The Sinner's Prayer: An Historical and Theological Analysis
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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.