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"I feel a feeling which I feel you all feel." -- Bishop George Ridding
Why do we use two words, "pray" and "worship," and what do we mean by them? In particular, is there any meaning at all to "worship" as an ecclesiastical act?

We get "pray" from Latin "precari," but in the Vulgate prefers "ora" for "prayer." English derives "worship" from "weorth," according to online etymologies ("worthy" "worthiness"), but another possibility is that it derives from "ora"[1]. If so, both English words would derive from Latin terms for "to ask," although there are very slight distinctions between them. "Ora" has a slightly more formal quality as "entreat" or "petition" the way one does before a court of law, and "precare" has more of a "beg, crave" element. How "worship" as a verb evolved is not entirely clear, and it is possible that the repetition of the word "ora" in the Latin mass might have allowed a parallel formation with "weorthscip."

However the two separate words came into existence, we seem to mean different things when we use them. One, "prayer," implies an entire range of activities -- all spiritual -- and the other. . . has an even less exact meaning. In very general generality, "worship" refers to an intramural or ecclesiastical function -- church. "Prayer," on the other hand, means both the petition of the people to the divine, the petition of the person to the divine, the praise of the individual for the divine, and query of the divine. The question I want to ask is how "worship" changes in the various speech communities and therefore what political and community formations are implied. It seems to me that today's evangelical churches, with their organizing into political action committees instead of orphanages, is at least attendant, if not a consequence of, the way that prayer has taken away worship in their services.

[1] A note: officially, "worship" derives from "worth" in American Heritage. I have not consulted the Oxford English Dictionary, but "worship" derived from "worthy" makes sense for the honorific of "Here is your tea, your worship," but not the verb, "worship."

"Complaint is the largest tribute Heaven receives; and the sincerest part of our devotion." -- Jonathan Swift
We may take for granted these days that the subjective self had to be invented. Whether we look at the slow valuing of the individual over the social man in the 18th century, the way Odo Marquard does in “Burdened and Disemburdened Eighteenth Century Man and the Flight into Unidictability” or the invention of bedrooms and hence a domestic self separate from family business, the way Lawrence Stone did in Family, Sex, and Marriage (and Stone has dozens of other insights, of course), or the affective consequences of industrialization in the concept of “privacy” in general (plots of romantic love on the rise in fiction, sermons and tracts on obedience increasing), the idea that there is a thing called “me” that is “mine” and, most especially, unique, and valuable needed inventing. However, while all of that seems true, to think that there was no subjective self prior to the industrial person is foolish.

Augustine famously remarked that St. Ambrose read silently. The very idea of the thing was revolutionary. Reading silently was rare for centuries, and we have to assume that most reading was not merely vocal but at least tacitly social prior to the sorts of wealth and social stratification that would allow for silent reading to be practical. Before printing presses, reading matter would be legal or Biblical, and either case would imply an immediate audience. Readers would be in a monastery or convent, and so they would, of course, be reading aloud, as their lives were in common. It would require wealth and separation for a secular reader or a private reader to occur.

Christianity had set a contrast, if not a contest, between the social and subjective self from its outset. We know little about the first Christians and their prayers, as humility prevented much of that discussion, but the earliest Roman reference to Christians mentions that they "sing hymns antiphonally." Pliny the Younger was commenting on their worship, as that is what concerned a Roman authority. (Roman religious tolerance and intolerance was entirely a matter of rite. If a group performed human sacrifice, it was illegal. They investigated practices and never paid much mind to beliefs they encountered.) Furthermore, the words of institution ("Take, eat. This is my body") from Jesus commanded "Do this in memory of me" and, at the very least commanded a social act.

Against this is prayer. Prayer, in Christianity, is private, solitary, autonomous, and to some degree sovereign (or at least not dependent upon the social setting for its validity). Matthew 6:6, from the Sermon on the Mount, says,

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (KJV)
The prayer proscribed by Jesus is a private prayer, a secret prayer, and a prayer inaccessible to the community, so as to avoid blame or praise by any but the one to whom it is intended. Further, the examples of Christ's own prayers given in the New Testament, and especially the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22), are personal, intimate, and emotional. In other words, the interaction of the person with God that Jesus commands is personal rather than social. The earliest examples of Jesus praying in Mark have him going to a "deserted place" where he could be alone (in Caesarea) (Mark 2). Just as Jesus condemns the theatrical prayer, the "Lord's Prayer" employs plural pronouns and implies a group prayer ("Our father, who is in heaven, your name is holy" and "Do not lead us into temptation. Protect us from evil").

Nor did Christians of later eras experience their prayers differently or miss the point. Although taking the testimony of mystics is a bit iffy (they're already aberrant by choosing to be contemplative), Saint John of the Cross's Long Dark Night of the Soul may have a Thomist facade of proving the goodness of spiritual dearth, but it has a heart of personal agony. It shows that the mystic experienced prayer as a personal matter, an emotional matter, and a metaphysical necessity. Prayer and contemplation are written about as encompassing, as being aesthetic, emotional, and physical, and minimally intellectual, by the mystics with positive accounts, such as Theresa of Avilla, The Cloud of Unknowing, and Juliana of Norwich. Sixteenth and seventeenth century Christians also speak of prayers as private.

Even as such authors as we have write of the private prayer, many of the same wrote public prayer. Thomas Moore and Samuel Johnson both wrote Latin prayers. "Prayer" was both the solitary pursuit and a public function. This is the other sort of prayer -- the worshipful prayer. There was always a practice public prayer, state prayer, and liturgy/litany, but this was in tension with the sufficiency of the private prayer. There were the prayers of the person and the prayers of the people, the petitions of the soul and the community in communion.

First shift
The Reformation emphasized the "priesthood of all believers," and Calvin further emphasized the sufficiency of the individual with the Gospel and grace. (Pimutant's recent diary runs down the practical effects of Calvinism on the approach of the believer.) These become readerly and interpretive moves, as the individual rises in importance, and assessing whether the Spirit and Grace are present moves onto shaky ground. A serious change in Christian practice would explode in the eighteenth century. Just as contemporary historians say that the subjective self is developing as a legal, familial, and philosophical entity, a stress inside the church emerges.

The wars of religion (17th - 18th century) meant that there were many religious groups that were in hiding, and they met up with the print revolution (at the end of the 17th century, England's publications were a river of religious pamphlets (see J.R. Hill, "Popery and Protestantism, Civil and Religious Liberty: The Disputed Lessons of Irish History 1690-1812," in Past and Present 1988). Nation states found themselves either wishing to embrace latitude or tolerance, and that put piety back on the individual (for example the growth of books of Meditations (Boyle, William Law, Bishop Hall, and others)). That individual who was newly empowered by law and culture to be a sovereign over him and herself was attending to prayer and reading meditations. The Protestant churches on the Continent fractured, and in the United States the rapid expansion meant that tradition and permanence had to be manufactured on the cheap.

The explosion came when Wesley met George Whitefield, in the U.K., and when the Great Awakening crossed the geographic expanse of America. Both offered a reorganization of the church service by putting an emphasis on the sermon. Furthermore, that moment created "evangelical" by placing the thematic emphasis entirely on "salvation" of the sinner (i.e. the sermon is approaching all congregants as sinners in need of conversion).

While the old line churches set most of the emphasis on a set order of worship, with set hymns, a set lectionary, and either a litany or at service that makes a delicate balance between rite and ritual, the enflamed churches emphasized hymns without leaders (all "sing along") and the sermon. Older churches set "worship" as an entity that orchestrated the congregation, "singing antiphonally," as it were. They were loathe to change the choreographed service that had been in place since Rome. The new churches had the sermon expand to fill most of the time in the pew. The sermon takes a teacher/student model, or a prophet/penitent model. The congregation does not participate in the sermon-dominated service. Further, wherever the sermon is thematically dominated by salvation, the congregant is disabled and incoherent in worship, because unsaved.

In brief, the Whitefield method and what it inspired addressed the congregation as individuals and asked them to engage in prayer. The sermon engages reason, passion, and aesthetics and asks for spiritual reflection, but always private reflection.

At nearly the same time that the Methodist movement and the Great Awakening occurred, the Protestant churches began social organizing. The sermon-dominated service deferred social religion into the salon, onto the disenfranchised female believer, and we almost instantly see the Methodist Prison Reform societies. The abolitionist movement, the temperance movement, and the anti-war movement during World War I were organized outside of the walls of the churches by the churched.

Perhaps this is a coincidence. Perhaps the same individualizing impulse that valorized the solitary Bible reader is responsible for the extramural organization. The churches as churches commonly minimized their organizational claims. Together with a Calvinist world view, they would have little emphasis on "deeds" and much more on "mission." The theology does not lead to ameliorating prison conditions, and the church does not do it, but the believers form their own societies to do so. (An interesting book is Martha Verbugge's Able-bodied Womanhood. OUP 1988. She is interested in how self-improvement for women.)

Second Shift
However, when we look at contemporary affairs in the United States, we see a prolonged moment of Awakening. The evangelical churches have grown quickly, and megachurches have sprung up. (The latter, incidentally, reinforce the isolation of the congregant with the use of Power Point and projection screens, as they essentially have the believer watching on television while present.) However, women are no longer disenfranchised, and the extramural organizing is done through disconnected, alienating means.

I have been told that "listening to Christian radio and singing along" is "worship." I have also heard ministers tell their flocks that "working to shut down abortion" is "worship." I have heard that driving their cars and praying is "worship." I am, of course, in no position to disagree. Instead, I wish to note only that the public portion of worship is part of the definition of religion, and so is the passion of prayer. When either gets shoved, it merely moves.

Today's mainline churches have debated enlivening their services, and some have emulated the sermon-heavy and orator-centered method. The evangelical churches, meanwhile, have had parallel lines of lay communication that organize. Without "church" sanction, believers write inspirational e-mails and newsletters, and wealthy deacons organize. These gatherings of persons are community, but they have grown weaker in recent years rather than stronger.

While radio remains potent in providing a sense of community, the underlying need of public prayer and community prayer that we see throughout human history, from stone altars and animal sacrifices to UFO cults dancing on shag carpet in a basement, is frustrated. Where the spiritual are kept frustrated alone, sent to "Friend God" on Facebook, and made alone all together, they will push to unite. When they do, what they accomplish can be the best or the worst element of religion.

Originally posted to A Frayed Knot on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 03:57 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight, Anglican Kossacks, and Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sorry it's pedantic and preachy and (6+ / 0-)

    probably a coterie piece.

    Essentially, I was thinking to myself, "You know, the newer new Protestant churches are reaching out to e-mail and Facebook and all sorts of things, but they seem to have no real coherence." I then thought about how the RC Bishops have coherence, but they are all-or-nothing with support. They either get every congregant with them, or they get very quiet.

    I combined that with what some folks have told me, which is that they feel empty when they're told that listening to a song is "worship." They pray, but they feel like there should be something else involved.

    I figured, "Well, one did add to one, so I wonder if that equals two." I may have written like a bulldozer in a meadow, though.

    Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

    by The Geogre on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 06:00:50 AM PST

  •  Modern dominionist theology with its emphasis (17+ / 0-)

    on political power and on steeplejacking other denominations is a heresy.  Falwell and Robertson among other have perpetrated a fraud upon the faith community at least.  While the roots go back to 1825 or so, Rushdoony was the one, with his exceptionalism, which was father to our modern televangelists.  They are merely using his ideas to create a permanent priestly caste where ministers wield power in the manner of ancient Hebrew governance, claiming to allow "prophets" and "apostles" to meddle freely in government is biblically ordained.
    Catholic conservatives have allied themselves with these zealots, despite their dissimilar theologies.  

    What is most disturbing is the tendency for these militant ministries to become family property and are passed from father to son.  In some cases, it appears God has called some families to minister for more than 4 generations.  This seems rather odd, since biblically, we note few prophets were able to pass their gifts to their sons (I am ignoring the existence of the Levites or priestly caste as they existed outside the prophetic tradition being accessed by these modern fundamentalists)    

    •  As I so tire of re-stating: we are witnessing the (4+ / 0-)

      popular rebirth of feudalism.

      WE should laugh them to scorn, every chance we get...while there's still time....


      by chmood on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 06:34:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You figure? (6+ / 0-)

        I see it in one sense. (I don't want to be that sour faced literalist.) I mean, one way that feudalism occurred was that rich jerks in Rome started dodging their taxes. When they stopped paying taxes, the government didn't have funds to send legions out to the extremes. That led those rich jerks to horde swords and hire mercenaries. That led to villas. They started being called "duces."

        Thus, dukes and barrrrrrrrns and all the rest: little outcroppings of Ron Pauls getting their way.

        Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

        by The Geogre on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 07:08:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, of course, although... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, revsue, Joy of Fishes

      I would say that the specific of the political within the church is slightly different from what I was trying to get at here. I think you're right: the ministers of the Dominionist type are mutants. I don't think they know their own roots, as the first rule of fraud club is that you don't learn about fraud club ("tradition" is bad, and seminary is "unnecessary"), but I was aiming at the congregant here.

      The common experience across the range, from the toxic snake oil mountebanks to the earnest megachurch preacher, is that the congregations are isolated. It's "sit and listen and receive" or "watch on TV" or "sing along."

      I'm playing with an hypothesis that maybe, maybe that leads people to create their own, but, since they're doing it outside, it can be pretty frenzied.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 07:06:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  what I see as the problem for the (6+ / 0-)

        congregant here is what Falwell called "Steeplejacking" or infiltration of mainstream denomination by these fanatics.  In many ways, I see strong parallels between Falwell's policies and Mao's view of how revolutionaries seize power  

        •  Ah: Sit and listen once, so why not x2 (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          entlord, commonmass, revsue, wasatch

          In other words, if the theology is built around the orator and the solitary reader, then there is no defense against a proselytizer.

          If "sit there and listen, and I'll 'guide' you to the meaning of the text" is the model, then the person who goes through that channel will readily listen to another person who promises an exciting orator and a "walk" through the scriptures.

          Again, though, the defense would be the congregation. If the congregants were interwoven, they would respond corporately rather than singly. (And, of course, that has really bad consequences when it goes bad, too.) For me, this individual/group is a balance point that shifts from side to side, and every time it gets to an extreme it calls for its complement.

          Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

          by The Geogre on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 07:38:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I am not sure about the heresy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      as this is IMHO a verdict that usually is subject to a formal and lengthy process according church law/ congregation rulings. You need an established corpus of dogma or at least a catechism to declare some religious movement a heresy and I somehow missed the reference to one of these. I could live with the term mainstream but it still is more a social science description than a theological one. Also, if a heresy has a million followers it is called a church.

      Good tests kill flawed theories; we remain alive to guess again. Karl Popper

      by hanswall on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 06:04:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No heresy is possible there, then (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wasatch, commonmass, Larsstephens

        Once past any church with an ecclesiastical polity, there is no heresy. In other words, Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox (Russian, Greek, Syrian), Coptic can have heretics, but Presbyterians, Baptists, and the dozens of newer churches, which reject dogma and authority, cannot have heretics.

        That's part of the problem. It's also what I suspect entlord was getting at. It's certainly one of the things that I imply as an aggravation of current changes. Once there is only a single congregation or pulpit to decide what is and is not valid, then there is neither stability nor a way to challenge the theology of a group by the group itself. (Doctrine and dogma change very slowly in the old churches, but they can change very quickly in the new ones, because the only stay is persuasion about a reading of the Bible.)

        Finally, a person can say, "From the body of this faith, historically and globally, from its first principles and stated beliefs, this group is heretical." I agree with entlord that they fall into about half a dozen different ancient heresies. A lot of them are repeating Bogomilism, if nothing else.

        Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

        by The Geogre on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 04:07:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Seminary classes! (10+ / 0-)

    This did remind me of some of my seminary classes ... not exactly where I am at, a little heavy (like German theology) but it made me think.

    I found the whole "silent reading" thing vastly interesting.  I had not thought of what a difference it made in how we went from being an oral community (saying things in front of witnesses) to a written (and therefore more secret) community.

    Recently I have been thinking about the difference between prayer and worship, only in a more practical sense.  When worship went from Latin to the vernacular, it lost some of the drama and the control that was exercised by the clergy. God did not have to be interpreted only by a select few, but was open to communication by all.  Some years ago, I visited the "old" cathedral in Managua Nicaragua (it was then very much into Liberation Theology)and was very impressed by the sign they had at the door: First visit the son then come back to visit his mother and his friends, the saints.

    I loved the whole idea of empowering the individual to approach God without an intermediary.  It was the same bang I got when I studied Greek and Hebrew and thought about interpretation and what a difference it can make.  

    Maybe the difference is not between prayer and worship but between the roles we assume in each ... are we the listener or the speaker?  Is prayer all about putting our requests out there or about listening to the still small voice of God?  Is worhip about being entertained (I use the word loosely) or about acting?  Is it like Kierkegaard thought:  that in worship, we are the actors and God is the audience?  So our public acts do indeed become acts of worship  ... whether we establish orphanages or do the Westboro Church thing.  It very much describes the kind of God that is worshiped and well as the worshiper.

    One of my favorite tee-shirt quotes is from Austin College:  God gave you a brain and expects you to use it.

    Thanks for setting me to thinking this morning.

    •  I love your post (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, wasatch

      I think you're right on about worship being a performed prayer and God is the audience. My distinction was between the individual soul, which I think has always had a place, and the community.

      The early church never imagined 3,000 trying to commune, I suspect. The more it gets to be theater, the less it gets to be lived, and Kierkegaard is right that only that which is lived is religious.

      I feel like we need both, and if we don't get both, if we have only either one, we'll see the complement.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 07:13:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's all bullshit. n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy, Scott Campbell

    Just as prostitution is the world's oldest profession, religion is the world's oldest scam.

    by Agent420 on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 11:52:39 AM PST

    •  OTOH - IMHO this is exactly what (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, Matt Z

      makes humans human.

      Namely, our wonderful ability to conjure and imagine things out of thin air.

      Really, can mice, dogs, elephants, or even Rick Santorum do that?

    •  All religions have one thing in common, (0+ / 0-)

      Someone is telling you that they have been chosen as the one that will bring you the 'word of dog.' Everyone else is telling a lie but they need to live in multimillion dollar houses because their imaginary friend told them to, and they need to have lots of money to carry on spreading their myths and fairy tales. Religion has killed more people on this planet than all the wars and tribal conflicts and road deaths put together. Religion is the worst thing to happen to this planet because the snake oil salesMEN of religion cannot let the flow of tainted money stop or they will have to live out on the street, since they have no other talents.  

      Just as prostitution is the world's oldest profession, religion is the world's oldest scam.

      by Agent420 on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 08:14:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This might seem funny, but as an atheist I don't (6+ / 0-)

    doubt the power of belief, I just doubt the wisdom of letting others so easily define it for you.  That is what I think people periodically rebel against - having a belief system pushed onto them, one they have never thought through and has them going through all sorts of empty motions for the apparent satisfaction of others.

    •  Possibly guilt/joy? (3+ / 0-)

      I think a lot of people lose their sense of religion when young because they run up against rules of behavior that are aligned with power and never comprehensible. They appear to be coercive, dead, and irrational. The frustration and guilt that comes from breaking or wishing to break the taboos then leads people to toss the baby out with the bath water.

      The religious experience is something completely different from obedience and completely different from the smugness of Church Lady finger waggers. The "blissed out" are the ones with religious experience, and the problem comes after that experience.

      A real experience of the divine is heady, and there are plenty of mountebanks and self-deluded politicians and creeps ready to shake down the people who have only felt the divine presence and who want more.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 04:14:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This resonates. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        commonmass, The Geogre, Larsstephens

        I know there is something greater than ourselves.  I do not know what that thing is.  (Is there a word for this?)

        As a child I couldn't stomach the hypocrisy coming from the people pushing the rules about how to behave and even how to think.  You put it well with your statement that the rules are aligned with power.  Organized religion had nothing I could see as being true.  

        Still doesn't, but after a somewhat circuitous spiritual path, I can see truth and wisdom and beauty in the some of the source teachings.    

        •  it is not a question of whether there is (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          something greater than ourselves.  Of course there is.  Pull a coin out of your pocket and flip it.  Once it leaves your hand it will land heads, land tails, or balance on an edge.  The question is wether you can accept that a coin toss is out of your control and hence greater than you, or you feel there must be a divinity greater than the coin that you can petition to control the outcome, and hence you can re-establish control over (and thus be greater than) the coin.

      •  Say again? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "The religious experience is something completely different from obedience"

        if you accept that there is a divine presence that sits in judgement, ultimately you end up with obeidience, willingly or not.  You can't have it both ways.  If there is no judgement then there is no consequence.  If there is no consequence, then there is no external relevance and it is all in your head.  It has outward consequence - belief guides your actions - but the cause all exists in your mind.  And if you accept this, then admit it or not - you're now an atheist.

        •  You misunderstand (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          In fact, you entirely misunderstand the religious with the superstitious.

          Pagan religions are all over obedience, for example. You obey the gods, because they'll make the crops fail if you don't. The Abrahamic religions establish early on that the good suffer, the evil flourish, and prosperity and happiness are not tied to faithfulness. They did this in the middle of a world that offered quid pro quo belief, too.

          The experience (note the word) of the divine is not knowledge of the divine. The experience of the divine often shows up as paradox, metaphor, oxymoron, and anti-rationalist expression to try to communicate that which cannot be contained by reason.

          Those who experience the divine do not step away saying, "Ok, what you need to do is this." They step away with experience. It takes a lifetime for experience to become more than that, and that's why Christianity, at any rate, relies upon revelation.

          I'm sorry to tell you this, but the people are actually experiencing something, and it's not like anything else.

          Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

          by The Geogre on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 10:31:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  What you just described I would call Enlightenment (0+ / 0-)

            I agree that people are experiencing it, I agree that it is unlike anything else.  I'll even grant that religion can help you achieve it.  But, I disagree that it requires religion or a Divine Being, and I'll also posit that religion with its proximity to superstition can also be a hindrance.

          •  The only difference between religious and (0+ / 0-)

            superstition is the spelling.

            Just as prostitution is the world's oldest profession, religion is the world's oldest scam.

            by Agent420 on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 08:19:45 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thank You ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, Joy of Fishes

    In the lineup to be published on Street Prophets.


    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 12:26:50 PM PST

    •  Thank YOU (3+ / 0-)

      I really felt like this was too dry... historical... and the conclusions I want to make I feel like I don't have evidence for. (My personal conclusion is that the folks who make their faithful watch the service on television screens in the church, who use radio, who use Facebook, who keep the believer alone, are building up pressure, and whenever that happens the pressure will be released.)

      (It occurred to me, after writing, that this pivot point has moved back and forth. There is this unexplainable moment of mysticism across Europe. After the Crusades, we have this massive blossoming of anchorites and carmelites, and that's also when the churches were at their most stratified, choreographed, social; thus, a blossom of prayer.)

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 04:18:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Really excellent diary. Worship and prayer (4+ / 0-)

    are at once separate acts and yet overlapping.

    As a "liturgy geek" (sacred musician and liturgy director) I have always been interested in the differences (and similarities) between the liturgical rites of various kinds of denominations. What I have been most interested in is the level of information rank-and-file parishioners have about the history and the "whys" of their traditions and rites and distinctions such as those between prayer and worship, ritual and rite.  What I have found is that "free church" evangelicals know a lot of Bible, but not much about their history and the practices of other Christian groups. Churches with a "history" and specific theological traditions like Methodists or Lutherans or the quasi-evangelical Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)--a denomination I happen to be particularly fond of and am fascinated by Barton Stone in particular--tend to know more about their "founders", their theological teachings, etc. Among Lutherans it has been my experience that the more strictly "confessional" LC-MS folks can quote you a lot more Luther than their more laid-back Scandinavian and less "confessional" ELCA counterparts. Roman Catholics congregations seem sometimes to be very well informed or very, very poorly informed depending upon a variety of factors, most especially the level of commitment to ongoing learning of their education and liturgy directors--more so than the commitment of the clergy.

    You may think this is bias, but I have consistently found that Episcopalians are probably the most in-tune with history and tradition whys and wherfores.

    I have loved, over the years, having and leading organized conversations about topics like this, and church history in general with folks of many different Christian denominations. No matter how you feel about religion, these questions are worth examining.

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car.

    by commonmass on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 02:09:57 PM PST

    •  Thanks (3+ / 0-)

      I will not say that I have met many who know much about their church history, alas, of any faith. The Episcopalians have it as part of Confirmation, and I think that might be because it is what I like to think of as a historically nervous church. It never had a dynamic founder, never had a persecuted exodus. Its founding was historical, and its form is historical, and its shape is only comprehensible with historical awareness.

      Other than that, I just worry.

      The lack of knowledge leads to vulnerability. The earliest heresies came about because they're tempting and human, and they still are.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 04:23:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The English Church and its corresponding (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre, Larsstephens

        national Provinces (such as the Episcopal Church in the US)* certainly have a very interesting history, in that the English Church even before the split with Rome enjoyed a great deal of autonomy, their own rite (the Sarum or Salisbury rite) and has gone from remaining very Catholic to (very quickly) becoming influenced by the Reformation on the continent to Puritan schism, "evangelical" missionaries (such as the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel which highly influenced North American Anglicanism) to the Oxford Movement in the mid 19th Century, which has given us a strange split between "evangelical" Anglicans and "Catholic" Anglicans which not only persists to this day but is part of the cause of the controversy and schism surrounding gay and lesbian clergy. The effect of the liturgical reforms in the Roman Church on liturgical practices in, especially in the US Church cannot be overstated.

        I think your term "historically nervous" is apt, because it is historically complicated and among the three great branches of Catholic Christianity is unique in a number of ways from how it developed to its dogma and polity.
        To say that Henry VII would be more likely to recognize a modern fairly high church Anglican Mass and that his daughter Elizabeth would be appalled and Handel would be fairly lost says a lot about the many roads the church has taken since the so-called English Reformation (a term I dislike as it tends to imply a false equivalence with the Reformation on the Continent). Heck, we Anglicans still to this day argue mightily over whether or not Anglicans are Protestants (I say they are not, and see them as a distinct Catholic tradition not Roman, not Eastern precisely because of the tremendous autonomy and isolation of the English church from its founding, but then again, I'm an Anglo-Catholic).

        *For those who don't know much about Anglicanism, it's important to point out that the Archbishop of Canterbury is NOT a "Pope" and while considered the spiritual leader of worldwide Anglicanism has no authority outside of the Church of England on decisions made in other provinces, not does any other province have any say in what another does--each is autonomous with its own Primate, canon law, prayerbook, etc--this has been part of the problem with foreign Bishops coming into authority over of schismatic churches in the US. The titular head of the C of E is the British Monarch. The title "Defender of the Faith", by the way, was bestowed on British Monarchs before the split with Rome by the Pope.

        Sorry for the long response to your comment.

        Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car.

        by commonmass on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 09:10:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Reformed or Protestant? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          commonmass, Larsstephens

          We're Reformed, but not Protestant, as the English church was not in protest to abuses in the Roman church, but Laud larded on the reforms.

          Since my specialty is 1660 - 1750, Handel is the very key, to me, because that is the era when the English church self-consciously fashioned itself as a "middle term" between the Puritan/Anabaptist/Independent and Catholic churches, but politics were right there in it, and the failure of politics and crown did more to shape the church than any conscious effort.

          The Hannoverians were petrified of a Stuart return, and the high churchmen were presumed to be Jacobites, and therefore the Hannoverians gave free reign to the low and broad church and were eager to dissolve all mechanisms of church discipline. They weren't doing this for religious reasons.

          Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

          by The Geogre on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 10:24:38 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're quite right on that, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            The Geogre

            and Handel and his period I did, indeed, choose on purpose.

            Frankly, much of what has shaped the English Church has to do with secular, not sacred politics.

            However, in our conversation here, we have certainly illustrated the unique position of Anglicanism within Christianity and the reason why it can ONLY be understood within an historical context.

            By the way, with all due respect to both men, Laud and Cranmer can both stick it. ;)

            Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car.

            by commonmass on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 12:21:09 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  I have republished this diary to Anglican Kossacks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre

    Thanks again for writing it.

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car.

    by commonmass on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 02:11:30 PM PST

  •  Spiritual Radio (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, Joy of Fishes, wasatch

    I listened for "the still, small voice of God" and heard nothing. The radio was off.

    I listened for "the still, small voice of God" and heard nothing. The radio was on.

    I stopped listening and set about doing.

    In a democracy dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste, but in its effects. J. William Fulbright

    by crescentdave on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 02:13:47 PM PST

  •  Romney rebuked by fellow Mormon (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass Claiming Romney a liar

    •  And every other Christian politician (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wasatch, commonmass, Larsstephens

      What's interesting about that letter is that it applies two pressures.
      1. The religious pressure is one that all politicians could suffer. However, Romney does not say, "Hi, I'm a great Mormon" to the public, which leads to pressure point #2.
      2. The persecuted minority's need to "look good" in front of the others. Because the nation says, "Romney's a Mormon," the speaker gets to say, "You'll make us look bad unless you're a better Mormon than those guys are Christians."

      It's a fascinating rhetorical and historical position. From a faith point of view, Newt Gingrich's religiosity and Rick Santorum's splinter group sectarianism make us all sick, because one is a hypocrite and the other a fanatic (and hypocrite), but Mitt's gotten into a place of moral collapse.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 04:33:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Prayer of the Heart= Contemplation (7+ / 0-)

    Early Desert monastics had a simple formulation. The prayer of the mind- thinking about God. Prayer of the lips- speaking to God. Prayer of the Heart- inner communion with God in the Heart. Following the formulation of contemplative prayer that the "Kingdom is within."  With the last formulation there is no intermediation of institution, of concepts, or word formulations, just being in Being.

    •  Good post - I was wondering about the hermits (3+ / 0-)

      Good tests kill flawed theories; we remain alive to guess again. Karl Popper

      by hanswall on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 06:07:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Historical wax and wane (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        commonmass, Larsstephens

        Hermits are a constant until the sixteenth century, but there are these mystical booms.

        Obviously, the era of the Desert Fathers is one of the great periods, but then the eleventh century saw another flowering of hermit-monasticism and female walling-in. Then there is another boom in the late fourteenth to fifteenth century.

        My hypothesis, and it would need documenting, is that these periods were also periods of extremely active churches. In other words, these were times of worship in the extreme and little emphasis on prayer. The people would go in search of intense prayerfulness.

        Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

        by The Geogre on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 04:43:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  "Not for every believer" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, Larsstephens

      I give links to Cloud of Unknowing in the diary. I didn't link to Ancrene Wisse, but all of those manuals talk about the difficulty of contemplation as the sort they had.

      The Nitrean Desert guys, after all, had to go to the desert to silence the senses. The medieval mystics all try to argue a call to mysticism, even though each person may contemplate.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 04:37:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Basic concepts, from an Islamic perspective. (5+ / 0-)

    Ignoring the Christian and American political perspectives, I wanted to briefly discuss some of the basic concepts of "prayer" and "worship" from an Islamic perspective.

    Prayer itself is categorized into two forms within Islam:  salah (pl. salat) and dua (pl. du'wat).  The former is the formal, ritualized prayer that is performed five times per day, and is what non-Muslims see on the TV when they see Muslims praying. The latter, however, is perhaps even more commonplace. These are the prayers Muslims make under a wide variety of situations.  For example, the prayer the proverbial student makes before doing a test is a dua.

    Worship, on the other hand, encompasses both salat and du'wat but also includes other acts.  I would define Islamic worship as any act or thought that is made with the intention of trying to please Allah (swt).  Thus, from a Muslim perspective, the examples Geogre gave in his second from last paragraph (e.g., "listening to Christian radio and singing along") would also be considered worship in Islam.  Actually, Muslims would probably go further; for example, working at one's job, farming, taking care of children, all could be considered a form of worship, the key being intention.

    Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

    by JDsg on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 09:53:18 PM PST

    •  Thank you (4+ / 0-)

      The student's dua?
      "Now I lay me down to rest
      Praying I pass tomorrow's test.
      If I should die before I awake,
      That's one less test I'll have to take."
      [Anonymous. Found as "A Student's Prayer" at The Poetry Foundation.]

      The question your post raises is whether bless, exalt, and worship are distinct. This is an open question in English as well.

      Most Americans use "bless" easily and haven't an idea of what the word means. They know the meaning of "exalt" and never use it, even though they sometimes are using 'worship' as 'exalt.'

      I confess that I was artificially inflating a real distinction for my purposes.

      What is, though, the distinction between "dua" and "salah?"

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 04:54:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The distinction, short and simple: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre

        Dua:  informal and voluntary; salah:  formal; may be either required (fard; the five daily prayers) or voluntary (sunnah).

        The question your post raises is whether bless, exalt, and worship are distinct.
        In Islam these three concepts are semi-distinct.  Worship I described above; it is a very broad concept and can encompass acts that might seem mundane to an outside observer.

        With respect to "bless," most Muslims use this term (barakah) in a specific manner:  that Allah (swt) blesses mankind.  We do not refer to ourselves blessing Allah (swt), nor do Muslims bless each other.  (The Wikipedia article will talk about barakah flowing from "saints" and other people and objects to those who seek barakah, but that is a Sufi concept to which I don't subscribe.)

        The concept of "exalt" in Islam is a little ambiguous.  First, most translators don't necessarily use "exalt" but "glorify."  To glorify Allah (swt) may take several forms.  One way is to do additional sunnah prayers (salah), especially at night.  Another way is to do what is known as tasbih, which comes from the same root as "glorify" (sin ba ha).  Tasbih may be done at any time of day, but the "canonical form" (as mentioned in the Wikipedia article) is frequently done right after salah; I myself try to do tasbih as often as I can.

        Now, when I said that the three are semi-distinct, to me, barakah is distinct from worship and glorifying, whereas to glorify Allah (swt) is a subset of the greater set of "worship."

        Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

        by JDsg on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 10:30:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I think I am going to ask my students to define "bless" before and after looking up the word, myself.

          In "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," the doomed sailor escapes his curse by "blessing" ugly sea snakes.

          Isaac "blesses" Enoch.

          I want them to understand how that word can work in those two contexts and their preconceptions (which, I think, are "sanctify" and "exalt").

          Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

          by The Geogre on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 03:45:49 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  this was very enjoyable to read... (4+ / 0-)

    gave me  food for thought...I am doing a group study on Marcus Borg's "Jesus: A New Vision" and as part of this  have been practicing contemplative prayer daily for the past 4-5 weeks for the first time in my life.  No instruction manual, no formula, just an open-ness rather that a petitioning dialogue.  It's been really a good experience.  

    What you write about is worth considering further.

    "For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best." V. Frankl

    by Wonton Tom on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 07:14:56 AM PST

    •  Contemplation is ... more (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I look back upon a brief period of my "young faith" when I read The Cloud of Unknowing for the first time as the high point of my spiritual life.

      What you get from Cloud, by the way, is just a series of techniques on NOT having a petition and holding only a single word or attribute in one's heart. There is direction the way that a person walking has direction, but there is no knowledge, as there is no map.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 10:35:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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