Leading people in a sinner's prayer sure is popular among evangelical circles, but is it actually something we should do?
Consider these reasons why not to:
• Not Biblical & Misunderstands Salvation
Do we ever see Jesus or the apostles leading people in a sinner's prayer? "Repeat after me...Dear God I'm sorry..." Of course not. Why? It's not a prayer that makes us right with God, it's trusting that Jesus paid for our sin that justifies us (Rom. 5:1).
If someone comes to trust that Jesus paid for his sin, the natural overflow from the heart will be for that person to cry out to God, apologising for and confessing their sin. But we won't need to lead the person in that, it will come naturally to someone whom God has caused to be born again. Keeping in mind though that a person is made right with God the moment they trust that Jesus paid for their sin, not the moment they pray a prayer.
• Pressures them to make an immediate decision
Jesus said that if you are building a tower, "don't you sit down to see whether you have enough resources to make the tower", otherwise you will run out of resources to finish it (Luke 14:28). And he concludes from that that people must count the cost of following Him before they set out to do so. Usually when a well-meaning Christian leads a person in a sinner's prayer, they haven't told the person that it could cost them friends, reputation, or even their own life to be a follower of Christ. So they 'give it a try' and often don't continue in the faith very long because trials or persecution comes.
It's better to tell people to count the cost after explaining the gospel to them. At the same time, tell them it's urgent as their death could happen at any time, but then leave the person in God's hands. And God will convert the person when He sees fit.
• Gives False sense of Assurance
A person who is told to pray a particular prayer to be made right with God will easily think that they are definitely saved now because they prayed that prayer. Even if the Christian never actually said to the person, "You are now saved", that is what they will naturally think. "I prayed that special prayer with that spiritual person, I must be right with God now."
Yes, Christians can have complete assurance of salvation, but that is based not on having prayed a prayer or walked an aisle, but that they are currently trusting that Jesus paid for all their sins, and an evidence that they are trusting in Jesus is their changed lifestyle.