Stawski, Christopher

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  • Publication
    Prayer In Context: A Micro-Sociological Analysis Of Religious Practice In A Catholic And An Islamic Devotional Movement
    (2017-01-01) Stawski, Christopher
    This project aims to advance the study of prayer by analyzing it as a social interaction – on a human-divine as well as a human-human level - utilizing Randall Collins’s interaction ritual theory within a comparative framework articulated by Ann Taves to investigate religious experiences. Cases are presented to compare prayer practices in two contemporary devotional movements respectively inspired by Padre Pio (Padre Pio Prayer Groups) and Said Nursi (Nur Movement) that seek to develop the faith of their adherents as they negotiate living in secular contexts. Based on historical research, textual analysis, and ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the United States, this project addresses how ritual context and habitual entrainment affect the prayer experiences and conceptions of adherents within these two movements while also offering generalizable knowledge about prayer applicable to other contexts. As an outcome of the comparison, three propositions are put forward: (1) Prayer practices enact communicative relationships between the human person and an ascribed divine which can result in an “embodied confidence” in the reality of those relationships; (2) Prayer and worship practices can enact relationships between and among human persons of a shared tradition, which results in the formation of communal bonds and a forum for testifying to the power of an ascribed divine; and (3) Prayer and worship practices can constitute a form of training that is intended to prepare and protect religious practitioners in spiritual battles that are fought within the human person and among human persons throughout one’s life in order to sustain and strengthen relationships with an ascribed divine. The process of habituation for attaining “embodied confidence” is termed the “vernacularization of charisma”, as prayer practices are socially learned, adopted in form, and appropriated at the individual level, while being creatively translated as a mode of relating to an ascribed divine whereby the person owns and draws strength from the practices across different situations. This project provides a new perspective for understanding prayer that extends current methodological and theoretical discourses related to research on “lived religion” and “disciplinary practices” and offers grounds for hypothesis formation to advance the scientific study of religion.