There are at least three kinds of sinners. 1) The alien sinner," meaning all the millions of those who have never actually heard of the one, true and living God; along with those who knowing about God have never come to accept God and Jesus Christ, His Son; that is, those who have never obeyed the gospel and thereby been saved from their past sins. Such people are still in their sins, lost and condemned. 2) The child of God who on occasion sins (1 John 1:5-2:2). And (3) there is the one who has been saved, but has turned back to walk no more with the Lord (John 6:4-6). This is an apostate, perhaps the worst kind of sinner (Heb. 6:46; 10:26-31).
In this study, we are concerned only with the "alien sinner", as stated in No. 1 above. In the religious world today it seems to be a very common teaching and practice that the alien sinner, in order to be saved, must go to an altar or the "mourner's bench", as it is sometimes called, in some church and there, with the help of others, "pray through to salvation". It is taught that the sinner will receive salvation in answer to his prayer. With such people, prayer is first and foremost for the sinner, and they believe that in prayer the beginning and end of salvation is to be found. Hence, these churches provide an "altar" or "mourner's bench" where such activity takes place. In earlier years, I have been present in several "services" of this type and have witnessed this teaching in practice. I have seen people go to the altar and pray for two hours, and sometimes a lot longer, begging God to save them then and there. Usually there are those who have "prayed through to salvation" (?) in the past, who attempt to help the sinners "pray through. I have known of some who had prayed at the altar many, many times and they never did receive that imagined glorious feeling of praying through to salvation. Many have been disillusioned in their efforts and as a result turned to unbelief, thinking that salvation is not possible for them. This whole system is the deception and work of men.
There are many good, honest people who have been taught this doctrine and the claim is that they have "received salvation" at a mourner's bench as a result of prayer. This practice needs to be exposed for what it is -- a religious fraud, a deception! The Scriptures do not teach such a doctrine or practice.
We desire only the truth (John 8:32) as found in God's word. If God's word instructs alien sinners to pray for their salvation, that is well and good, and we should do it. But if God's word does not so teach, then it is 12.5God has established a law -- "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus" from. 8:2), the gospel of our salvation, and He promises salvation to every one who will obey it. Now if the sinner turns away his ear (heart) from this law (teaching), and prays for salvation independent of it, his prayer will be an abomination to God. Plainly God has said: "He who turns away his ear from hearing the law, and prays for salvation without doing what God commands, "even his prayer will be an abomination (Prov. 28:9). Surely we must conclude that God will not answer the prayer of one who so acts.
This truth must be learned by all who desire to be saved: God does NOT set aside His law nor violate His own will to answer the prayer of any sinner, regardless of how sincere the sinner may be! Jesus put it like this: "Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, and do not what I say?" (Luke 6.46).
It is useless to call him "Lord" if we are not willing to do what He teaches. There are examples of people being saved recorded in the book of Acts, eight specific cases to be exact, that those who believe in "praying through to salvation" have overlooked. In not one of these examples was anyone told to go to an altar and pray for salvation.
Without question many of those who go to the "altar" and seek to "pray through" to salvation, under the excitement of the occasion, will "feel" like they have "got it" and are now saved. It is a delusion! Jesus plainly teaches that it is foolish and useless to call Him "Lord" while refusing to obey Him. And no alien sinner is obeying Jesus who seeks salvation at an altar of prayer. There is no place in the NT Scriptures where an alien sinner was called to an altar to "pray through" to salvation.
The above are some facts that those who believe in the "praying through" system of salvation have overlooked.
Plainly we are told in Scripture that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son and that whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life (John 3:16). In the New Covenant Scriptures the answer to the question, What must I do to be saved? is clearly answered in eight specific cases in the book of Acts, starting with Acts 2, where 3000 people were saved on Pentecost day. Not even one of them was called to or urged to go to an altar and "pray through" to salvation! Turn to Acts 2 and see what took place.
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes the good news about Jesus and what He did to provide salvation for lost, sinful man. This fact must be understood: God does not set aside His law nor violate His own will to answer the prayer of any sinner, regardless of how sincere he may be! It is useless to pray, while refusing to obey Him.
Let's raise the question: "For what and why should a sinner pray?" SHOULD THE SINNER PRAY FOR LIGHT? We realize that the sinner needs light, especially if he is praying as the way to be saved. When Saul was "down" praying in Damascus, he needed light or guidance. So the Lord sent a messenger to give him light, to tell him what he needed to do to be saved. Already Saul was a believer in God and now he believed in Jesus Christ, Who appeared to him on the Damascus road (Acts 9: 1-9). In the long ago, David said: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a. light unto my path ... The entrance of thy word giveth light" (Psa. 119:105, 130). God's word will enlighten the stoner on the subject of salvation, telling him exactly what he must do to be saved. Not once was the sinner ever told to go to an altar and pray in order to be saved! This teaching is from men, not from God.
SHALL THE SINNER PRAY FOR GOD TO LOVE HIM? No one can be saved without God's love to be sure, but is it necessary for the sinner to pray for God to love him? The sinner should know that God loves him even if he is a sinner or whether he prays or not. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). What the sinner needs to do is to love God. John says that "this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments" (1 John 5:3). If the sinner loves God, let him show it by doing the will of God. This is the way for sinners to be saved.
SHALL THE SINNER PRAY FOR GRACE? Everyone who is saved will be saved by God's grace, so we are dependent upon it for salvation. But why should a sinner have to pray for that which is given so freely to all? "For by grace are you saved through faith..." (Eph. 2:8). Titus (2:11) tells us that "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." The sinner needs only to appropriate this grace to himself in obeying the gospel.
SHALL THE SINNER PRAY FOR A PURE HEART? Jesus said: "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). Therefore, without a pure heart no one will see God, but how is the heart purified? Shall the sinner pray for it? Listen to Peter: "And who God knows the heart ... put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:8-9). So the heart is purified by faith. But when? "Seeing you have purified you souls (hearts) in obeying the truth..." (1 Pet. 1:22). The truth is God's word which clearly teaches us what we must do to be saved. Instead of praying for a pure heart, the sinner should obey the word of God and purify his heart by faith.
SHALL THE SINNER PRAY FOR FAITH? Faith is absolutely essential to salvation (Heb. 11:6). But how does the sinner come to faith? There is but one way: "So faith comes from hearing ... the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). Peter said: "Brethren, you know that ... God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe" (Acts 15:7). Faith does not come in answer to a sinner's prayer; it comes as a result of hearing and studying God's word.
In most denominational churches the teaching is that sinners should pray for faith, but such teaching appears absurd in the light of God's word. Observe these facts: 1) God will only hear and answer a prayer of faith; the prayer of one who already has faith. 2) Faith is a condition of acceptable prayer. Hebrews 11:6 tells us what "without faith it is impossible to please God..." whatever we are doing! James (1:7) wrote of those praying without faith, "Let not that man think that he shall receive anything from the Lord. So if we pray without faith we will receive nothing from the Lord. Surely we can see how absurd it is to teach sinners to pray for faith.
SHOULD THE SINNER PRAY FOR RELIGION? It is obvious from God's word that a non-religious person cannot be saved. However, "getting religion" at an altar m some church building is not what Scripture teaches. It is not something one "gets," it is something that the already saved person does or is to do! Religion seems to be something that the saints are to do or practice. James 1:27 reads: "This is pure and undefiled RELIGION in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world". Surely we cannot rationally ask God for this "pure religion," because it is something we must do, NOT SOMETHING THAT WE GET at an altar during some religious meeting. The sinner should become a Christian by obeying the gospel and then practice this pure religion.
SHALL THE SINNER PRAY FOR GOD'S SAVING POWER? All who are truly saved will be saved by God's saving power for there is no other saving power. But what is God s saving power? Paul makes that very clear: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to every one who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1: 16). This gospel is clearly revealed in the New Testament writings of the inspired apostles and prophets, so why should a sinner pray for what is already available to him? Sinners are saved by the gospel when they believe and obey it. Paul declared that Jesus is going to take vengeance upon those who do not obey the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-9). When the sinner obeys the gospel, the power of God is at work to save the sinner.
SHOULD THE SINNER PRAY FOR GOD TO BE WILLING TO SAVE HIM? Certainly God will not save the sinner until He is willing to save him. Should we conclude, therefore, that the sinner should pray and beg God to be willing to save him? Isn't God willing to save all who will come to him in faith and obedience? Why, in some denominational church buildings, do the sinners need go to the altar and there pray and beg and plead with God to save them? Nowhere in Scripture is such a practice taught in either teaching or example. This concept is from men, not from God.
Scripture tells us plainly that the Lord is not "willing that any should perish, but that all men should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). God is already willing to save all sinners who will believe in Him and in His Son, and obey Him! He has manifested this willingness in many ways. However, salvation is provided on God's terms, not on conditions prescribed by men, preachers, or churches. He sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross that the sinner might be saved.
It is apparent that the preacher of the man-devised "mourner's bench" or "praying through" system of salvation (?) practices a deception on the sinner. While he is preaching to the sinner, he tells him that God is ready and anxious to save him; and that all the sinner needs to do is to come to the altar, pray and "surrender to God" and God will do the rest save him right on the spot and at that moment! However, as soon as the preacher gets the sinner to the altar, they begin to pray, trying to get God in the notion to save the sinner! When he talks to God, he makes it appear that the blame rests with God if He does not save the sinner! It is apparent that the preachers of this doctrine and practice have difficulty getting God and the sinner who is praying at the altar in the same notion at the same time! As soon as the sinner gets the notion to be saved, lo and behold! it appears that the Lord has changed His mind on the subject and now they must spend time pleading with Him, in order to get God willing again! While talking to the sinner it is his fault if he is not saved; but when talking to God this teaching and practice would blame God if the sinner is not saved. Such unscriptural absurdities are outrageous and evil. But such are the doctrines of men. How sad.
SHALL THE SINNER PRAY FOR UNDERSTANDING? Surely understanding is necessary, but it does not come merely by praying for it. God does not miraculously give understanding to people in this day, at least! There are no Holy Spirit inspired and directly-guided people in our day, even though there are some deceived, along with some dishonest, people who make such claims.
How does understanding come to us? It comes through or by the revealed will of God as preserved in the Holy Scriptures. Note: "The entrance of thy word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple" (Ps. 119:130). James wrote: "...in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls" (1:21). The word of God gives understanding to those who read and study it with an honest and good heart. Praise God!
SHOULD THE SINNER PRAY TO BE BORN AGAIN? One must be "born again" or he cannot see (enter) the kingdom of God, so Jesus declared (John 3:3-5). But how is the new birth, the "born again experience," accomplished? Peter said: "Being born again ... by the word of God" (I Pet. 1:22). In verse 22 Peter had just said that they had purified their hearts in obeying the truth. It should be perfectly clear that one is "born again," "born of water and the Spirit," when he obeys the truth, the word of God.
Look at what the 3,000 on Pentecost day were required to do (Acts 2:37-41). They had heard Peter preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and they believed what Peter preached, that Jesus was indeed the Christ and the Savior of the world. They were convinced that it was the truth of God. They said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "What shall we do?" They were asking what they must do to be saved from their sins. Peter did NOT call them to come to a mourner's bench and there pray and keep praying until they were saved or got religion!" Speaking by the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter told them to "Repent, and let each one of you be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." That is when one becomes a child of God, a Christian, a true "born again" obedient believer who has been saved by grace! They did not go to an altar to pray and beg God to save them. Peter told them what to do and they did it; they obeyed God's commandments "repent and be immersed for the forgiveness of your sins". That is still the will of God for all sinners today. Those who believe and obey will be saved, thus becoming God's children, with the assurance and hope of eternal life in heaven. Have you obeyed God's requirements, even as did the people on Pentecost?
The alien sinner does not need to pray in order for God to save him. What he needs to do is to hear, believe, and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, even as illustrated in the book of Acts. CAH