Zygon 54 (3):702-730 (2019)
AbstractIn this article, we give much needed attention to the nature and value of corporate prayer by drawing together insights from theology, philosophy, and psychology. First, we explain what it is that distinguishes corporate from private prayer by drawing on the psychological literature on joint attention and the philosophical notion of shared situations. We suggest that what is central to corporate prayer is a “sense of sharedness,” which can be established through a variety of means—through bodily interactions or through certain environments. Second, we argue that corporate prayer, when understood as a kind of shared situation, enables common knowledge, as well as a kind of alignment between participants. Through this process, participants’ attention is focused on the same target and affiliation between participants increases. Thus, we suggest, one benefit of understanding corporate prayer as a shared situation is that it establishes and deepens a sense of community in such a way that common purposes and goals can be enacted more effectively.
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