Vol. 4, No. 1
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God has not promised to grant the requests of those who are not Christians. Scripture reveals that there are prayers God will not respond to in a positive manner.
"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear" (Psalms 66:18).
"Set a wicked man over him, and let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is judged, let him be found guilty, and let his prayer become sin" (Psalm 109:6-7).
"One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination" (Proverbs 28:9).
"For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil" (1 Peter 3:12, quoted from Psalm 34:15-16).
In order to receive what we request, we must: (1) be God's people who are called by his name (2 Chronicles 7:14); (2) ask in Jesus' name (John 14:13); (3) ask in faith (James 1:6-7); (4) ask for right things (James 4:3); (5) keep God's commandments and do those things pleasing in his sight (1 John 3:22); (6) ask according to his will (1 John 5:14).
No non-Christians in this Christian age were ever told to pray for anything, much less told to pray to be saved, to be forgiven of their sins.
Bible examples. Sinners on the day of Pentecost were not told to pray to be forgiven. Peter, in Acts 2:21, quoted an Old Testament passage (Joel 2:32) which is a favorite of those who believe all one has to do to be saved, forgiven, is to "call" on God in prayer. "Call" comes from the Greek epikaleo which means to be given a name (Acts 1:23) or to make an appeal (Acts 7:59; 25:11-12; 26:32; 28:19). Those who simply call, "Lord, Lord," will not be saved but they must do the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46).
When asked by the Jews, "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37), Peter missed a great opportunity to tell them that all they needed to do was pray, if prayer is what is meant by "call." Instead, Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ in order to be forgiven (Acts 2:38). When Paul was found praying (Acts 9:11), he was told to be baptized and wash away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). His appeal to be forgiven was to be made through his baptism. Cornelius, whose prayer had been heard, was commanded to be baptized (Acts 10:48).
No non-Christians were ever told to pray to be forgiven of their sins. In spite of this truth, today many religious groups instruct the lost to say "the sinner's prayer."
The Sinner's Prayer. Almost all denominational groups close their writings or preaching by telling people that if they sincerely repeat the sinner's prayer, they are assured they will be forgiven. This prayer differs from group to group. It seems that if this were a requirement of God: (1) It would be the same prayer. (2) It would have been included in Scripture by command or example.
The Book of Hope (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1998) author not given, p. 53, gives this prayer: "God, I'm sorry for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and ask you to forgive me. Thank you for sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross for my sins. Jesus, I ask you to come into my life and be my Lord, Savior, and Friend. Thank you for forgiving me and giving me eternal life. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen."
Following this the statement is made, "If you prayed this prayer and meant it, you can be sure God has forgiven you and received you into his family."
This prayer and the promise concerning such a prayer are not found in the Bible. The promise was made by man, not by God; therefore, God is under no obligation to honor it.
Conclusion: Prayer is important in our relationship with God, but we should realize that only those prayers are heard that are according to God's will. Perhaps non-Christians' prayers are regarded when they ask for many varied helps and needs (Acts 10:31), but nowhere are they given instruction or assurance that their sins can be forgiven simply by saying a concocted "sinner's prayer." Salvation for the lost comes to those who hear God's Word (Acts 11:14), believe, repent, confess and are baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:10).
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