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Praying Practices

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There is very little empirical research about prayer. No convincing psychological theory exists, nor agreement about definitions and basic concepts. In the research which we conducted, open-ended questions were used to detect the meaning of prayer for modern youth. A computerized procedure (TexTable) was used to analyse the answers. The results show that the common prayer of youth can be summarized in one sentence, composed of 7 structural elements: 'because of some reason (1. need) I address (2. action) myself to someone or something (3. direction) at a particular moment (4. time), at a particular place (5. place), in a particular way (6. method) to achieve something (7. effect)'. These structural elements and their contents (several needs, various kinds of actions etc.: totalling 45 categories) were analysed for praying-frequency and denomination. The correlations between the structural elements pointed to a rather weak connection between needs, actions and effects. This could be clarified by applying Clifford Geertz' constructionist definition of religion to a definition of prayer. Praying was described as a coping strategy, mostly used to make things acceptable as they are (e.g. death and suffering) but sometimes also as a motivational device or an anticipatory action to change things according to one's wishes (e.g. the praying athlete).


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Affiliations: 1: Psychological Department of the University of Nijmegen, Montessorilaan 3, 6525 HR Nijmegen, the Netherlands; 2: Sociological Department of the University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands; 3: Windesheim Academy, the Netherlands


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