The Evangelistic Sinner’s Prayer

July 2, 2013

by Norm Miller

“May I share a prayer with you that changed my life 74 years ago?”

That’s how Ted Cotten tells others about Jesus. Or, at least that’s how he starts. The prayer is a witnessing tool which Cotten, 84, has printed on a small card. It reads: “Dear Lord Jesus, I know I have sinned and done wrong. Please forgive me of my sin and give me eternal life. I now trust You Lord Jesus as my Savior. Help me to have a growing relationship with You, and to become the Christian person that You want me to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

That’s how a story I wrote in 2007 for Baptist Press began.

I don’t recall how I met Ted Cotten, but I will never forget him. He and I maintained contact after that initial story, wherein I reported he had shared the prayer with about 2,500 people.

Three years later and I wrote another BP story about Ted. That’s because he had reached 10,000 people with his sinner’s prayer.

Ted turns 90 this year, and to date he has surpassed 35,000 people to whom he has read his prayer. Ask him how many have accepted Christ, and he doesn’t know, cumulatively. But he will relate a few accounts.

Still sharing his prayer with individuals, Ted also has developed a training program to teach others his method. So, he is replicating himself as a witness.

Below are a few excerpts from both stories I wrote about Ted Cotten. And below that are links to both BP stories. I encourage you to read them both, and then to share a personal witness with all who cross your path daily.

Note that the quotes are Ted’s.
— It takes only 17 seconds to read or say the prayer.

— “The amount of receptivity out there is what blows me away.”

— “I shared this prayer more than 1,800 times before I got my first rebuff.”

— “Witnessing is spiritual warfare.”

— “This burden began to weigh on me until I fell on my knees and confessed to the Lord that I was chicken and begged Him to give me courage and boldness to witness for Him.”

— “I witnessed to people at McDonald’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Applebee’s, at Seattle Mariner baseball games, over the phone, in banks, at Kiwanis club, knocking on doors, on the golf course and anywhere I met people.”

— “I made no conscious effort to design this prayer,” he said, explaining that it was a last-ditch effort some years ago to win a man to Christ whose friendship he had been cultivating. “I asked him, ‘May I share a prayer with you and see how it resonates with you?’” The man agreed, heard the prayer and then gave his heart to Christ.

— “I went to Wal-Mart because we needed a few things. But really, I just went there to witness,” he said. “I shared with 43 people. Three were Hispanic, so I used my Spanish prayer cards. Everyone’s responses at the store were so positive that I was near tears.

— “I also went to Target and had 50 prayer cards, and I ran out,” he said. “I could’ve shared with 75 people easily.”

— “I believe I could’ve led hundreds to make decisions for Christ. But I’ve seen too many situations where people made what I believe were premature decisions. So, what we’re primarily doing is sowing the seed and giving the Holy Spirit something to work with. If we have time to deal with them at length, then we seek to lead them to the Lord.

— “We cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “It’s our job to share our witness, however briefly or as long as it takes.”

— “If God lets me live long enough, my goal is to reach 50,000.”


Retiree witnesses to 10,000 in 3 yearsBaptist Press by Norm Miller



Octogenarian witnesses to thousandsBaptist Press by Norm Miller


Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available

Norm Miller

Ted is but a man, I know. But, somehow, I feel unworthy to untie the laces of his shoes. — Norm

Bob Hadley

“We cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “It’s our job to share our witness, however briefly or as long as it takes.”

AMEN. My job is to plant the seed and leave the results up to God. I would certainly rather have an opportunity to explain the gospel and ask for a response than I had not. If I share the gospel with someone I will reach out my hand to them and look them in the eye and ask them if they would be willing to repent of their sin and turn from their own efforts for right standing before God and ask them to trust what Jesus did for them on the cross… by asking God to forgive their sin and asking Him to save them.

By taking my hand you are saying that you want to trust Christ and be saved; I will lead you in a prayer; the prayer will not save you but God can and will IF you mean what you say.

Until God tells me to do otherwise, I will do just that.

Clark Dunlap

Sounds like a wonderful guy, and an interesting way to begin a conversation about Christ. And I’d like to hear how he shares the gospel with them. I mean this prayer isn’t the gospel right? And its the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the power of God unto salvation. Still, beginning this way plants a seed, gives a testimony, and is more than most of us are doing.


That is a prayer that Paul could have prayed on the road to Damascus. He likely responded to Christ with something similar.

Christ said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Ted Cotton is doing what he was told to do.

    Norm Miller

    Thx for your comment, Hutch. Whereas I am sure there are varying opinions out there in the flogosphere about Ted’s prayer and efforts, I see what he is doing as God-inspired and obedient to the Great Commission — and several others verses about publishing the great and wondrous works of our God.

    Ted’s prayer reminds me of something one of my professors said:
    “A person can pray the right prayer with the wrong heart and go to hell. Another can pray the wrong prayer with the right heart and go to heaven.”

    What human can tell what is in the heart of anyone who prays? The attitude of the heart seems to far outstrip the significance of the words. — Norm

David R. Brumbelow

Great story.

If you don’t admire a man like Ted Cotten, you need to get right with God.
David R. Brumbelow

Mary S.

I do admire this man! It is a shame that more Christians are not being faithful like him and sharing Christ. And yet isn’t discipleship of a few a much more affective way than evangelizing many?

Suppose 1 evangelist wins 1000 people to Christ each day working 365 days a year for 30 years. That equals 10 million people.

Now suppose 1 person wins just 1 person to Christ each year. But he disciples that person to do the same and disciple the others to do the same for 30 years. That equals 536 million!! MUCH MORE than the person evangelizing 1000 a day!

It would take more than 10,000 YEARS, for an evangelist reaching 1000 people every day, to evangelize the whole world! But it would take only 33 years (not 10,000!) to do the same the multiplication way. See for yourself:

Church Growth Potential
Year Multiplication
1 1
2 2
3 4
4 8
5 16
6 32
7 64
8 128
9 256
10 512
11 1,024
12 2,048
13 4,096
14 8,192
15 16,384
16 32,768
17 65,536
18 131,072
19 262,144
20 524,288
21 1,048,576
22 2,097,152
23 4,194,304
24 8,388,608
25 16,777,216
26 33,554,432
27 67,108,864
28 134,217,728
29 268,435,456
30 536,870,912
31 1,073,741,824
32 2,147,483,648
33 4,294,967,296
34 8,589,934,592

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available