A conversation that is growing in the Christian circles is the one surrounding the sinner’s prayer and the phrase “asking Jesus in to your heart” to be forgiven of sin and receiving eternal life. Is it biblical? Is it the right practice for evangelism?
There are people who deeply love Jesus on both sides of this question.
The ones against this kind of nomenclature do have a strong case. The phrase “asking Jesus into your heart” does not exist in scripture. It can lead so called evangelists to focus only on getting people to say a prayer. It is void of acknowledging Jesus being Lord over all things, including the one asking Jesus to come into their heart. It can lead the church into accepting some sort of magical phrase that “saves people” like some superstitious saying. Jesus called us to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20), not get people to ask Jesus into their hearts. There are multitudes people who have prayed a prayer and said the phrase, “Jesus, come into my heart.” and have never been changed because of it. Many that have said the prayer have NO desire for God’s word, His people, His mission, or His righteousness. So, the ones against it have a very solid case for rejecting this form of evangelism.
But what about the other side? They would say that millions of people have been saved due to this format of sharing Jesus. There are people in our churches that began walking with God after saying the words, “Jesus, come into my heart.” There are lives that have been changed. They would agree that many who say the words “Jesus come into my heart” never walk with God. But they would caution those that criticize to be patient. The person just needs time to grow and figure it all out.
So, what the answer? Well, I am not expert or I would give you the answer. But, in my thinking, I side very strongly with the group who opposes using a magical prayer or asking someone to “ask Jesus into their heart.” Salvation is about trusting in (believing in) Jesus to appease the wrath of the just and holy God whom we have greatly offended with our sin. It is about turning from our sin (repenting) and turning to our only option for saving grace: the Lord Jesus. It is about understanding the depth of our sin and the height of God’s holiness. It is about becoming overwhelmed by God’s love, for when we were so hopelessly lost in our sin, He sent His only Son to die for the punishment for our sin so that we could be free from it. It is about being so grateful for that salvation that you never want to return to a life of slavery to sin. It is about becoming part of a new family, having a new Master, and living for a new mission. It is about a life change.
But Ron, can’t asking Jesus “into your heart” achieve that kind of salvation? Sure it can. But, it is not designed to. It is designed to get people to say a prayer, hoping the end result will be real salvation. It is easy-believism at its finest. It calls people to trust in a Savior but ignores the fact that He is Lord. The kind of gospel presentation that shows the kind of salvation I mentioned above is the kind that takes time with people. It walks alongside of people. It explains the holiness of God, the depravity of mankind, biblical faith, and reality of eternity. It costs more than 5 minutes trying to get someone to the point of praying with you.
So, when you look at evangelism in Scripture, you do not see a pattern of people saying a prayer with magical words in them. You see believers taking time, explaining the gospel, calling people to respond to it, and urging them to be apart of a new life and new family. In other words, you see people making disciples.
I think this is a better biblical model for evangelism. Now saying that, I became a believer by “asking Jesus into my heart.” But, I also had someone come along side me and explain to me the gospel. I like David Platt’s thoughts on this topic. You can see a short video lip below by him.
For sure this is a subject that needs fleshing out. So, I encourage your thoughts.
One thing to add and one to clarify. First, I dislike the “asking Jesus into your heart” phrase for two big reasons. One, by itself the phrase portrays an incomplete, and even often a false gospel. Second, using this phrase or one like it to “lead someone to Christ” opens the door very wide to boasting in the church. Sadly, I have heard many boast about how many “said the prayer” and have even had to rebuke some brothers and sisters in Christ for betting one who could “save” more people by getting them to say the prayer.
In clarification, I said that I “became a believer by asking Jesus into my heart.” I want to clarify what I mean. I was not saved because Jesus came into my heart. I was saved because I was confronted with my sin and rebellion against a holy God, saw that there was no way that I could be good enough to erase that sin, and I cried out to Jesus to save me from my sin. I did all this by faith in Jesus. I used the words “Jesus come into my heart” but my mind was clear that there was much more a stake than that.