Romans 10:19 in the Bible tell us that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved.” Is that it though, I mean is that all it takes? What next? Anything?

When I was in Haiti last week I had this conversation with a man who was part of a team of doctors and nurses at a clinic we were serving at. My friend and I were asked to pray for the people coming out of the clinic. So, as I would normally do I sat down with the people coming out and asked them if they wanted prayer and if they did I asked what they needed prayer for. Then, I would pray.

I prayed for a few people like this before Big D (not real name) came up to me and asked how many people I had lead in the sinners prayer. I, to his surprise told him that no one had prayed the sinners prayer. He responded by saying that getting them to say the prayer was the main thing that we needed to get the Haitians to do. Our conversation continued. “Do they know who they are asking to save them” I asked. “Do they know who they are confessing their sins to and who they are asking to come into their lives? Do they even understand what Jesus did for them?”

His response was classic. “They know who Jesus is, we just need to get them to say the prayer. If they got hit by a car tomorrow and didn’t say the prayer today they would go to Hell.” Now I agree, salvation comes to those who believe, but is it up to us to make people believe? Does saying a prayer that isn’t backed up by faith and lifestyle even count?

Big D and I continued to talk. “What about discipleship” I asked. “Discipleship? We are in a third world country” D said, “we don’t have time for discipleship. Discipleship is the job of the Holy Spirit, not us.” If you are fuming mad right now then welcome to my life. The difference was that I had to face this dude and have this conversation in the 100+ degree heat while people were coming out of the clinic for prayer.

During our conversation a lady came out and he sat her down and asked her if she was a Christian. “No” she said. Big D asked her if she wanted to become a Christian, to which she responded “yes.”  So, D asked her to repeat after him. “Jesus, forgive my sins. Come into my life and save me. Amen.” After this D looked at me and said “thats how we do it.” Then I repeatedly round-house kicked him to the face, just kidding. After the amen the girl went downstairs to get her food and gift bag.

D and I continued debating this. He told me that he believed the most important thing is to get people to say the prayer. It didn’t really matter about discipleship or any of that, what mattered was the prayer. Throughout the day D got many people to say the prayer. I am sure he was counting how many people had come to the Lord. This is how I was when I was younger, but somewhere along the line that changed. Now I still believe with all my heart and being that in order to be saved you need to come to the knowledge that Jesus Christ is God’s son and the savior of the world. That He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life on earth and died and rose again to conquer sin and death. I believe this, but I also believe that following Jesus is a lifestyle, a relationship, not just a one time decision that is done through a 12 word prayer.

But then again, who am I to judge who is saved or not? It is the Holy Spirits job, but I believe that the Holy Spirit uses us in the lives of others. What are your thoughts on this? What are you feeling while reading this? How do you read the Bible in regards to coming to faith?

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11 comments so far on “Say the prayer and go to Heaven

  1. Chris says:

    The only thing I disagree with in this post is your disclaimers. Don’t apologize for anything Phil, Christ is leading your heart. God is not a lawyer or an accountant. It is God’s passionate heart for those suffering that is fueling your heart and you need make no apologies.

    It is this kind of colonial chirstianity that has infected the true mission of Jesus in the world. This is western efficiency at it’s worst. I don’t know Big D’s heart but I feel free to hate the system of philosophy that he is trapped in. “The west” has become the new incarnation of the pharasees…heaping heavy burdens on people’s back.

    It makes me sick every time I am abroad in a hot, muggy climate and the pastor of the church I’m attending is wearing a suit and tie and sweating to death. And then we give them overheads and hillsongs and squelch their cultural expressions. And we call this cookie cutter handing over of systems “discipleship”. Bleh!

    Those people came to Jesus when they came to the clinic. You all are his body and his body is still touching and healing people and praying blessing over people. Jesus never led anybody in the sinners prayer. He told them that they were the light of the world. Good news to the sick is a doctor and a caring touch.

    A few years ago I was at a conference for a youth missions organization. One group there built houses in Mexico and another group there got kids to do street evangelism with dramas (sound familiar? : ) Well I overheard guys from these two groups talking and one said, “wow, you guys do street evangelism? That’s so great. We only build houses.” I had to say something.

    I told this discouraged brother to take heart and be happy with what God has them do. A street drama may or may not do anything or be remembered by anyone but a house?! The gospel is forever 4 walls around a family’s life.

    I built a home in Mexico for a family a few years ago. While we were there constructing, we hung out with the family, some got to know the kids, some spent time with the single mom. We ate together and interacted with the kids in the neighborhood. At the end of it all, this family accepted Christ. No tricks needed.

    Relationship, laughter, care, building, sharing food, play, good hard work and Jesus…there’s no better news than that.

  2. Joanna says:

    Yeah. What Chris said.

  3. David says:

    I’m definitely with you here Phil. Statistics say there are 2.2 billion Christians (ok, Wikipedia says that), but I always question that, I’m sure a majority of them say they’re Christian because they know they’re not Muslim or Hindu, or Jewish, or Pagan, and they went to a church at least once in their lives.

    Jesus spoke on this many times, such as “faith without works is dead” (this may be Paul’s, sounds like something he’d say), or the story Jesus told of the two groups of people who went to heaven, and one group said they deserve entry because they know Jesus, but He calls them on it: they didn’t feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick. Christianity is work, not a “default setting”, and a lot of 2.2 billion people are going to be surprised.

    Woody Allen I believe it is once said “If Jesus were to return to earth today, there is one thing He would not be, a Christian.” If that refers to the type of “Christian” most people are, I’d agree with that quote.

  4. Trevor says:

    Phil, as I read your post I was upset with the way “Big D” flippantly lead someone in the “sinner’s prayer.” How can someone believe that is a true way to lead someone to Christ?! However, when I read Chris’ comment I was also upset. It would seem that we have two sides here that are reacting much too strongly to one another. Here is what I think:

    There are Christians who think that the only thing that we need to do is lead people in the prayer, then there are Christians who think the only thing we need to do is do nice things for people. I suspect that neither Chris nor Big D would say they fit snugly into either camp. I believe the Gospel is good news for the whole person, the physical person, the emotional person, and the spiritual person. If we separate any of that out we are trying to hold back what God wants to do in people. Jesus came to save us spiritually, and it is true that if we confess with our mouth…we will be saved, but it is also true that if we help people we are showing them what they are saved to. Let us show our faith by what we do.

  5. Seth Barnes says:

    Great story. I’m going to repost it if you’ll give me permission. How did we get so far down this bean counting, superficial road.

    And I like what Chris said as a response.

  6. Dave Hearn says:

    Another vote for Chris… he said it for me.

    Phil, I saw your blog from Seth’s blog… Amazing story. And I am right there with you with the round-house kicks… I would’ve looked the other way, ’cause it sounds like Big D needed some “round-house love”

    Anyway, we’re with you man, keep loving God and loving people…

  7. Your frustrating experience in Haiti reminds me of a couple of different resources that might be a blessing to someone struggling with this issue.

    First, it reminds me of book “Finally Alive” (on the miracle of the new birth) by John Piper ( They let you download the whole book for FREE in pdf format!

    Second, it reminds me of this message by Ray Comfort about “True & False Conversion:

    I think both of these resources can help to shed light and truth on this important issue!

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I pray that we can all grow from it…


  8. Trevor says:

    I wonder if people who have such a shallow view of what it means to be a Christian (like Big D), have never actually fully experienced the love of Christ or true discipleship? Just a thought…so what does it look like to show the love of Christ to a man like Big D?

    So we start with the round-house kicks…then what?

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