Concerning Prayer

Prayer

noun. 

an address (as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought


I was recently told “Heathens don’t pray.” and that prayer “doesn’t imply do ut des.” It isn’t the first time I’ve seen someone shun the word ‘prayer’, because of supposed Christian connotations, either.

Like ‘sin‘, ‘prayer’ is a loaded word that incites all manner of negative reaction in Heathens. But, if a word incites knee-jerk reaction, should we just throw it aside in favour of words that have been deemed more appropriately “Heathen”? Should we correct those who use it in an appropriate context?

In Christian context, prayer suggests a direct address to God, typically one-on-one, but contrary to the beliefs of many opponents of the word, it does not suggest a complete lack of do ut des (a gift for a gift) on the part of the devotee. The gift is typically given in the form of continued adoration, faith or refrain from sin, which is largely dependent on denomination[1]. While the Christian form of prayer might seem leaps and bounds away from the Heathen idea of reciprocity, the basis still remains fundamentally the same. The two forms only manifest in different ways due to differences in doctrine. While we may speak our intentions aloud, and generally present offering in a tangible, solid form, we are still looking to build a relationship as devotees.

Prayer, petition, bidding, whatever you want to call it, is only part of the entire ritual process anyhow. The prayer is simply the request and would be hollow without an accompanying statement of reciprocation or offering on the part of the devotee.

Sure, ‘prayer’ is of Latin origin and not a native Germanic word, so if your qualms about using it are purely semantic, I get that, but if you’re chastising people for using an “un-Heathen” word, you’re a bit misguided as to its meaning.


[1] Since I’m not well-versed enough in all forms of Christianity, I suppose there could be some denominations that consider prayer a one-way street. If that were the case, that would be more their misinterpreting the word, than the word meaning what they think it means.

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