Praying to God is Necessary for Obtaining Salvation through the Forgiveness of One’s Sins

July 24, 2012

It is very disturbing to read recently the statements that some Christians are making that either directly assert or clearly imply that praying to God is not necessary for salvation. According to these believers, people only need to repent and believe to be saved—they do not have to pray.

In order to be saved, a person must have his sins forgiven, and many passages in Scripture make clear either explicitly or implicitly that praying to God is necessary for obtaining forgiveness of sins:

  1. If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land (2 Chron. 7:14).
  2. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah (Ps. 32:5).
  3. For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee (Ps. 86:5).
  4. He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy (Prov. 28:13).
  5. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? (Jon. 3:5-9)
  6. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luke 18:13-14).
  7. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise (Luke 23:42-43).
  8. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee (Acts 8:22).
  9. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. . . . For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom. 10:9-10; 13).
  10. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

With the exception of babies, small children, and some others who lack the mental capacity to pray knowledgeably to God, praying to Him (either silently or aloud) is clearly necessary for the forgiveness of sins. Scripture does not support teaching that asserts that a person can be saved without praying to God.

Furthermore, a wrong handling of various salvation accounts in Scripture has resulted in the erroneous view that people are saved by repenting and believing without praying. The lack of explicit mention of a sinner’s praying to God in a condensed summary of how that person was saved is not evidence that they were saved without praying (see my post Learning Interpretation from an Examination of Jonah 3 for an example of an account that lacks such explicit mention but still makes clear that the people did pray to God).

Moreover, an unwillingness to pray to God for forgiveness shows a lack of genuine repentance (Acts 8:20-24; see my post Forgiveness of Sin through a Directive Both to Repent and to Pray for a detailed explanation of this point). A genuine belief in God includes “crying mightily unto God” (Jon. 3:5-9 [see Learning Interpretation from an Examination of Jonah 3];  Rom. 10:9-10; 13).

Saving repentance and faith includes praying to God for the forgiveness of one’s sins. Praying to Him is necessary for obtaining salvation through the forgiveness of one’s sins.

Rajesh

Posts

Copyright © 2011-2017 by Rajesh Gandhi. All rights reserved.

4 responses to Praying to God is Necessary for Obtaining Salvation through the Forgiveness of One’s Sins

  1. How much does one have to pray for the salvation to take effect? How does one know if he has prayed long enough or fervently enough to gain God’s favor?

    • I do not see the Scripture teaching that a certain quantity or amount of time praying is necessary for salvation to take effect. Prayer is about believing the promises of God and the work of God and engaging in a conversation with Him about what He has said, what you need, and asking Him to do what He has promised to do.

      It seems that your second question is more about assurance of salvation than about obtaining salvation. The two, of course, are closely related, but they are separate issues. A repentant sinner who comes to God believing what God has said and has done through Christ for sinners must accept what God has done for Him and ask God for the forgiveness of His sins. As I understand Scripture, God’s favor for salvation is not merited by the length or fervency of prayer; it concerns taking God at His Word to do what He has promised to do for those who come to Him properly and ask Him to do what He said.

      Hope this helps.

      Thanks.
      Rajesh

      • The point of my question was that once you insert anything beyond faith, you have a quantitative action. Once you have quantity, you must define the extent of the quantity necessary to accomplish your objective. Once you’ve introduced varying quantities, you have–it seems to me–a work.

        As I understand faith, it has no quantity. In geometric terms, it is like a point, a unit with no size.

        In the first century, it certainly seems like baptism was necessary for salvation. But, it only seems that way because to that audience baptism was not in addition to faith, it was the faith. Baptism was the sinner’s prayer. It was the walk down the aisle. Once the question, “Is faith the same as baptism or is baptism something extra” occurred to believer’s they sorted things out and put baptism in its place.

        Prayer seems to be in the same place as baptism with regard to salvation.

        Perhaps I could approach it this way. What ill were you trying to correct by pointing out that prayer is necessary for salvation? Are prayer-less conversions becoming a big problem?

        • I believe that it is best for me to keep my response focused on what the Scripture says specifically about the subject of my post.

          God informed Solomon that His people would have to pray to Him if they were to have their sins forgiven (2 Chron. 7:14). The publican confessed his sinfulness to God and prayed to God to have mercy on him (Luke 18:13)—God heard his prayer, and he was justified thereby (18:14).

          The thief on the cross did not just believe in his heart; he also addressed Jesus as Lord and asked Him to save him (23:42). Peter commanded Simon to repent and pray to God that his sin might be forgiven him (Acts 8:22).

          Paul conjoins believing and confessing in Romans 10:9-10, thus declaring that both are necessary for salvation. He does not teach in these verses that only believing in the heart is necessary for salvation, and he reiterates that truth by saying that calling on the name of the Lord is how a person is saved (10:13).

          The Scripture, therefore, unmistakably teaches that praying to God is necessary for salvation. I am opposing erroneous views that I have read in multiple locations that do not accord with the full teaching of Scripture on this specific truth.

          Viewing a sinner’s necessity of praying to God as a meritorious work that he must do in addition to believing is not what the Scriptures cited above teach. Rather, they reveal that genuine repentance and faith toward God includes praying to Him; a refusal to pray to God for the forgiveness of one’s sins shows a lack of repentance (Acts 8:24) and faith (Jon. 3:4-10).

          Sinners must confess their sinfulness to God, acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and ask God for the forgiveness of their sins. All of these are scriptural dimensions of the praying for salvation that God requires of sinners. Teaching that asserts, therefore, that praying to God is not necessary for salvation does not rightly handle the teaching of Scripture on how a sinner is to obtain salvation through the forgiveness of his sins.

          As I see it, prayer and baptism are not comparable in the sense that you suggest here. The one is something that must happen after salvation; the other is the God-appointed means by which the sinner is to receive salvation in a personal conversation with a personal God. Salvation is not just an impersonal accessing of a benefit from an impersonal benefit dispenser.

          Hope this helps.

          Rajesh