By Debra Hane
Sometimes people who have been involved in church for a while say things that are understood by church culture, but not by those outside of the church or by children who have yet to learn. For instance, people may talk about being “saved” or “saying the sinner’s prayer”, but many may wonder “saved from what?” and “what’s a sinner’s prayer?”
Clear communication is important, especially when sharing the Good News of Jesus with children. Here’s what the sinner’s prayer means, how to explain the sinner’s prayer to children, and how to have the assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ.
What Does it Mean to Be Saved?
Someone who is “saved” is someone who has faith in God. They believe the Bible is God’s Word and that Jesus bore the punishment of our sin when He died on the cross. A number of verses in the Bible clearly state God’s condition for salvation. Acts 16:31 says, “…Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved….” When you believe in Jesus—when you trust that He is Lord, that He died for your sins and rose again—you will have eternal life with God. By believing in Jesus, one is saved from eternal separation from God.
What is the Sinner’s Prayer?
“The sinner’s prayer” is the verbal commitment to God that you’re sorry for your sin, you trust that Jesus took the punishment for your sin, and that you want a relationship with Him that never ends. The specific prayer is not too important, as it’s not the words you say that save you, but what you believe about Jesus. However, talking to God about what you believe helps clarify God’s work of salvation in you.
When children tell me they want to believe in Jesus, I talk with them about what the Bible says they should believe. If they agree, I encourage them to pray these three things:
- Tell God you’re sorry for your sin.
- Tell God you believe that Jesus died for your sin and rose again.
- And tell God you want Him to change you so that you can live life His way with His help.
This verbal expression of what they believe begins an important part of their relationship with God: talking to Him in prayer. It also affirms their decision to put their faith in God.
Are You Saved by Saying the Sinner’s Prayer?
Maybe you’ve heard a Sunday school teacher have children copy them in repeating the sinner’s prayer. Were the children saved by saying that prayer? The short answer to that question is “no”. Someone is not saved by saying the sinner’s prayer alone, they are saved if they put their faith in God—trusting in His Word and His way. When you believe Jesus died for your sins, you become a part of God’s forever family, just as John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Because of this, it is not wrong to lead others in the sinner’s prayer as long as it’s clear that it’s their belief in Jesus that saves them, not just their words.
How Can You Know That You’re Saved?
Maybe you look back to the time you prayed the sinner’s prayer as the moment you first believed. But how can you be sure you’re saved, even if you do believe? I like to point children to what God’s Word says as their assurance of salvation. If you’ve believed in Jesus as the Bible says, then you can trust God’s promise to save you from your sin and give you eternal life. God always keeps His promises. He’s the one who provided everything so we can have a relationship with Him. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” God has given us everything we need to know Him and live with Him forever. His kindness should motivate us to grow in our relationship with Him.
CEF Resources Can Help
You can teach kids how to put their faith in God by using the many resources Child Evangelism Fellowship has available. Cefpress.com offers a variety of Gospel tracts and tools. You can also find kid-friendly Gospel videos on the U-Nite TV® App, including New Heart.
I love to teach kids about the benefits of knowing God. Sadly, there are some who think they will live forever with God just because they prayed certain words, got baptized, or did some other spiritual ritual. While these things can be important milestones to affirm our faith, Jesus didn’t suffer and die for our sins simply to offer an eternal life insurance policy that can be redeemed upon our death. He sacrificed Himself so we could have daily life with Him here, now, and forever.
Faith is about a relationship of trust in the living God who made you and loves you. Remember, you can always trust God to keep His promises! He wants you to believe in Him and be saved, so you can have a relationship with God now and forever. Rest in that promise and follow Him.