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Publisher Description

Research on prayer, even when using measures beyond simple prayer frequency to create typologies, has ignored the dynamic relationship between God as a "divine other" in interaction with the pray-er. Using statistics from surveys on prayer as a backdrop, qualitative accounts that demonstrate the relational nature of prayer are explored through the lenses of the Godly love model. Based on data collected as part of the Flame of Love project, prayer is conceptualized as integrating active and receptive streams, with tributaries of prophetic and mystical prayer experiences. Taken together these dimensions of prayer play an important role in describing what the Apostle Paul calls "knowing the love that surpasses understanding" and are confirmed by multivariate analysis of new survey data. Although active prayer has received much scholarly attention, our findings suggest that a closer look at the receptive forms would provide a more complete picture of what people actually do when they pray. Despite the plethora of theological and philosophical articles and books on love, the topic has failed to capture the imagination of most social scientists. The brilliant pioneering work of sociologist Pitirim Sorokin (1954/2002) in the 1950s that explored the power of love in moral transformation was overshadowed at the time by positivistic empiricism that was regarded as the key to "real" science. Even after positivism lost its strong hold on American sociology and new social philosophies (including social constructionism and post-modernism) opened the door for taking seriously non-material factors in human behavior, love remains a largely forgotten topic. It is only within the past decade that a new reprint of Sorokin's work on love was made available, bringing with it a renewed interest in this important but complex topic. The interdisciplinary Flame of Love Project in which this article is grounded is one important example of a concerted effort to study self-giving love, especially as it is related to God's unlimited love. (1)

Religion & Spirituality
June 22
Rosemead School of Psychology

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