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Author Topic: "Sinner's prayer" from an Orthodox perspective  (Read 967 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: June 04, 2014, 03:43:08 AM »

I'm an Antiochian Orthodox who posts at other Christian forums (evangelical purposes) and had a question about dealing with the "faith only" belief of salvation coming about through the recitation of a "sinner's prayer". It is intended to be an act of initial conversion to Christianity, and "the only way to receive salvation". Since I came out of denominationalism, I know the basics of the what they pray, which is essentially,

"Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.

Amen."

My question is, from the Orthodox point of view, would this type of prayer be efficacious for someone who has come to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (assuming they actually believe that)? My opinion is that such a prayer would engage the Holy Spirit in such a way as to begin convicting that person of their sins and drawing them toward the truth of the gospel. There are some Protestant churches that actually baptize people in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, but they teach and believe that such baptism is not unto remission of sins, but is rather a sort of "welcome mat" into their church -- a symbol.

I guess I'm looking for the best Orthodox response to this type of thinking. Many of course also believe that this single act of saying a sinner's prayer results in a "final salvation" that can never be lost (once saved, always saved), and that any good works that are done are done as a result of them already being saved. When I mention that salvation is a lifelong process, they immediately equate that to a "works for righteousness" type "system". 

By the way, I've posted in here before a few years ago, but I lost track of the site. Glad I found it again.
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« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2014, 09:09:57 AM »

I don't recall the Ethiopian Eunuch or the Phillipian jailer being required to say the "sinner's prayer". Not that the prayer is bad, but if they consider it is a requirement for salvation, that is a bit hokey. The "once saved, always saved" thing is such an irresponsible piece of theology. Why does Paul tell us to work out our own salvation in Philipians 2 if we are already saved? He was writing to Christians, so clearly it is something that is a continual process. Why does Peter in 1 Peter 3 tell us that baptism saves us? There are certainly verses that say that Christ "saved" us, but there are also verses that speak of us "being saved", and other verses that say that we will "be saved".  Salvation takes place in the past, present and future.  To reduce it down to merely an event in our past is to demean the effect that salvation has on our lives.
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« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2014, 09:23:09 AM »

I think this prayer can be used for someone to acknowledge Jesus Christ as savior. From there we must understand that salvation involves commiting our faith to the golden rule (Matthew 7:1-12), to love God & neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40), ongoing confession of sins (1st John 1:5-12 etc.) to know what salvation by grace through faith for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) entails. Hebrews 10 (esp. vs. 26-39) should remind us of what the commitment requires. This prayer would be a  first step not a final step.
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« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2014, 11:26:57 AM »

I think this prayer can be used for someone to acknowledge Jesus Christ as savior. From there we must understand that salvation involves commiting our faith to the golden rule (Matthew 7:1-12), to love God & neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40), ongoing confession of sins (1st John 1:5-12 etc.) to know what salvation by grace through faith for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) entails. Hebrews 10 (esp. vs. 26-39) should remind us of what the commitment requires. This prayer would be a  first step not a final step.

I think so too. Nothing wrong with praying to ask Christ to save you. It can be a good beginning.  Smiley
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« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2014, 11:52:50 AM »

I would add agreement to what has been said above. I don't think there's anything particularly unOrthodox in the prayer itself. The problem would lie in its understanding and use. As a Protestant, I was taught that once you said that prayer you were "saved", and you almost always would be asked right away, "So how do feel now?" That certainly isn't the Orthodox understanding of salvation. BTW, the brand of my former Protestantism was not "once saved, always saved"; however, the point/purpose of salvation is primarily to get one's ticket into heaven. Enjoying a relationship with Christ and growing as a Christian were certainly important, but seen as something of a bonus.
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« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2014, 12:47:06 PM »

I think I'm agreeing with most of what is said here. I don't really know the Orthodox understanding yet, but I was well aware of a number of Evangelical beliefs about it.

I was led in such a prayer, and it did happen at a time that made a difference in my life. But ... I showed up at a church (12 years old asking for an appointment with a pastor, lol) and he was gracious enough to have a nice long talk with me. I came to church, sang the songs, went to Sunday School, and was led in the prayer and got baptized. But looking back, I think that was a step in my salvation.

My early exposure to Jesus as a man at 4 years old had something to do with it. My childhood desires for God that led me to pray, sometimes for an hour or two, had something to do with it. My fumbling attempts (VERY fumbling!) to read the Scriptures had something to do with it. My whole experience at the church at 12 had something to do with it. But I did not get on the path and stay there (God willing!)until years later.

The prayer is not magical, and I think that's a very important understanding. But if done sincerely, I think it can interact with our mind and understanding, and let the Gospel sink in, which can be a step in conversion.

That's my half-made, somewhere-in-between understanding anyway. Smiley
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« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2014, 01:21:28 PM »

Christ says Baptism, the Church says Baptism.

I think that anything beyond that is speculation.
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« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2014, 04:12:38 PM »

Christ says Baptism, the Church says Baptism.

I think that anything beyond that is speculation.

Smiley

And you're a protestant? But then I forget there are Lutherans and such. Smiley  Please, no insult is intended.

My first thought was just that so many protestant churches are teaching that baptism is nothing but a symbol, an act of obedience, and outward sign.

Some teach that it really doesn't matter, and don't even encourage people to be baptized. One can "be saved" and stay in a church like that for years without being baptized.

It's hard to figure out what is going on there. I've seen people get very upset when someone suggested they actually ought to be baptized if for no other reason than that it's in the Bible and Jesus said to do it.
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« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2014, 09:25:09 AM »

Christ says Baptism, the Church says Baptism.

I think that anything beyond that is speculation.

Smiley

And you're a protestant? But then I forget there are Lutherans and such. Smiley 

That's actually a good point. Often "Protestant" is used here as shorthand for "Baptifundagelical" type churches.
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« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2014, 01:56:27 PM »

Best argument against it, for me: It doesn't work. The most miserable parts of our society are chock-full of folks taking Jesus as their personallordandsavior, and their salvation (in modern English, their rescue) is patently not at hand.

Another good argument against it, this one theological rather than practical, is the injustice it would make a core attribute of God.
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« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2014, 06:30:59 PM »

The once saved issue reminded me of the Angel called Lucifer, who Jesus saw fall from heaven.

Also when he spoke of the seeds falling on the ground, depicting different ways people can fail , this implies that you are not saved universally. We have to run the race until we die, Paul said. And sin can be forgiven, but first we have to accept that we sin daily, and ask forgiveness.

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« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2014, 08:46:09 PM »

There is nothing wrong with confessing your sins and praying to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. The problem is that from the Evangelical perspective that's a one time "confession of faith" that seals the deal. But the Orthodox view of salvation is that we must perpetually receive and follow Christ. He doesn't just offer Himself to us once; He offers Himself to us daily, hourly, every moment of our existence. And His constant offer of salvation is most profoundly manifested in the Holy Eucharist, where His disciples receive His very Body and His very Blood. (And it is a gravely dangerous thing to reject His Body and Blood, for Christ could not have been clearer or more emphatic when He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." [St. John 6:53] ) Also, the biblical Orthodox Christian confession of faith is not a onetime confession, but a constantly repeated confession that is most clearly embodied in the individual and collective confession of the Nicene Creed. It is also imperative to understand that our personal salvation is inextricably linked to the salvation of the entire Church. The Gospel is not just about "me" going to heaven. The good news of the Gospel is that Christ came to redeem all of creation. So go ahead and walk the aisle, say the "sinner's prayer," and "get saved." But please do not be deceived into thinking that you have punched your ticket to heaven and therefore you are eternally secure. Following Christ is a lifetime journey, and only "those who endure to the end shall be saved." [St. Matthew 24:13]


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« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2014, 11:01:07 PM »

There is nothing wrong with confessing your sins and praying to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. The problem is that from the Evangelical perspective that's a one time "confession of faith" that seals the deal. But the Orthodox view of salvation is that we must perpetually receive and follow Christ. He doesn't just offer Himself to us once; He offers Himself to us daily, hourly, every moment of our existence. And His constant offer of salvation is most profoundly manifested in the Holy Eucharist, where His disciples receive His very Body and His very Blood. (And it is a gravely dangerous thing to reject His Body and Blood, for Christ could not have been clearer or more emphatic when He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." [St. John 6:53] ) Also, the biblical Orthodox Christian confession of faith is not a onetime confession, but a constantly repeated confession that is most clearly embodied in the individual and collective confession of the Nicene Creed. It is also imperative to understand that our personal salvation is inextricably linked to the salvation of the entire Church. The Gospel is not just about "me" going to heaven. The good news of the Gospel is that Christ came to redeem all of creation. So go ahead and walk the aisle, say the "sinner's prayer," and "get saved." But please do not be deceived into thinking that you have punched your ticket to heaven and therefore you are eternally secure. Following Christ is a lifetime journey, and only "those who endure to the end shall be saved." [St. Matthew 24:13]


Selam

You know, I think that's actually the most important point there is.

I will never forget how it dawned on me that the Bible didn't even teach that "being saved" meant it was a done deal and could never change. Instead there was all this stuff I kept finding about enduring to the end, running the race, and so on.

Vitally important, you are right.
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« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2014, 12:15:02 AM »

I think this prayer can be used for someone to acknowledge Jesus Christ as savior. From there we must understand that salvation involves commiting our faith to the golden rule (Matthew 7:1-12), to love God & neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40), ongoing confession of sins (1st John 1:5-12 etc.) to know what salvation by grace through faith for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) entails. Hebrews 10 (esp. vs. 26-39) should remind us of what the commitment requires. This prayer would be a  first step not a final step.

Thanks to all for the many good answers. I think the main issue is that of the sinner's prayer being a one-time event (that's what they're taught) that "seals the deal". Just as important if not more so is the fact that remission of sins for a disciple/inquirer only comes about in putting on Christ in baptism, as well as then having the ability to receive the Holy Spirit in Chrismation for our ongoing spiritual renewal, to partake of Holy Eucharist - receiving His glorified body and blood, the good leaven that grows in our unleavened selves, to confess our sins to one another and realize forgiveness in ongoing repentance, and all of the blessings and promises of God we continue to receive in Christ on an ongoing basis.

One thing I noticed when I was Protestant is that their ears itch for self-justification on a continual basis. I knew that I needed forgiveness of ongoing sin even after I was baptized, and the only outlet for that was the constant reminder that we were "covered by the blood of Jesus". Indeed we are covered by His blood, but we must actually come to realize that for ourselves in ongoing repentance or sin will begin to eat away at our conscience, and the last thing we want is to stand in God's presence with a bad conscience.

I think the "sinner's prayer" is a good first step if it's understood as a first step on the narrow path of working out our salvation in fear and trembling, through the renewing grace of faith in Christ,  obeying the words that He spoke... maybe that's a good way to put it.
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« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2014, 03:17:05 AM »

Lutherans have some of the best polemics against Sinner's Prayer-style conversion. They emphasize that baptism is something done to you, given to you outside of your own agency; whereas the Sinner's Prayer, taken as a starting point, is often seen as a self-willed movement toward salvation on the one hand, or something foisted upon your internal self through calvinist-style irresistible grace on the other hand.

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« Reply #15 on: June 06, 2014, 03:30:52 AM »

I think this prayer can be used for someone to acknowledge Jesus Christ as savior. From there we must understand that salvation involves commiting our faith to the golden rule (Matthew 7:1-12), to love God & neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40), ongoing confession of sins (1st John 1:5-12 etc.) to know what salvation by grace through faith for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) entails. Hebrews 10 (esp. vs. 26-39) should remind us of what the commitment requires. This prayer would be a  first step not a final step.

Thanks to all for the many good answers. I think the main issue is that of the sinner's prayer being a one-time event (that's what they're taught) that "seals the deal". Just as important if not more so is the fact that remission of sins for a disciple/inquirer only comes about in putting on Christ in baptism, as well as then having the ability to receive the Holy Spirit in Chrismation for our ongoing spiritual renewal, to partake of Holy Eucharist - receiving His glorified body and blood, the good leaven that grows in our unleavened selves, to confess our sins to one another and realize forgiveness in ongoing repentance, and all of the blessings and promises of God we continue to receive in Christ on an ongoing basis.

One thing I noticed when I was Protestant is that their ears itch for self-justification on a continual basis. I knew that I needed forgiveness of ongoing sin even after I was baptized, and the only outlet for that was the constant reminder that we were "covered by the blood of Jesus". Indeed we are covered by His blood, but we must actually come to realize that for ourselves in ongoing repentance or sin will begin to eat away at our conscience, and the last thing we want is to stand in God's presence with a bad conscience.

I think the "sinner's prayer" is a good first step if it's understood as a first step on the narrow path of working out our salvation in fear and trembling, through the renewing grace of faith in Christ,  obeying the words that He spoke... maybe that's a good way to put it.

I agree. Well put.


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« Reply #16 on: June 06, 2014, 04:29:02 PM »

I think this prayer can be used for someone to acknowledge Jesus Christ as savior. From there we must understand that salvation involves commiting our faith to the golden rule (Matthew 7:1-12), to love God & neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40), ongoing confession of sins (1st John 1:5-12 etc.) to know what salvation by grace through faith for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) entails. Hebrews 10 (esp. vs. 26-39) should remind us of what the commitment requires. This prayer would be a  first step not a final step.

Thanks to all for the many good answers. I think the main issue is that of the sinner's prayer being a one-time event (that's what they're taught) that "seals the deal". Just as important if not more so is the fact that remission of sins for a disciple/inquirer only comes about in putting on Christ in baptism, as well as then having the ability to receive the Holy Spirit in Chrismation for our ongoing spiritual renewal, to partake of Holy Eucharist - receiving His glorified body and blood, the good leaven that grows in our unleavened selves, to confess our sins to one another and realize forgiveness in ongoing repentance, and all of the blessings and promises of God we continue to receive in Christ on an ongoing basis.

One thing I noticed when I was Protestant is that their ears itch for self-justification on a continual basis. I knew that I needed forgiveness of ongoing sin even after I was baptized, and the only outlet for that was the constant reminder that we were "covered by the blood of Jesus". Indeed we are covered by His blood, but we must actually come to realize that for ourselves in ongoing repentance or sin will begin to eat away at our conscience, and the last thing we want is to stand in God's presence with a bad conscience.

I think the "sinner's prayer" is a good first step if it's understood as a first step on the narrow path of working out our salvation in fear and trembling, through the renewing grace of faith in Christ,  obeying the words that He spoke... maybe that's a good way to put it.



   Good Post coC2O    Lips Sealed

  I think sometimes folks say the sinner's prayer on a whim of emotion, instead of having a clear thought out sincere daily continual pressing on towards The Lord that is needed.

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« Reply #17 on: June 07, 2014, 12:35:54 AM »

I think this prayer can be used for someone to acknowledge Jesus Christ as savior. From there we must understand that salvation involves commiting our faith to the golden rule (Matthew 7:1-12), to love God & neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40), ongoing confession of sins (1st John 1:5-12 etc.) to know what salvation by grace through faith for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) entails. Hebrews 10 (esp. vs. 26-39) should remind us of what the commitment requires. This prayer would be a  first step not a final step.

Thanks to all for the many good answers. I think the main issue is that of the sinner's prayer being a one-time event (that's what they're taught) that "seals the deal". Just as important if not more so is the fact that remission of sins for a disciple/inquirer only comes about in putting on Christ in baptism, as well as then having the ability to receive the Holy Spirit in Chrismation for our ongoing spiritual renewal, to partake of Holy Eucharist - receiving His glorified body and blood, the good leaven that grows in our unleavened selves, to confess our sins to one another and realize forgiveness in ongoing repentance, and all of the blessings and promises of God we continue to receive in Christ on an ongoing basis.

One thing I noticed when I was Protestant is that their ears itch for self-justification on a continual basis. I knew that I needed forgiveness of ongoing sin even after I was baptized, and the only outlet for that was the constant reminder that we were "covered by the blood of Jesus". Indeed we are covered by His blood, but we must actually come to realize that for ourselves in ongoing repentance or sin will begin to eat away at our conscience, and the last thing we want is to stand in God's presence with a bad conscience.

I think the "sinner's prayer" is a good first step if it's understood as a first step on the narrow path of working out our salvation in fear and trembling, through the renewing grace of faith in Christ,  obeying the words that He spoke... maybe that's a good way to put it.



   Good Post coC2O    Lips Sealed

  I think sometimes folks say the sinner's prayer on a whim of emotion, instead of having a clear thought out sincere daily continual pressing on towards The Lord that is needed.



From what I have seen, churches that advocate a sinner's prayer often don't HAVE a clear thought out sincere daily continual pressing on plan to offer, and many also don't even seem to really realize that it's necessary.
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« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2014, 01:45:37 AM »

Many would say desiring as much would be heresy.
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« Reply #19 on: June 07, 2014, 12:53:57 PM »

Many would say desiring as much would be heresy.

Desiring a plan for pressing in would be heresy? Wasn't sure what you were responding to.

 (But if that's the case, I have to agree with you that some would cry heresy -  "works salvation!")
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Aγιος ὁ Θεός, Ἅγιος ἰσχυρός, Ἅγιος ἀθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς

Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God
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Erst Amish Appalachian
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Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.


« Reply #20 on: June 07, 2014, 01:31:47 PM »

Many would say desiring as much would be heresy.

Desiring a plan for pressing in would be heresy? Wasn't sure what you were responding to.

 (But if that's the case, I have to agree with you that some would cry heresy -  "works salvation!")

Occupying one's mind with thoughts of salvation post-"salvation" if not a heresy is at least a personal sin. That is, counter to the Evangelical dogma (admittedly not universal) of Assurance.
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In love did God create the world; in love does he guide it ...; in love is he going wondrously to transform it. --Abba Isaac

Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity. --Climacus
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Κύριε, ἐλέησον!


« Reply #21 on: June 07, 2014, 05:22:18 PM »

Many would say desiring as much would be heresy.

Desiring a plan for pressing in would be heresy? Wasn't sure what you were responding to.

 (But if that's the case, I have to agree with you that some would cry heresy -  "works salvation!")

Occupying one's mind with thoughts of salvation post-"salvation" if not a heresy is at least a personal sin. That is, counter to the Evangelical dogma (admittedly not universal) of Assurance.

Oh, I see. Yes, I suppose that's true. I actually prayed "The Sinner's Prayer" at more than one point - for the last time it was "just in case" because I realized God had come and made Himself real to me --- but I hadn't said the prayer immediately before that!  Shocked

Yes, I was confused ...

Thank God I am in the Church now ... Or almost. Smiley
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Aγιος ὁ Θεός, Ἅγιος ἰσχυρός, Ἅγιος ἀθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς

Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God
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