The Sinner's Prayer: An Historic and Theological Analysis

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The Sinner's Prayer: An Historic and Theological Analysis

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Title: The Sinner's Prayer: An Historic and Theological Analysis
Author: Chitwood, Paul
Advisor: Beougher, Jim
Abstract: This dissertation is an historical and theological analysis of the Sinner's

Prayer. Chapter 1 introduces the topic, provides an example of the Sinner's Prayer, and

proposes the importance of this study. The methodology and limitations of the study are

also discussed.

Chapter 2 traces the history of evangelism from New Testament times.

Significant movements and persons are discussed as they have importance for the

development of a theology and methodology of evangelism that lead the way to the

introduction of the Sinner's Prayer. Gospel tracts receive attention because they are

representative of the popular approaches to evangelism. The case presented is that the

Sinner's Prayer originated in the early twentieth century as a result of efforts to simplify

and reproduce methods in evangelism. Billy Graham is given primary credit for

popularizing the prayer.

Chapter 3 provides a theological analysis of the Sinner's Prayer. The doctrine

of prayer is discussed. Biblical soteriology receives significant attention. Theological

objections that have been raised regarding the Sinner's Prayer are also discussed.

Theological correctives are offered to those who will continue to use the prayer as a tool

in evangelism.

Chapter 4 discusses the use of methods in evangelism, noting limitations,

dangers, and ethical considerations. This chapter stresses the need for reform in the way

the Sinner's Prayer is typically used.

This work contends that the Sinner's Prayer is of recent origin. It reflects the

theological and methodological shift in evangelism that occurred during the nineteenth

and early twentieth centuries. Theologically, most versions of the Sinner's Prayer fail to

reflect the biblical directives for salvation. In the manner in which it is typically use, the

prayer has become a barrier to effective evangelism. If evangelists will continue to make

use of the prayer, reform is critical.

Date: 2001

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