B U L L E T I N
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010
National Prayer Day, Thursday, May 7, 2010
National Prayer Day, Thursday, May 7
An Examination of Different types of Prayers
Prayer meetings Dallas Fort Worth
Religious Greetings: Every religious greeting is indeed a short prayer, wishing others to be at peace. When I greet you, I am invoking the goodness in you to connect with the goodness in me. It incorporates both the elements of altruism and selfishness. May you be drenched in peace, showered in peace and speak, think and talk peace and I will do the same, together we can create positive energy. Every religion has consciously embedded the positive conditioning in its greetings.
A few religious greetings: Bahai – Alllahu Abho; Buddhist - Buddha Namo; Christian - Peace to you; Hindu – Namaste; Islam - Salaam; Jain - Jai Jinendra; Jewish - Shalom; Sikhs-Satsri akaal; Wicca- May you be in tune with the earth; Zoroastrian – Hamazor Hama Ashobed; and similar wishing is part of every tradition of the world.” or Hamaasho bed - May your words bring peace to everyone around you. Amen
The National Prayer day is observed in all cities of the United States of America. Check the local listings for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner events. I will be attending all the three events and request you to join.
Please note that a healthy change has occured in the last few years due to the collective efforts of the community, there was a time when other denominations and faiths were excluded, but that is history now and Thank God for he inclusionary, pluralistic attitudes of Priests, Rabbis, Imams, Pastors, Pundits and Shamans.
Prayer breakfast is held in every City; please make sure you invite people of every faith and no faith to express their wishes for the well being of the creation. Thank God willing, I will be attending the Dallas Metrocrest Mayors prayer breakfast.
At Noon By the Thanksgiving Square at The Tower Club, 1601 Elm St. Ste. 4800, Dallas, TX 75201. Details at http://thanksgiving.org/ Rev. Bill Lesher will be speaking.
NETIA National Day of Prayer Service, Thursday, May 6 from 6:30 – 7:15 p.m. Southlake Town Square - North East Tarrant county Interfaith Association
Join us for Friday Dinner – It is a dinner to raise awareness of the Parliament of the World’s Religions event possibly coming to Dallas. It is a big event, you may want to be a part of it. It’s on Friday, May 7, 2010 between 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM. Details at: http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2010/05/dallas-dinner-invitation-this-friday.html
COMMENTARY ON PRAYER AND SUBJECTIVE WELL BEING
The authors have examined six different types of prayers in their article, “Prayer and subjective well-being”. Their research was an attempt to find the utility of the prayers in the form of well-being of an individual. Broadly they have classified the prayers into two categories; prayers focused on one’s needs and prayers of gratitude. They have included a range of religious practices to give validity to their research, however, on the conclusions they have drawn on obligatory prayers, more research is warranted.
The category of prayers focused on one’s needs are; confession, supplication and obligatory prayers where as the adoration, thanksgiving and reception are focused on God. The first category is a need based transaction whilst the second one is sort of altruism, “I don’t need any thing, but I am grateful for what I have” it is more like a gratitude prayers.
They have identified the value of well-being in terms self-esteem, optimism, meaning in life and satisfaction with life. Indeed, life is about balance, an inexplicable spiritual balance, it is a dynamic value and every moment that balance is present, well-being results, well being can be further defined as feeling secure, feeling beyond conflicts and free from anxiety and fear. Isn’t psychology about restoring an individual to his normal self?
Whether it is evolution, creation or Big bang, the fact is we exist. Out of the phenomenon came matter and life. Matter is programmed to be balanced and it continuously seeks its own equilibrium. For instance the planet Jupiter is precision programmed to circumambulate around the Sun and it precisely does that and has been doing for ever that we can imagine. Life was not put on that kind of trajectory, it came with a regulator called “mind” to manage that balance. Because we are part of the large universe, and are interconnected, altruism is embedded in us naturally, but we lose it at times, just as the stars fall off from the perfectly precise universe.
Well-being is like being home, feeling secure and free from anxiety. We can view the work of authors from selfishness and unselfishness point of view as well. I believe unselfishness is natural in us, selfishness creeps in when that elusive equilibrium is lost in us and the insecurity drives us to seek it back, and at time causing others insecure. Thus prayers that have the positive effects in sustaining the well-being of an individual appear to be less ego-focused and more focused on God such adoration, thanksgiving and reception. On the other hand prayers that were considered negative, adding uncertainty and doubts were related with prayers like confession, supplication and obligatory prayers.
The authors have made an assumption on the obligatory prayers for Muslims and Jews, who feel the obligation to pray five or three times a day respectively. They do with gratitude and joy and not out of obligation, however a few do out of obligation to insure that God will not be displeased with them, but that is an exception and not a rule. The assumption needs to be re-examined.
An example of restoring the spiritual balance can be explained with a simple example; when some one does some good to you, your spiritual balance receives the good and off goes your balance with indebtedness. Unless you say thanks to the giver, or thank the creator or a simple mental thank you, your spiritual balance remains off. On the other side of the transaction the giver may not expect a thank you, but not receiving one creates an imbalance, it is an incomplete transaction for him/her and only a thank you or an acknowledgement would do that in normal circumstance, but the ones who give have figured out balancing themselves with or without a return. The same equation can be applied to the idea of forgiveness. The role of a therapist is to restore normalcy to an individual or a group.
Indeed, prayers do add to the well-being of individuals who are oriented to the religious idea of prayers. For the spiritualists it is restoration of balance in one’s life, balance in the sense of being normal, being home free from anxiety. As a friend who prays for the well being of others, I would be including prayer to suit the faith tradition of the individual.
Whittington, Brandon L. and Scher, Steven J. 'Prayer and Subjective Well-Being: An Examination of Six Different Types of Prayer', International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 20:1, 59 – 68
Mike Ghouse is a frequent guest at the media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. He is a thinker, writer, speaker, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Interfaith, Co-existence, Peace, Islam, India and Civil Societies. He Presides the Foundation for Pluralism and the World Muslim Congress and Co-Chairs the Center for Interfaith inquiry. He is a board member of the Dallas Peace Center and Memnosyne Foundation and a former commissioner at the City of Carrollton. Mike is a Dallasite for three decades and Carrollton is his home town.
His life mission is to open people's hearts and minds towards fellow beings by mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill. He is a peace maker and an educator with two Masters Degrees and working on his doctorate in Psychology. He has two books on the horizon; Pluralism 101, it is all about respecting the otherness of other, and Basic Islam- everything you always wanted to know about Islam. He has authored over 800 articles on the subjects; many of them are published in the newspapers and magazines around the world. His work is reflected at 3 Websites & 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/
An Examination of Different types of Prayers
According to William James (1902/1994), prayer is “the very soul and essence of religion” (p. 505).
Prayer is an attempt to create a meaningful relationship with a deity. Thus, it plays an important role in the religious meaning system (Park, 2005; Silberman, 2005). Different forms of prayer add different things to this meaning system. However, little attention has been paid to the differing psychological experiences that people attempt to create for themselves during prayer. Rather, the majority of current research views prayer as an undifferentiated concept. We expect that not all types of prayer will have positive effects on well-being.
In the current study, we used a more nuanced measure of prayer (Laird, Snyder, Rapoff, & Green, 2004), which measures five prayer types: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, and reception. Furthermore, we assess obligatory prayer, which plays an important role in Islam and Orthodox Judaism. We seek to examine the relationship of these six prayer types with psychological well-being.
To our knowledge, only one other study (Ai, Tice, Huang, Rodgers, & Bolling, 2008) has looked at how different prayer types affect psychological outcomes. In their study of postoperative coping they found petitionary prayers predicted optimism and in turn well-being, whereas conversational prayers predicted higher levels of stress. However, their study used Poloma and Gallup's (1991) somewhat limited measure of prayer types. This measure uses single-item dichotomous measures of each prayer type, rather than more psychometrically sound measures. Moreover, whereas two of Poloma and Gallup's prayer types (ritual and petitionary prayer) are similar to those used in our study (obligation and supplication), the other two types of prayer in Poloma and Gallup's typology (conversational and meditative prayer) seem to combine various aspects of prayer types.
SIX TYPES OF PRAYER
We measure six types of prayer in the current study. Five of these are embodied in the original Laird, Snyder, Rapoff, and Green (2004) prayer scale. Prayers of adoration are prayers focused on the worship of God, without any reference to circumstances, needs, or desires (Foster, 1992; Laird et al, 2004; Lewis, 1964).
Prayers of thanksgiving are expressions of gratitude towards God, made in reference to specific positive life experiences. Supplication “taps requests for God's intervention in specific life events for oneself or others” (Laird et al., 2004, p. 252). Prayers of confession involve the admission of negative behaviors, and a request for forgivness. With prayers of reception, “one more passively awaits divine wisdom, understanding, or guidance” (Laird et al., 2004, p. 252). Baesler (2002) described receptive prayer as “characterized by a contemplative attitude of openness, receptivity, and surrender, resulting in experiences ranging from peaceful/quiet to rapture/ecstasy” (p. 59).
Although Laird et al.'s (2004) framework presents a much needed inventory with which to assess prayer, we have added an additional component: obligatory prayers. These prayers represent an important component of some religions, such as Orthodox Judaism and Islam, where followers are required to pray three and five times a day, respectively. These required prayers consist primarily of fixed prayers repeated at each worship time.
Poloma and Gallup (1991) examined a similar concept of “ritualistic” prayer, which was positively associated with negative affect. However, their study did not include Orthodox Jews and Muslims, the population for whom obligatory prayers appear most relevant. Furthermore, their definition was narrow and did not allow for original obligatory prayers, only recited ones. Our study aims to look more deeply into obligatory prayer and further the understanding of the elements at play.
Overall, our study aims to measure prayer in a way that appreciates its complexity, using measures with adequate psychometric properties. This measurement will allow us to see how different types of prayer relate to well-being.
Do All Prayer Types Equally Affect Well-Being?
Our results confirm the well-established finding that prayer can have positive effects on psychological well-being. However, we also found that only some types of prayer have positive effects: adoration (pure worship of God without reference to specific events or needs), thanksgiving (thanks to God for specific positive outcomes or circumstances), and prayers of reception (prayers focused on opening oneself up to closeness with God).
In contrast to these positive types of prayer, three types of prayer could be classified as negative.3 Prayers admitting one's sins to God (confession), prayers asking God for specific things (supplication), and prayer performed out of a sense of requirement (obligation) all seem to affect psychological outcomes in an undesirable way.
The prayer types that had negative effects—especially supplication and confession—are aimed at getting something from God (material help and forgiveness, respectively). Obligation is motivated by avoiding the consequences of violating God's commandments. Such extrinsic religious activities may be less likely to contribute to subjective well being (Pargament, 2002).
From a slightly different perspective, however, the different prayer types can be seen as differing in terms of how they relate to the self.
Negative prayer types seem to be particularly self-focused, compared to the positive types. Confession and supplication, in particular, require the person praying to focus almost entirely on themselves—either on their past wrongdoing or on their needs and desires. God's role is to supply the praying individual with something (e.g., forgiveness). On the other hand, in adoration, thanksgiving, and reception, the individual who is praying is focused almost entirely on God. To a large extent, these egoless forms of prayer are an attempt to give something to God.
A finding connecting the egoless aspect of prayer to well-being connects prayer to other religious practices. Many religious or spiritual practices do not incorporate prayer—or even a god-figure to whom prayer could be directed. However, many of these non-Abrahamic religions (e.g., Buddhism) do include practices that emphasize the negation of ego. If prayer affects well-being predominantly by allowing worshipers to enter into an egoless mode, then it may work by the same mechanism as do other religious practices (e.g., meditation and mindfulness; see, e.g., Brown & Ryan, 2003; Shapiro, Oman, Thoresen, Plante, & Flinders, 2008).
Research on these questions, though, must also address an important shortcoming in our findings. As with virtually all research on the effects of prayer, our research is correlational and cross-sectional. The causal direction that explains the relationship between the various prayer types and well-being cannot be determined with this methodology.
A reverse causal direction is not implausible; those with lower psychological well-being may be more likely to engage in the negative prayer types, and vice versa. Use of alternative methodologies—especially experiments—is needed (not only on this topic, but in almost all areas addressing the role of spirituality or religion on mental health, physical health, and well-being; Thoresen & Harris, 2002).
Religion and Meaning
Our data provide support for the meaning-system perspective on religion (cf. Park, 2005; Silberman, 2005). In addition to the more tangible ways in which religion may contribute to our psychological and physical health, research from this perspective suggests that our attempts to make meaning from our life experiences are enhanced by our religious practices and cognitions, and this enhanced meaning adds to the beneficial aspects of religion.
There is no reason to think that someone whose prayers predominantly take the form of thanksgiving, adoration, or reception should receive more social support or practice better health behaviors (commonly cited causes of the religion/well-being relationship) than those whose prayers take the form of confession, supplication, or obligation. Rather, it is the content and meaning of the prayers that differentiates these different forms. The fact that these different forms of prayer have different effects on well-being cannot easily be accounted for by differences in other factors.
Prayers of Obligation
Another innovation of our research was the development of a scale to measure obligatory prayer. Although the findings in the current study can only be said to be preliminary, the data support the fact that we have successfully measured obligatory prayer. Those participants who identified themselves as members of the faith traditions that prescribe prayer at certain times (Muslims, Orthodox Jews) reported a much higher level of obligatory prayer than other groups, supporting the validity of our measurement.
Obligatory prayer correlated significantly with all of the other prayer types—particularly with adoration (see Table 2).4 It is worth noting, however, that the size of this correlation varies widely among different religions. For example, among Muslims, the Obligation and Adoration correlation is r = .30, among Catholics it is r = .46, and among all Jews it is r = .51; however, among Orthodox Jews, the Obligation-Adoration correlation is only r = .15, and among Protestants it is r = -.15. This variation shows that it will require further research, situated within specific religious traditions, to understand obligatory prayers. The all too common practice of ignoring religious affiliation of respondents—with the resultant bias toward Protestant Christianity—leads to an incomplete picture of the nature of obligatory prayer (and of religious practice in general).
One important aspect of that nature is its content—or rather, its lack of content. Although the other five prayer types that we have studied are defined by the actual content of the prayers, prayers of obligation are defined by their role in the religion—that is, by their obligatory nature. The specific requirements often include ritual elements (i.e., reciting the text of specific composed prayers or specific verses from holy books such as the Bible or the Qur'an); however, these ritual texts have content. That content most likely mimics aspects of adoration, reception, confession, supplication, and thanksgiving. To the extent that the ritual elements of obligatory prayer do have these other elements, we would expect that the effects of the prayers will mimic the effects of the more content-based prayer types. The negative aspects of obligatory prayer may result for those who pray only out of a sense of obligation.
Directions for future research on obligatory prayer, therefore, include examining the emotional/psychological reactions of those who pray through a sense of obligation. An examination of how these individuals view their obligatory prayers, and their emotional reactions to them, would be very informative about how these prayers affect adherents to these religious traditions.
The results of this study highlight the complex, multidimensional nature of religion. Our data suggest that these different prayer types have different effects on psychological well-being. These differences in well-being appear to be driven by differences in the meanings that praying individuals give to their relationships with God.
We have suggested that the prayer types which had positive effects on well-being are distinguished by their egoless nature, whereas the prayer types that had negative effects were more ego-focused. This may connect prayer in the Abrahamic faiths to other religious practices such as Buddhist meditation.
We have also validated a scale to measure prayer as an obligatory behavior. Further research on this concept seems highly desirable. That research, however, cannot limit itself to Christian populations, for whom obligatory prayer may seem a foreign concept. This research must explicitly include participants, such as Muslims and Orthodox Jews, who practice obligatory prayer as an important part of their observance.