A gracEmail subscriber asks: “I often hear ministers speak of ‘inviting Jesus into your heart’ in order to receive God’s forgiveness and grace. Others speak of ‘praying the sinner’s prayer.’ Still other preachers say neither expression is taught in Scripture. Will you please comment?”
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The metaphor of asking Jesus into one’s heart comes directly from Revelation 3:20, where Jesus says to the unfaithful Laodicean church: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
Today, most evangelical Christians interchangeably ask converts to “pray the sinner’s prayer,” to “make Jesus your personal Savior,” or to “invite Jesus into your heart.” The fact is that the New Testament does not really describe initial conversion in any of those ways. Throughout the New Testament, evangelists regularly instruct converts to express new faith by being baptized — something modern evangelicals are not always careful to do.
Yet the New Testament associates baptism itself with prayer. Ananias instructed Saul of Tarsus to be baptized, “calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Peter literally speaks of baptism as “the appeal to God for a good conscience, based on Christ’s resurrection” (1 Pet. 3:21).
Those who regularly talk about “praying the sinner’s prayer” will do well to have converts accompany that prayer by baptism in water, as a tangible expression of repentance and trust in Jesus as Savior (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 10:48; 16:33). Those who emphasize the place of water baptism in conversion will do well to note that New Testament baptisms always follow God’s work of conviction of sin (Acts 2:37), the gift of faith (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:43) and believing in Jesus as Lord, for salvation (Acts 16:31-32). We need not choose between options here. Scripture encourages us to have it all!