[Editor’s Note: This post is in response to “Praying with the Senses,” Sonja Luehrmann’s portal into Reverberations’ unfolding compendium of resources related to the study of prayer.]
I heartily welcome Reverberations’s new prayer portal, “Praying With The Senses,” as it not only tackles significant issues in the study of prayer from a variety of methodological angles, but it also brings much needed attention to that which continues to be a significant lacuna in religious studies—namely, the distinctive characteristics of various expressions of Eastern Christian faith and practice.
Sonja Luehrmann’s curatorial introduction highlights a number of the distinctive factors that affect “the efficacy of prayer” in Eastern Christianity. Many of these factors reveal how the Eastern Christian traditions are fraught with tension between formal regulations prescribed by ecclesiastical authority and the ambiguities and “judgment calls” that confront the individual believer in actual practice. As Luehrmann puts it, some of these factors
are internal to the praying person: his or her state of sincerity, undivided attention, preparation through fasting or prostrations, and knowledge of and access to prescribed prayer texts. Others are intersubjective: in a group of people praying together or in a situation where one person is interceding for others, there are social characteristics such as gender, age, clerical status, and training in recitation techniques that determine who recites a prayer and who listens, or whose duty it is to intercede for whom.