Does the sinner's prayer impart grace? The short answer is, “No.” Salvation is not
something God is required to impart simply because a person recites a certain prayer.
Counting beads and reciting a few “Hail Marys” accomplishes nothing. Standing up
in church and proclaiming belief in Jesus the Son of God means nothing. Water baptism
does not guarantee salvation. Good works and service to God will not get the job done.
Salvation is not the result of anything a man or woman may do in his or her quest for
God. Salvation is the fruit of what Jesus does. Jesus quickens the repentant sinner, and
Jesus imparts salvation and newness of life.
Surely Jesus has quickened or saved many people when they have said the sinner's
prayer, but many other people recite the sinner's prayer without any change of lifestyle.
To promise salvation to people based on their recitation of the sinner's prayer results in
churches full of unconverted sinners who are trusting in a false promise. The true
Christian message points to our blessed Savior Jesus who sits as a High Priest, ready to
save those who come to Him.
When someone recites the sinner's prayer, and then says, “Nothing happened,” allow
me to assure you that nothing happened. When Jesus Christ saves a person, something
glorious and life-changing happens. Salvation is an experience. Salvation is not a
mental belief system.
When someone recites the sinner's prayer, and nothing happens, explain to them
salvation is not the result of anything they do, but rather salvation is an imparted gift that
only Jesus can impart. Encourage them to read the Bible and to pray until they pray
through into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps nothing ever will happen. Jesus
told us most people are going to hell when they die, and there is nothing you can do to
change the sad reality.
But be encouraged. Do the work of God, point people to Jesus, and be assured Jesus
wants to save people more than you do. If your message points people to Jesus, people
will be saved. If your message points people to church and the works that men do, they
will not be saved.