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Woven into Prayer: A Flexible Pattern of Daily Prayer for the Christian Year

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Summary Detailed See Also Summary. Cover image with standard summary information Author1; Title; Medium; Class Author; Title; Accession location, loan type - status; Class Title details in a citation format. Since the time of Sumer, our conceptual understanding of prayer evolved into a multitude of forms and functions described in the sacred texts of world religions e.

This historical lineage of prayer, from Neanderthal to Sumer, to major world religions, continues evolving in the era of modern social scientific prayer research. Some of this early prayer research is represented by Sir Francis Galton's statistical analysis of petitionary prayers, and William James' psychological and empirical writings on prayer.

In more recent times, collections of prayer research have been published in the fields of psychology e. Moreover, an analysis of academic prayer research publication trends for the fields of communication, psychology, and sociology from show modest publication increases through , and then a doubling of academic publications over the next two decades in all three disciplines Baesler, With the increase of scholarly interest in the social scientific study of prayer, it is appropriate that the field of communication contribute to the interdisciplinary field of prayer research by introducing a collection of essays with a distinctly communication focus in this special issue of the Journal of Communication and Religion.

Forms and functions of prayer are the core processes in a system of prayer that is influenced by a matrix of input variables e. Inherent in the system's perspective of prayer are dialectical relationships. Dialectics are pairs of concepts representing endpoints of an underlying continuum with a theoretically infinite number of fuzzy concepts situated between the polar anchors Kosko, Dialectical relationships are embedded within prayer processes e. An example of a prayer "process and outcome dialectic" is "contemplation-action" where contemplation is a prayer process and action is a behavioral outcome.

Prayer operates in a contextual dialectic, embedded in particular communication contexts e. Conceptually, there are additional prayer contexts situated between the poles of the individual-global dialectic that one might imagine: individuals silently praying for different needs during a prayer service, posting on-line prayer requests to a website, praying for someone using a mobile phone, multiple people praying for a specific intention in an internet chat room, and so forth. In addition to the contextual prayer dialectic, prayers can also be situated along a functional dialectic.

That is, prayers serve a variety of functions e. Additional functions of prayer located along the petitionary-contemplative dialectic include two clusters: adoration, praise, and worship, and mystical prayers of rapture, ecstasy, and union. James Baesler Just as there are many functions and contexts of prayer, there are many prayer research methods. This collection of essays represents a diversity of methodological approaches to scholarly prayer research.

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In contrast, Poloma and Lee's study of prophetic prayer, and Kelley's work on relational forgiveness and prayer, provide a more focused review, and critical interpretation of, specific types of prayer. Finally, Ladd et. In addition to methodological pluralism, these essays have an interdisciplinary flavor, with both review pieces Lauricella, and Kreps spanning the disciplines of communication, medicine, psychology, and sociology.

Kelley's work on forgiveness, and Ladd et. Finally, Poloma and Lee's research on prophetic prayer uses communication, psychology, and sociological resources to support their arguments. While interdisciplinary in nature, the central theme that binds these essays together is their focus on prayer as spiritual communication.

Within this theme, there are unique aspects of each study highlighted in this section. Poloma and Lee develop a continuum of prayer from devotional to mystical and focus on describing mid-range prophetic prayers.

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Their national survey data reveal that all three prayers predict a multidimensional measure of love, and data from qualitative interviews illustrate the dynamics of prophetic prayer for discernment in decision making. Turning from types of prayer, Ladd et. Using a survey based method, language content and connectivity functions of prayer are compared with human conversations, and the nature of attachment as a relational component of prayer is explored as correspondence and compensation. Within the context of private and interpersonal prayers, Kelly describes prayer within the Kelly and Waldron model of relational forgiveness.

Within this forgiveness framework, prayer is related to: emotion, sense-making, altruistic action, and reconciliation. The prayer of forgiveness may lead to relationship healing, and healing is a common theme in the prayer and health literature. Kreps' review of prayer and health suggests that prayer can function in a number of ways to impact health in a holistic sense, especially as a means of coping with illness e. The role of prayer and health in a variety of relationships are discussed including: friends, family, doctors, nurses, and chaplains. Finally, Lauricella's extensive review of prayer across the lifespan covers the life stages of children, adolescents, undergraduates, adults and elders with special attention to the psychological and cognitive development in the early stages of the lifespan, and coping, health, and aging in the later stages of the lifespan.

Collectively, the essays in this special issue introduce communication scholars to the contexts, functions, and topics of communication-focused prayer research. As with any introduction, only a limited number of prayer research topics are represented in this volume. How representative are these images of the nonverbal characteristics of everyday private and public prayer?

More broadly, what nonverbal characteristics describe the prayerful face, posture, voice, and environment? Second, there is a need for careful descriptive work mapping the phenomenological experience of prayer in the context of everyday life. How much can individuals accurately report about their own prayer experiences? It may be that some prayer experiences are so mysterious that they are difficult to communicate. For instance, in some forms of contemplative prayer, the experience is described as being in a "cloud of unknowing" Johnston, , a place where the person praying is aware of "being" but cannot name specific cognitive content.

In such cases, how can individuals respond to specific queries about the content of their prayer experience? Across a number of experiments, Gladwell notes that when researchers ask for information in the participant's "black box," individuals tend to fabricate stories beyond their ability to accurately tell. The cognitive and linguistic limits of what individuals can report about their prayer experience is debatable.

Third, with the rise of new media technologies, early adopter personality types may translate some of their face-to-face prayer activities into the digital environment, or perhaps invent new types of digital prayer. To begin mapping the social media landscape of prayer, research might investigate petitionary prayers offered for others, and requests for prayer from others, by comparing frequency of prayer for different types of media like: mobile phone, Facebook, Twitter, traditional e-mail, and posts to prayer websites.

I am deeply grateful to Calvin Troup for his willingness to sponsor this special issue on prayer research, and to all of the authors, and anonymous reviewers, who contributed to the prayer scholarship in this volume. In this special issue on prayer research, most authors have implicitly adopted the definition of prayer as spiritual communication with "God. There are several ways of managing the "contemplative-action" dialectic including segmentation, cycling, and integration.

For example, "segmenting" might involve devoting specific times of the day to contemplative prayer and other times of the day to active ministry. In a "cyclical" approach, there may still be specific times devoted to prayer and action, but the periods of time are no longer experienced in isolation. Instead, each activity prayer or ministry informs the other in a reflexive loop. For instance, prayer may be used to discern appropriate actions in ministry, and the activities of ministry might be brought back into the next period of prayer in an on-going cycle.

Finally, in the "integration" approach, contemplation and action co-exist at the same time. Three examples of this type of integration follow. Thomas Merton , p. Therese of Avila, writes "A person is able to attend to the indwelling presence of the Trinity and yet carry on the ordinary business of everyday life. Consequently, the majority of prayer researchers use the more frequent and practical label "large group" to represent one endpoint of the contextual dialectic.