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What is prayer?

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Chapter Summary

This chapter begins with a review of previous studies concerning prayer in ancient literature. The scientific study of prayer may be said to have begun in 1918 with the publication of an impressive work by Friedrich Heiler entitled, Das Gebet. Next, the chapter addresses the question: what is a prayer. English dictionaries say that prayer is "a solemn request to God or an object of worship". Moreover, they point out correctly that a prayer may take the form not only of an address (with text) but also of a mere gesture. Then, the chapter talks about 32 of the 134 prayers which were collected by reading through Flavius Josephus' work. These 32 were selected according to several criteria: length, content and, if they had a parallel in a source text, the extent to which they differed from that source.

Keywords: biblical prayer; Flavius Josephus; Greek gods



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