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Praying ‘online’: the ordinary theology of prayer intentions posted on the internet

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Astley’s construct of ordinary theology takes seriously listening to the religious expression and experience of ordinary people, both churched and unchurched. One method by which this has already been achieved is through the empirical analysis of the content of ordinary people’s intercessory prayer requests left in hospitals and churches. Building on this research tradition, the current study analyses 290 prayer requests posted on the Church of England’s ‘Say one for Me’ website using ap Siôn’s ‘general’ framework for analysing intercessory prayer requests. This general framework distinguishes between three aspects of intercessory prayer styled as prayer intention, prayer reference, and prayer objective. Results demonstrated that the ‘general’ framework performed well within the new context of online prayer requests and enabled the findings to be compared with those from two earlier prayer card studies by ap Siôn. The main findings show that, in terms of prayer reference, the majority of prayer requests were for other people known to the prayer author (57%), although a significant proportion were for the prayer authors themselves (34%); in terms of prayer intention, most prayer requests were concerned with illness (26%), relationships (24%), work (19%), and growth (18%); and in terms of prayer objective, most prayer requests employed primary control (84%) rather than secondary control (16%). When the online prayer results were compared with previous prayer card results, using the same analytical framework, online prayer authors were found to be distinctive in terms of prayer reference, prayer intention, and prayer objective. The reasons for these differences are discussed and applied to the Church’s provision for intercessory prayer.
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Keywords: Church of England; internet; online church; ordinary theology; prayer

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit,University of Warwick, Coventry, UK 2: Department of Psychology and Pastoral Sciences,Glyndŵr University, Wales, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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