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Thursday, 20 April 2017

Prayer

Prayer is a personal communion with God.

CHRISTIAN PRAYER

The classic contents of Christian prayer are adoration, thanksgiving, confession and petition.

The most recognized prayers in the Christian Bible are the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13; Luke 11:2–4) and the Grace (2 Corinthians 13:14).

The Lord's Prayer James Tissot

Other well-known Biblical prayers include the Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1–18), the Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1–10), and the Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55). In addition, the longest book in the Bible is the Book of Psalms, 150 religious songs which are often regarded as prayers.

The early church took over the Jewish attitude of prayer, which was to pray standing with hands outstretched and the palms upwards. Later, Tertuillian was to say that this depicted the attitude of Jesus upon the cross.

Tradition says that James, the brother of Jesus, was a man of such devotion, that he prostrated himself so much in prayer that “The skin of his knees and forehead were hardened like a camel’s hooves.”

The first pretzels were made by medieval monks at a monastery on the border between France and Italy. They folded scraps of dough to look like a child's arms in prayer.


In England the second English Book of Common Prayer was published by King Edward VI's adviser Thomas Cranmer in 1552. It was intended to be the basis for worship throughout the Anglican Church.

In 1940 After Hitler’s Nazis invaded France and Belgium, the British Army found itself trapped in northern France standing alone against Germany. King George VI, acting upon the wishes of newspapers and a recommendation from Winston Churchill issued a call to the nation for a National Day of prayer.  The British Christians flocked to the churches to such an extent that many were unable to get into a packed Westminster Cathedral.

A week later their troops were successfully evacuated helped by a curious decision made by Hitler to hold his troops back and not attack the British army. Also for a time the German air-force was stranded in Belgium, unable to move due to a violent storm whilst the English Channel was “as still as a millpond”.

Many acknowledged the deliverance of the 300,000 soldiers to the fact of the nation being at prayer and a Day of National Thanksgiving was subsequently held. Churchill whilst speaking in the House Of Commons described it in as ‘a miracle of deliverance’ and the consciousness of miraculous deliverance pervaded the camps in which the troops were being housed in England.


Later in the summer of 1940, Germany’s Luftwaffe aircraft began destroying Britain's air force before launching a September sea force called Operation Sea Lion. The British RAF suffered greatly and it appeared it was about to be destroyed. Again in early September King George VI called the nation to prayer, and once more many flocked to the churches.

A week later on September 15, 1940 the Battle of Britain reached its climax. Mysteriously when the RAF were down to their last legs with no reserves left, the Luftwaffe started to retreat and flew home. In retaliation for a RAF raid on Berlin, Hitler ordered a change of strategy of blitzing London and other British cities with night time raids. Even though there were many fatal British civilian casualties, this unexpected change of tactics allowed the RAF to build up again their stock of planes and trained pilots. The prayers had been answered again and Britain was saved from invasion.

President John F. Kennedy was concerned about the dangers of mixing religious and political institutions, and advocated strongly the separation of church and state. Back in 1960, the USA Justice Black had stated a Supreme Court opinion that "in this country, it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of US people to recite." On June 25, 1962, the United States Supreme Court decided in Engel v. Vitale that a prayer approved by the New York Board of Regents for use in schools violated the First Amendment because it represented establishment of religion. The main implication of this landmark decision was that official prayers were banned in schools - against the wishes of the vast majority of the public.

Today, many are turning to prayer as a means of healing especially in Africa, where the power of prayer seems so much more effective. There if a poorly person is prayed for, the chances are that they will get better because the locals generally believe in the spiritual world. Meanwhile in the rational west the whole educational system is against such non-scientific beliefs, and as a result the western minds are not so tuned into spiritual thinking.

Prayers in Congo

Research at Columbia University New York, which was published in the respected Journal of Reproductive Medicine, concluded that women having fertility treatment are twice as likely to become pregnant if people are praying they’ll succeed. The researchers put 219 women undergoing IVF treatment into two groups- with half prayed for without them knowing. 46 % of the prayed-for group became pregnant compared with 22% of the not-prayed-for group.

PRAYERS TO MARY AND OTHER SAINTS 

In 431 The Council of Ephesus declared the perpetual virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus, adding she should be called by the title "Theotokos" - the Mother of God. After the Council of Ephesus there was an increasing veneration of Mary and by the end of the sixth century, adoration was widely offered to her and prayers were being addressed to her.

In the later Middle Ages there was a surge in the veneration of the Virgin Mary as the teaching developed that she was free from sin from the moment she was born. Consequently Mary became to many the prime intercessor between humanity and God and she played a pivotal role in church worship.

Praying in front of the icon of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn

The veneration of Saints grew in significance after the first few centuries of Christianity. For instance at the beginning of the fourth century, a cathedral was built around the relics of St Emeterius and St Celedonius who died in Diocletian's persecution, at Calahorra in Spain.

By the end of the sixth century, Masses for the departed had become widespread and many tales came to be circulated about the miraculous powers of the saints. One story recounted by early Frankish Christians told how two beggars, one lame, and one blind happened to be caught in a procession carrying the relics of St Martin of Tours and tried to escape for fear of being cured and thus be denied their alms. The lame beggar climbed onto the shoulders of his blind colleague and they hurried as quickly as they could to get beyond the range of the Saint's miraculous powers, but unfortunately they didn't make it and were cured.

As saints became more venerated, at their anniversary celebrations at their tombs prayers began being offered at first for them, then as time went on, to them. Such prayers were officially recognized by the Church at the Second Council of Nicea in 787.

According to tradition, in 1214 the Rosary was given to Saint Dominic by an apparition of the Virgin Mary as an antidote to heresy and sin. However the use of knotted robes and later prayer beads as an aid to prayer were used by Eastern Christian monks in about the fourth century and the practice of reciting 50 or 150 Ave Marias had become generally familiar by the thirteenth century. It has been concluded by some historians that Alan de Rupe, a Dominican involved in the promotion of the rosary in the 1470s, invented the story. Interestingly, the English word bead comes from an old Germanic word meaning "to pray".

OTHER RELIGIONS 

Observant Jews pray three times a day, Shacharit, Mincha, and Ma'ariv with lengthier prayers on special days, such as the Shabbat and Jewish holidays including Musaf and the reading of the Torah.

Orthodox Jewish women praying in Jerusalem's Western Wall tunnel. By David Shankbone 

In Islam, there are five daily obligatory prayers that are considered as one of the pillars of the religion. The command to ritual prayer is in the Qur'an in several chapters (surahs).

Muslims face in the direction of Islam's holiest place, the Kaaba in Mecca, during their prayers.

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