People think of prayer as a mental activity that happens, at times, to involve physical actions. After believers master the ritual movements of their religious traditions, personal and theological concerns about the mental side of prayer tend to overshadow the importance of such bodily actions.
Small remnants of sacred fabric known as prayer cloths are among the most important devotional objects in the Pentecostal tradition. Despite the widespread use of these healing and apotropaic objects, however, there is a remarkable lack of published scholarship on this phenomenon within the fields of religious studies, folklore, and anthropology.
<p>What counts as prayer? It is a serious mistake, when faced with very difficult questions, to answer them too quickly.</p>
Columbia University’s Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life (IRCPL) will produce three one-hour national public radio programs on prayer, as part of its media project “Rethinking Religion.” “Rethinking Religion” brings together religious leaders, practitioners, cultural figures, policy makers, journalists, and research scholars to reflect on the roles, places, and forms of religion.
This project is a comparative ethnographic study of Roman Catholic prayer for exorcism, a form of ritual healing prayer performed by a priest and the aim of which is relief from affliction by evil spirits. Insofar as exorcism is an institutionally sanctioned form of prayer practiced in culturally diverse settings throughout the Catholic world, the project addresses the nature prayer in social and institutional contexts and comparative perspectives on prayer. Insofar as it is a form of prayer concerned with counteracting the debilitating force of evil understood as an obstacle to spiritual life, the project also addresses the contribution of prayer to virtue, human flourishing, moral development, and ethical formation.
Two recent trends introduce new questions about the practice and meaning of prayer in the lives of contemporary believers. One is the dramatic growth in the population of believers who do not specifically identify or affiliate with institutional religions—so-called “Nones,” who answer “none” or “no religion” when asked with what religious group they identify.
The current research brings together research on prayer, which has benefited from an expansion of the concept of prayer from a singular to a multifaceted entity (Ladd & Splika, 2002; Poloma & Pendleton, 1989) and research on cognition, which has benefited from an expansion of a view of cognition from a singular to multifaceted entity (Bargh 2007). It is proposed that different kinds of prayer will activate different kinds of cognitive processes and will thus have unique implications for moral and ethical decision making.
This project is an ethnographic exploration of Muslim prayer (namaz), the central practice in formal worship (salah or salat), and its relation to other religious and secular labor in a suburban community in Ahmedabad, India. It explores prayer, specifically, as exemplary religious labor embedded in a range of religious practices, and religious labor, generally, as it relates to secular labor practices.
This project will investigate the role of collective prayer for parochial altruism. Complex societies require cooperation, even with non-kin and strangers.
In my book, I will analyze the effects of novel technology on the practice, as well as the perception, of prayer rites by Sunni reformers who invariably assess modern things on the basis of scriptural precedents. To understand these effects, I will research fatwas, authoritative juridical opinions, concerning a wide range of new machines: gramophones, airplanes, slaughtering machines, digital devices, and many other objects.
Across Protestant denominations and congregations in South Korea, instances of t’ongsǒng kido, or “group prayer,” share a common feature: synchronous but unsynchronized individual prayers carried out in groups. In these groups, a cacophony of voices hinders the interpretability of any single voice.
We examine the development of prayer concepts, specifically concepts of petitionary prayer that makes requests of divine beings. Petitionary prayer is practiced by children and adults worldwide (BBC News, 2007; Pew Research Center, 2008; Pew Research Center, 2010).
What does it take to pray well, and how does a regular practice of prayer help remake the devotee into a person who has this ability? Our research team asks how prayer skills are linked to wider ethical ideas of human thriving in the Eastern Christian churches, where spiritual transformation through disciplined, embodied practice has long been considered a key purpose of religious engagement.
This proposal tests the hypothesis that different “theories” of mind will shape the way prayer practice is experienced and the kind of spiritual experience with which it is associated. The project director has done many years of ethnographic and experimental research on prayer and spiritual experience within a gently charismatic evangelical congregation in the United States and identified specific patterns of interpretation, proclivity and practice consequence associated with kataphatic, or imagination-rich, prayer.
This project explores the empirical and theoretical implications of the Pentecostal claim that prayer is the “weapon of our warfare”. Focusing on African Pentecostals who see themselves as a new global vanguard with a redemptive mission, I ask what it means to speak of prayer as a weapon, and what are the ethical, political and theological implications of Pentecostal conceptions of warfare.
In January of this year, the speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives forwarded an email message urging supporters to “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109.8.” That scripture reads, “May his days be few; may another take his office,” and was in fact “praying against” Obama.
My project proposes to use the tools of visual ethnography (documentary film) to explore the ritual life and everyday prayer practices of the hugely diverse and rapidly expanding Pentecostal-Charismatic Christian (P/c) congregations in the Indian city of Mumbai. Scholars have noted the dramatic expansion in recent decades of P/c churches across the globe – particularly in the so-called “global south,” where the movement has been particularly dynamic, accounting for the lion’s share of an estimated 9 million new converts every year.
My project examines the profound effect that technological forms (material, conceptual, linguistic, epistemic) have had, and continue to have, on the practice and study of prayer. My project addresses: 1) social and technological contexts in and through which prayer has been represented, 2) the relationship between these contexts, these representations, and the dynamics of the secular age, and 3) the use of machines to measure one’s prayers and the prayers of others.
The proposed research project wishes to study prayers and practices related to prayers of selected Dalit communities (formerly untouchable) of Kerala, India, who joined the missionary societies such as the Church Missionary Society as well as the London Missionary Society from the mid-nineteenth century onward. These two missionary organizations were part of the Anglican Church and they were active among the Dalit communities from 1850s onward — winning thousands of ‘converts’ by the first decade of the twentieth century.
In the aftermath of ‘9/11’, the assumption that adherents of evangelical Christianity and reformist Islam inhabit discrepant, permanently warring publics, has solidified. The dominant narrative is one of mutual antagonism, which positions these religions as foundational in major global conflicts.
I propose to study the religious/spiritual histories of adult Catholic survivors of clerical sexual abuse with a view toward understanding the role of prayer in their efforts to reclaim their lives from destruction and alienation. The most disastrous consequences of abuse included a radically diminished self-image; persistent feelings of shame; a perceived loss of agency; a corrosive and objectless anger; pervasive anxiety; self-abuse (with drugs, alcohol, violence, and destructive sexuality); relational failure and social isolation.
This study is a comparative project on prayer among poor and working-class Muslim women in India and France. Specifically, it will examine the following two dimensions of prayer: supplications (duas) and prayers for healing from jinn afflictions ruqya).
Children's religious concepts undergo significant transitions during the preschool years. Their understanding of ritual actions, God, and supernatural causality undergo qualitative shifts.
“Neighborhood Mystics” will be the first interdisciplinary (ethnographic and textual-historical) study of contemplative practice within a dynamic Jewish mystical movement known as Chabad Hasidism. Chabad was founded more than 200 years ago in White Russia through the promotion of specialized practices including contemplative prayer and study (hitbonenut, tefillah ba’avodah) in the context of a close fellowship of pietists.
Charity (Sanskrit: dāna, derived from the same Indo-European root as Latin: dōnum, gift) is the most fundamental of all Buddhist virtues, so it follows that prayer in the sense of the words accompanying the act of charity would be important in all Buddhist cultures. In one of the most commonly performed rites in the Buddhist world, the memorializing of one’s ancestors, the devotee offers purified thoughts or makes a concrete donation to the Buddhist Order and utters a prayer assigning the benefit of the act to the deceased.