Definitions of the Altar Call and the Sinner’s Prayer

The Following two definitions come from two books By David Malcolm Bennett The Altar Call: Its Origins and Present Usage (pp.xv-xvi) and The Sinner’s Prayer: Its Origins and Dangers (p.2).

The Altar Call

“The systematic use of the altar call is … A method of evangelism, within which a regular or frequent, planned invitation is given to “unbelievers” to respond to Jesus Christ publicly at the conclusion of a sermon or other gospel presentation, in such ways as calling out a response, raising a hand, standing, or walking to a designated spot in the evangelistic setting. A response to such an invitation would normally be followed by immediate counselling and later by some form of follow up. It often incorporates an appeal to Christians for such issues as rededication and call to mission. It is not a theology, though it does reflect and support particular theologies.”

© David Bennett, 2000

The Sinner’s Prayer

“There are three essential elements that must appear in a prayer or its accompanying material before it can be considered a Sinner’s Prayer.

  • First, it must be an actual prayer addressed to God or Jesus Christ.
  • Secondly, it must have the assumption clearly stated in the prayer or accompanying material that if it is meant or prayed sincerely it will be inevitably and immediately effective.
  • Thirdly, it must speak of the sinner inviting, accepting, receiving or taking Christ into the sinner’s life or heart as an act of the human will. In other words, the initiative in Christian conversion appears to be with the one praying, not with God, thus making it seem more dependent on human decision than upon divine activity.

Such prayers may also contain both or one of the following components: a reference to God’s forgiveness; and an expression of repentance.”

© David Malcolm Bennett, 2011

You are free to use these definitions, but please acknowledge the sources David Malcolm Bennett. Thank you.


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