Cynicism and The Sinner’s Prayer- Jesus’ Promise in John 14.14 and Conclusion

June 17, 2009

Jesus said, ‘You may ask Me for anything in my name, and I will do it.’ (John 14.14)

Therefore, if you pray sincerely, asking Him this:

“Lord Jesus, please come into my life
and be my Savior and Lord.
Please forgive my sins,
and give me the gift of eternal life.”

– He will do it now.”

(The Bridge to Life tract, by The Navigators)

Because it is what The Sinner’s Prayer claims itself as being the justification for using this means for response to the gospel, it is only fitting that we take a look at Jesus’ promise in John 14.14 before closing out this series.  We will begin looking at this verse as it is used (as a prooftext that is) and then look at it within its larger context of John 14.12-14.

Here is how John 14.14 actually reads in the version we use here, the ESV (the stated version above is the NIV): “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

So, the working assumption for the purposes of The Sinner’s Prayer is that this ‘you’ in this verse is a universal, ubiquitous ‘you’ meaning ‘anyone at anytime.’  But we must ask ourselves, can anyone at any time ask for something in Jesus’ name?  i.e. can anyone at any time pray to God and be heard?  Well, only a few chapters earlier in this gospel of John, and drawing off of a well established Old Testament understanding, we are told that, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him” (John 9.31).  If this be the case, if a man who is a sinner, or as Psalm 66.18 puts it, who “cherishe[s] iniquity in [his] heart,” cannot pray to God, then how can someone pray for the forgiveness of their own sins?  If they are a sinner, “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2.1), then how can God hear them?  God does not qualify this remark, there is no exception saying, “God cannot hear your prayer unless you are praying for X.”  It just says he can’t hear the prayer of a sinner.  Period.

Moving further out into the context of John 14.12-14 makes this even clearer, proving that the ‘you’ in verse 14 is not a universal, unqualified anyone.  John 14.12-14 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”  What was that?  ”Whoever believes in me . . .”  That is who Jesus is addressing here.  So, in verses 13 and 14 when he says “Whatever you ask . . . ” and “If you ask . . . ,” he is here talking to those who believe in him.  Those who have faith.  But, as we know, it is “by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2.8) and that it is “with the heart [that] one believes and is justified” (Romans 10.10).  Therefore, the prerequisite to asking God for your salvation, if we take The Sinner’s Prayer as truth, is that you be saved.  Absurd.

So, in conclusion, after looking at the teachings of Jesus, Peter, and Paul, as well as the testimony of Paul, we have seen beyond the shadow of a doubt that the evangelical staple The Sinner’s Prayer, a prayer to God laying claim on a promise of Jesus in order to ask for and receive salvation, has absolutely no merit.  Does this mean no one has ever been saved through The Sinner’s Prayer?  Of course not.  God can use all means of foolishness for his purposes.  But does this mean that for the sake of all those lost and confused souls in our pews lacking genuine assurance we should abandon The Sinner’s Prayer as a method of response to the gospel and pursue a richer biblical understanding of what it means to have faith and to manifest that belief in a life “live[d] by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2.20)?  Absolutely!