The Heresy Of Having To “Pray” To Be Saved

By David J. Stewart
March 2016 | Updated September 2020

2nd Corinthians 11:3-4, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”


In hindsight, the main reason why I struggled with the assurance of my salvation as a teenager was because I had never heard a clear, simple, presentation of the Gospel. Ironically, I was faithfully attending an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church, and also enrolled into the church's Christian school (and I dearly loved them all then, and still do today). Albeit, from the very beginning, my only conception of the plan of salvation was in the format of: 1-2-3, pray (or 1-2-3, follow me)...

(1) All men are sinners (Romans 3:23).
(2) There is a penalty for sin (Romans 6:23).
(3) Jesus Christ DIED on the cross for our sins, was BURIED and RESURRECTED (1st Corinthians 15:1-4).
(4) Simply PRAY and ask Jesus to save you.

It was that FOURTH, added and unnecessary step, to God's simple plan of salvation that caused me 7-years of intense emotional pain, worry, tears, concern and frustration. In my mind, I kept wondering if I had “PRAYED” correctly. I must have PRAYED the sinner's PRAYER fifty times during the next 7-years, each time attempting to ensure that I was really saved. I PRAYED out of fear and worry. I had been repeatedly taught that the way to be saved is to “PRAY” in response to believing the three aforementioned Biblical facts. I was taught that you have to “ASK” God to save you. Nothing could be further from the truth. You do not have to “ASK” God to save you, because He has already promised in 1st Corinthians 1:21, “TO SAVE THEM THAT BELIEVE.”

Respectfully, I even went to my beloved pastor at age 17 and told him that I was struggling with the assurance of my salvation. So he concluded that if I wasn't sure, it must mean that I wasn't saved, so he led me in a sinner's “PRAYER”! Oh boy, that was the whole problem, that is, praying to be saved!!! Consequently, I still worried that I might miss out on Heaven and go to Hell. I'm not criticizing my pastor individually, for this is the popular method of soul-winning in thousands of churches all across America. I am not saying that all those people didn't get saved who said a sinner's prayer, but I am saying that like me, many of them have been misled and confused concerning exactly what the Gospel is and what God expects of them to be saved. This is what happens when well-meaning men ADD to the Gospel.

Remember, when you BELIEVE the Gospel, you are saved right there! You don't have to “pray” a prayer to be saved. To “pray” is not required by God. It is a false doctrine to teach that praying is mandatory to be saved. All God expects is that we acknowledge our sinnership and then BELIEVE THE GOSPEL to be saved. Neither does a person have to “ask” Jesus to save them. Nor does a person have to “say 'Jesus is Lord'” or “turn from their sins” to be saved. Beware of extra requirements which well-meaning preachers often ADD to the Gospel. For example: Beware of those who say you must “invite Jesus into your life” to be saved, or “tell Jesus you want Him to come into your heart and transform your life.” You'll hear these heresies on Pacific Garden Mission's popular UNSHACKLED radio program. These things may sound good, but they do not constitute the Gospel. These are a false Gospel. Also, it is heresy to tell someone to “turn away from sin” to be saved, which phrase isn't even found in the Bible.

Pastor Harry Ironside (1876-1951) taught a Free Grace view of the Gospel, which is THE TRUTH! Amen! Consider further the following excellent quote by Dr. Ironside...

“The Gospel is not a call to repentance, or to amendment of our ways, to make restitution for past sins, or to promise to do better in the future. These things are proper in their place, but they do not constitute the Gospel; for the Gospel is not good advice to be obeyed, it is good news to be believed. Do not make the mistake then of thinking that the Gospel is a call to duty or a call to reformation, a call to better your condition, to behave yourself in a more perfect way than you have been doing in the past …

Nor is the Gospel a demand that you give up the world, that you give up your sins, that you break off bad habits, and try to cultivate good ones. You may do all these things, and yet never believe the Gospel and consequently never be saved at all.”

SOURCE: Harry A. Ironside, from the sermon: What Is The Gospel?

As the years passed since I first believed the Gospel at age 13, I began to wonder if I had left something out when I “PRAYED” to be saved. I was so worried. It was my unbiblical focus on PRAYING to be saved that confused and misled me concerning the Gospel. I was saved, I just didn't understand it enough to nail it down. The additional requirement of “praying” confused me. This is why I no longer lead people to pray a prayer to be saved. I just give them the Gospel and then ask if they BELIEVE. The Word of God tells us repeatedly to “BELIEVE.” Read John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever “believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If someone had simply explained to me at age 13 that you don't have to PRAY to be saved, because the Lord just said TO “BELIEVE” THE GOSPEL, then I would have correctly seen the truth of “the simplicity that is in Christ.”

87-times we find the word “believe” in the Gospel of John, but the word “repent” is never mentioned. This teaches us that the man who believes has also repented. It also teaches us that repentance is TO believe, and not a separate act of forsaking sinful behavior as perquisite to placing one's faith in the Gospel. Repentance is a simple change of mind, where a man realizes his guilt as a sinner after viewing God's holy law (Romans 3:19), so that he'll BELIEVE the Gospel. Salvation is the simplest thing in the world. Simply BELIEVE the Gospel and you are saved!!!

Do you see the potential problem of leading people to “PRAY” a sinner's PRAYER? Not one verse in the Bible teaches us to “PRAY” to be saved. The word “call” in Romans 10:13 means “to invoke,” not to “pray.” I even heard a popular religious singer summarize her alleged “Christian” testimony on a radio interview by saying, “I prayed the Jesus prayer when I was a little girl!” Folks, that is not the Gospel. “Praying” is not the way to be saved. Jesus plainly said in Matthew 6:7 that even unsaved heathens “pray.” I had been indoctrinated to follow a 1-2-3 type of method where you prayer a little prayer to complete the process to be saved. For years that is how I preached the Gospel to others, that is, you have to believe these three things “AND THEN PRAY.”

It's Ok to pray to God if you'd like to when you believe, but it is not necessary, and it is a false doctrine if someone's requires it to be saved. Please notice in Acts 2:41 that the Apostle Peter did not lead the 3,000 souls to “pray” to be saved. Instead, the Bible says that Peter simply preached the Gospel, and those that heard the Gospel gladly received (believed) it!!! Acts 2:41, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” So you see, they were saved simply by BELIEVING the Gospel!!!

Although it is certainly permissible for a sinner's prayer to accompany one's belief in the Lord, it has caused much confusion since it has first been used, and it is not necessary to be saved. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. Millions of people have been led to the Lord by use of a sinner's prayer, which demonstrates their faith in Jesus Christ. But the truth is that they were already saved before they ever opened their mouth to pray. Romans 10:10, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Salvation is of the heart!!! We believe in our heart to be saved!!!

The bottom line is that asking a person to pray a sinner's prayer to be saved, has in many cases harmed the new convert, by obscuring “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2nd Corinthians 11:3-4). I am saved because I believed the Gospel when I was 13-years-old. You can take that to God's Heavenly bank. You can write the date, time, place and your name in the back of your Bible, and reflect back in the future, for the rest of your life, at your spiritual birth that day into God's family as His child. Amen!

Likewise, many preachers ask people to leave their pew, walk down an isle, and come to the alter to be saved. In reality, those preachers have ADDED an unnecessary step to God's plan of salvation. Why cannot a person hear the Gospel in their pew, gladly receive it, and be saved? They absolutely can (Acts 2:41)!!! Only God knows how many millions of people have perished in their sins and gone to Hell, all because they weren't willing to walk an isle in a church!!! Perhaps they were embarrassed to become a spectacle. Or maybe they didn't feel well that day. A preacher should ALWAYS give people a chance to get saved right there in the privacy of their pew. My friend, the simplicity that is in Christ is to BELIEVE THE GOSPEL. When 3,000 souls were saved on the Day of Pentecost, they simply heard Peter preach the Gospel and gladly received (believed) it. Acts 2:41, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”

In sharp contrast to Bob Jones University today, who are steeped in the heresy of Lordship Salvation, BJU's founder Evangelist Bob Jones Sr. (1883-1968) has the Gospel 100% correct. Dr. Bob Jones Sr. writes these helpful words:

“'Pray to be saved. Ask the Lord to save you.' This is what I heard a minister say to a convicted sinner who came forward for prayer at the close of an evangelistic service. Nowhere in the Bible are men told to pray to be saved. There are examples where men did pray and were saved. Men are told to repent, to believe, to obey the Gospel, but the Bible never says to pray for salvation. It does say that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, but nowhere does the Bible command men to pray to be saved. I think I know why, God, who made the human heart, knew that it was not necessary to tell convicted sinners to pray. If a sinner can see Jesus Christ on the cross, it is as natural for him to pray as it is for birds to sing or flowers to bloom. 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.'” —Dr. Bob Jones Sr., “Comments On Here And Hereafter,” chapter: Prayer And Praise, page 163; Bob Jones University Press, Inc., © 1942

Don't believe anyone who says it is hard to be saved. The Bible calls it “simple.” All you have to do to be saved is completely rest in the finished redemptive work of Jesus Christ, simply by BELIEVING THE GOSPEL. Evangelist John R. Rice (1895-1980) writes these helpful words:

“Dear sinner, do not make this a difficult matter. There is one simple step between you and Jesus. When you trust Him, everything else is settled, and you have repented, you have come to Christ, you have received Him, you have done everything necessary to be saved.” —Dr. John R. Rice, a quote from his tract titled: “What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Those are beautiful quotes from two of my favorite men of God. The Holy Bible defines the “Gospel” as:

1st Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

There you have it, Jesus DIED on the cross for our sins, He was BURIED, and He bodily RESURRECTED three days later. Carefully notice that the Bible does not mention the word “repent” here. In fact, the Apostle Paul doesn't mention any form of the word “REPENT” in his first Epistle to the church at Corinth. There is no mention of “praying” here to be saved. Clearly, the man who believes has also repented. Clearly, prayer is not required to be saved. Thus, it is clear that we repent TO believe, we don't repent AND believe. If repentance from sins were a separate act required for salvation, then certainly the Bible would have included it in this passage which defines THE GOSPEL. It should be plain for you to see from this Scripture passage alone just how much satanic heresy has crept into the churches today!!!

1st Chronicles 16:11, “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.”

“Faith is the only righteous thing that I can do!”
—Pastor Jack Hyles, a quote from the MP3 sermon titled: God's Reversal Of Psalm 51

“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God,
and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
—2nd Thessalonians 1:8

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