can give you assurance of salvation.  If you can say with Paul, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day”, then Christian, rejoice in your salvation!  Faith is the only way. 


+++see a related post here:  “21 flaws of the “Alter Call” by Pastor David Wooten — I will post the entire article in a new post.


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5 Responses to “You Can Not Be Saved by Just Saying a Prayer”

  1. Clark Bunch Says:

    The result of hand raising, card signing, etc. is that you end up with people that can’t tell you who Jesus is, but claim to have been “saved” 3 or 4 times.

  2. wickle Says:

    One of the problems, as you and Clark each hit on, is that some of the wandering “evangelists” want you to say the prayer to rack up their numbers, but then leave you without a relationship for fellowship. Or, of course, doing it all from the comfort of your TV set.

    Good points about Solomon. God wasn’t caught off guard. He knew what was being asked before Solomon thought of it.

  3. Joel Says:

    Clark and Wickle, thank you for your comments.

  4. gerald tigchon Says:

    We ‘believe’, ‘call’, ‘confess’, ‘repent’ and are ‘baptized’ because we are BORN, not in order TO BE BORN of GOD. The thief on the cross was promised PARADISE that very day, by none other than CHRIST. This puts all DOUBT away as to the fact that all the above alluded to is because he was saved already. The preaching of the personage of CHRIST and the actions observed at that crucifixion scene was all that was involved. The Thief neither endorsed nor was told to commit to any of the aforementioned to be in PARADISE. False theologians add human works and the idea of responses to gain SALVATION. The conversation recorded at the crucifixion was to seal the evidence against all who would say that they have input into their SALVATION. You have NONE or you would be referred to as CO-AUTHORS of SALVATION. The WORK of CHRIST would have been in vain if MAN’S APPROVAL was needed. GOD does not approve of MAN, GOD approves of CHRIST and those found in CHRIST.

  5. Linda Says:

    I have been saved 30 years and answered an altar call at a Baptist church. I was not sure what I was doing but knew God was speaking to me and calling me unto Himself. For it is not by our might nor our power but by His spirit. Since then I have been in ministry and have led many to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. yes they all said the salvation prayer and because God was calling them unto Himself they were deeply touched and repented and cried as their hearts were being touched by God. Almost all have gone on to grow and follow and serve Jesus. No it was not my prayer or but their response to the cross that opened up the door for God to work in their life. I now have a nursing home ministry and when I preach the cross these elderly people cry and accept Jesus. Not because of the prayer but because of the truth and the word of the Gospel that has gone forth. The salvation prayer just helps them to confess that they want Jesus as Lord of their life. When we go back these dear saints are hungry for more of God and sit there weeping through the whole service. I also know many friends that were saved at a huge evangalistic service and went on to be mighty warriors in the Kingdom of God. We forget that salvation is a work of the cross and that it is God that draws man unto His self and weather we open our heart and respond to an altar call, or we reach out to God in the local church or while reading the bible. It is still a work of God and can use any means to draw the sinner unto Himself.

    Thank you

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