Sign up ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Where did the idea of "asking Jesus into your heart" come from? That figure of speech is not explicitly from the bible or probably even early church history. Can anyone find its first use and maybe why it's become so pervasive?

I'm looking for something like "Pastor John Smith used the saying once at a conference in 1850" or something like that. I can assume that people use the bible to come up with this phrase. I'm wondering more about the historical origin of its usage.

share|improve this question
"Asking Jesus into your heart" is only one sort of Sinner's prayer. Many others are called a Sinner's prayer but don't use that kind of wording. Which do you want to know about? – curiousdannii Jul 8 '14 at 12:24
@curiousdannii Good point. I've updated it. – LCIII Jul 8 '14 at 12:28
While I have never heard this, I did a quick scrub of the net and found a very good article about it: It seems it is most often (incorrectly) associated with Revelation 3:20, which is of course out of context. – Jesse Jul 8 '14 at 13:23
It is frequently used at Calvary Chapels... – Greg McNulty Jul 23 '14 at 7:06

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There is a famous painting called "The Light of the World," painted by William Hunt in 1853. By his own statement, it comes from Revelation 3.20, and represents Jesus knocking at the heart of an obstaninate sinner, on a door with no handles, and which must be opened from the inside.

enter image description here

The image itself has been copied many times, and this is the version I always think of:

enter image description here

While the context of Revelation 3.20 ("Behold I stand at the Door and Knock") is not about salvation, it is often used in services as an altar call, thus identifying it with "opening your heart to Jesus." Here for example, is a church using that call exactly.

share|improve this answer
This is great, but not totally conclusive for me. Could the painter have gotten the idea for the painting from someone else? – LCIII Jul 28 '14 at 19:53
Of course he could have gotten it from somewhere. Crowd sourcing an answer here- hopefully someone else can find something earlier. Still, I've set a bar now that is at least 150 years, so others will have todo more work to beat it. – Affable Geek Jul 28 '14 at 21:03
I'm not sure how this image is connected to the specific wording of the phrase in question. – Nathaniel 19 hours ago

This concept appears in a sermon for children from 1845, by Alexander Fletcher:

Oh! my young friends, how happy you shall be, when Christ enters into your heart! I should like every little child this afternoon, to present the following beautiful petition to Christ; it is a very remarkable one; but oh! He loves it. It is this: 'Oh! Jesus, enter into my heart. May Thy grace enter into the soul of a little child, there to dwell for ever.' (source)

The word ask does not appear, but the context makes it clear that the child is to make a "petition" to Christ using these words.

A similar version, this time a prayer following a sermon on Revelation 3:20, appears in 1878:

Then the good gentleman told him that he had only to pray, "Lord Jesus, come into my heart," and He would come and dwell with him for ever. (source)

More exact wording appears in 1931:

For kids, it's enough just to be a Christian, to ask Jesus into your heart. (source)

More generally, however, Google Ngrams shows that the exact phrase did not gain traction, at least in print, until the second half of the 20th century:

NGrams for 1900-2007 of ask/asked/asking Jesus into one's heart

share|improve this answer

Here is a good article that talks about the history of this phrase, which I think was your original question. It started out with the anglo-american puritans in the 1600s - 1700s, if the article is correct. It grew with the missionary movement in the 1800s, and became a staple in children's ministry in the 1900s.

share|improve this answer
Nice find Lucas, and welcome to the site. – fredsbend Dec 20 '14 at 22:18
Please see What this site is about and How this site is different to help you learn how the site works. Also see the help center and take the tour to learn the site functions. – fredsbend Dec 20 '14 at 22:19
The 17th and 18th century usages are "receive Jesus into your heart," not ask. – Nathaniel 19 hours ago

I think it comes from Ephesians 3:17. See eg the New Living version of Ephesians 3:17a:

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.

share|improve this answer
The example in Ephesians 3:17 isn't about ASKING Jesus into your heart, but that He may dwell in it through your faith. Asking something and having faith in it are two completely different things. – Jesse Jul 8 '14 at 14:13
"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love," - KJV – Xeoncross Jul 8 '14 at 18:21
A reasonable assumption, but would be nice to see with a source. – fredsbend 16 hours ago

It seems that the expression was already in use at the time of the evangelist Billy Sunday. The hymn "Into My Heart" was composed in 1924, about the same era.

In any case, the expression could be closely associated with the practice of altar call, whose history can be traced back to the 1800s.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.