How Wide Thy Divide

Before I landed awesome student jobs working in L. Tom Perry Special Collections and as a research assistant for the BYU Religion Department, I worked early morning custodial at one of the buildings on campus. My boss would hold staff meetings on Fridays in which he would go over safety procedures, important stuff like not licking electric outlets and whatnot, and he would always ask someone to open these meetings with a prayer. This boss knew I was Protestant, but one day he asked me to say the opening prayer anyways.

Okay. No big deal, I’d been asked to say prayers at LDS meetings before by people who knew I was Protestant, and they’d always gone off without a hitch. Today would be different though. After the meeting, my boss pulled me aside to discuss my prayer with me. He had several complaints about the way I had prayed:

  • I had not used King James English in my prayer; I used “You” and “Your” instead of “Thee” and “Thy.”
  • I prayed to Jesus instead of praying to the Father in Jesus’s name.
  • I didn’t fold my arms. I either prayed with clasped hands or palms open and turned up, I can’t remember which.

I’ll let you use your imagination on how well I reacted to having my prayer critiqued. I think most of my LDS readers would agree that my boss was appallingly out of line in attempting to teach someone not of his faith the “correct” way to pray, so let’s not dwell on that.1

I also don’t want to rehash what has already been covered on this subject by other LDS and evangelical bloggers. These posts on the issue are worth checking out:

As I see it, the lines are drawn and the two camps aren’t going to get any closer on these issues anytime soon. Latter-day Saints prefer to pray in King James English and only pray to the Father in Jesus’s name, Protestants (and plenty of other traditional Christians) are okay with praying to both the Father and to Jesus but prefer to use colloquial English. Since it can be shown pretty clearly that the LDS mode of prayer is a directive from modern-day revelation that applies to English-speakers only, Protestants have little reason to make the switch, and while I myself may not want to pray that way, who am I to tell my LDS friends that they pray wrong?

My boss’s complaint about me not folding my arms was some of the most idiotic xenophobia I’d encountered at BYU. I had always thought that the fold-your-arms thing was a method of keeping fidgety 2-year-olds from squirming too much when they pray. I’m not 2 and I’m not all that much of a Pentecostal, so I don’t squirm when I pray. Who cares what you do with your hands while praying, so long as you feel comfortable talking to God while doing it?

So us Mormons and evangelicals do things differently, and that’s all well and good, but there is the fact that I have an interfaith marriage, and I have to confess that it bothers me that my husband and I can’t even pray the same way. I’m willing to only pray to the Father in my prayers with him for the sake of family unity, and in fact it’s what I prefer these days, but the “thee” and “thou” stuff is still awkward. There’s also the question of how to teach our 2-year-old daughter to pray, and I don’t see an easy solution to the problem. Teaching her to pray one way at her father’s church and another way at her mother’s church seems rather unfair on her, especially since Harley is bound to have further speech problems stemming from her VCFS.

I think that if it comes down to me teaching her my way to pray and him teacher her his, I’m gonna win. The girl already shows strong signs of wanting to be like Mommy in every way. /flex

1 In fact Dallin Oaks would probably say my boss was out of line; in his 1993 talk “The Language of Prayer,” he stated: “We should also remember that our position on special prayer language in English is based on modern revelations and the teachings and examples of modern prophets. It is not part of the teachings known and accepted by our brothers and sisters of other Christian and Jewish faiths. When leaders or members of other churches or synagogues phrase their prayers in the familiar forms of you or your, this does not signify a lack of reverence or respect in their belief and practice but only a preference for the more modern language. Significantly, this modern language is frequently the language used in the scriptural translations with which they are most familiar.”

UPDATE: Welcome T&S readers!

UPDATE II 5-21-09: Another great post on the subject by Wilfried Decoo at T&S here.


Comments

How Wide Thy Divide — 32 Comments

  1. A few more or less random points:
    1. I’ve been LDS for a dozen years now, and I’ve never heard the thing about folding one’s arms. I know that some people do it that way, but I’ve never heard it was a “rule.”

    2. If the person who asked you to pray was Protestant, he should have known what “risk” he was taking. I don’t know all the facts of the situation and can’t judge, but it preliminarily sounds to me like he was out of line. If those things were a concern to him, he should have talked to you in advance.

    3. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for adapting to the situation. If you had asked me for advice, I would have advised you to pray in the LDS fashion if there wasn’t anything about it that violated your conscience. If I were asked to pray in a Protestant environment where modern language was the norm and I had any reason people there would have been bothered by archaic language, I would use modern language. (I’m not being judgmental of you here, just saying what I would do.)

    3. On the other hand, there are some BYU students who haven’t had much experience knowing how non-LDS people approach faith. You may have done them a favor.

    4. Although we LDS do pray to the Father in the name of the Son, there are a few hymns that are, in effect, prayers to Jesus. (“Guide Us O Thou Great Jehovah” is the first one that comes to mind.) So the idea of praying to Jesus isn’t completely outside the LDS experience.

    5. I wouldn’t have found your prayer offensive in the least, and I suspect that’s true of many Mormons.

    5. Over the past few years, I’ve heard an increasing number of prayers using modern language at sacrament meetings (or people mixing both modern and archaic English). I don’t know if that happens much in the Mormon corridor, but it does here, usually be people who weren’t raised in the church. I haven’t heard of them being corrected (although they may have been).

    6. The use of King James language is a big deal for some Mormons, not for others. The issue has been discussed extensively in the bloggernacle, with many pointing out the irony that in King James’ day “thee,” “thy” and “thou” were the familiar forms (the language one would use in family), not the form one used to show respect. For me it’s not a big deal either way. I care more about the fact that people pray than how.

  2. Hi, is this the same Eric who sometimes comments at LDS & Evangelical Conversations? Thanks for dropping by.

    I would never have thought the arm-folding thing was a rule, either. He was really, really being picky. He definitely knew I was Protestant when he asked me. Makes me wonder if he was planning to test me and correct me from the start.

    The issue of how much I ought to adapt to Mormonism as an evangelical at BYU was one I thought about a lot. In the end, I decided I was going to be as Protestant as I could without obviously trying to clash with the culture because I didn’t go there to blend in; I wanted people who hadn’t had experience with us to see me and know what we were like. So I always kept my public prayers true to my faith.

    If I were to do it again, I’d probably pray to the Father in the name of Christ because that’s a small concession to make to build a bridge, but I wouldn’t change anything else.

  3. Arm-folding isn’t a rule, take it from an old high priest. It’s a tradition, one that even bishops and stake presidents deviate from out of preference. Unfortunately you were the victim of a Provo custodial manager with a shallow grasp of doctrine vs. custom. Très pharisaical. Hearing stories like that really makes me wince and wish I were in the room.

  4. Ditto that, David T. Bless his heart. Some, like him, insist on “thees” and “thous” in prayers, and although I know all the reasons for doing so, I also just don’t care that much. I don’t mind one bit if someone’s prayer uses “you” and “your” if they’re being truly sincere and intimate with deity. After all, it’s really about the heart. And I can’t see what’s in someone else’s heart, so I try to be as accepting as possible rather than judge.

    Jack, off the topic of prayer, I’m curious on what tips you’d give to Evangelicals who want to witness to a Mormon. People keep searching out on google how to witness to a Mormon and sometimes end up on my blog post “Witnessing to Mormons”, which I really had to real intention of being for Evangelicals. Maybe you could help me come up with an actual list that would be fair and informative to all.

  5. I forgot to mention a funny little occurrence. Some time ago my wife and I were praying together (I was using “thee and thou” in addressing my Heavenly Father). I guess I got so used to the language, that after I was done praying, I just wanted to tell my wife that I loved her. It came out accidentally, but most sincerely: “I love thee”. It certainly provided a few chuckles…

  6. I get the impression that BYU is the kind of place where the lines are often blurred between cultural habit and LDS doctrine, between social propriety and morality, and between University policy and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Maybe I’m just bitter because I’m personally unworthy to attend BYU. You see, I used to have a beard and I never fully repented.

  7. Clean Cut, I did a post along the lines of witnessing to Mormons at TheologyWeb here. You can also see this post here, where I answered a question about Mormons who have converted in part because of dealings with me. You don’t have to be registered at TheologyWeb to view either thread.

    I’ve got more to say but my husband is bugging me to do dishes. How’s that for role reversal? BBL.

  8. I’m LDS, descended from Mormons all the way back to Nauvoo. I hardly ever fold my arms to pray. Mostly just clasped hands or some such.

    I think the archaic language use in prayers is waning. As more older LDS pass away, people will be less offended in aggregate when they hear “you” addressed to God. Personally, I’d be the most gratified if people only used 16th Century pronouns when they knew how.

    (And when you know how, Shakespeare literally comes alive, and so does the KJV.)

    I’m not terribly surprised that you found an extremist at BYU, or students willing to complain. I’d complain about ‘em, but, meh, what can you do? They’re kids and they’ll learn. I hope.

    I’m glad to learn about your blog, and look forward to reading more.

  9. I was an LDS missionary in Japan, where the normal language has traditionally included LOTS of language variations to correspond to the relative social rank of the speaker and the hearer.

    Nevertheless, modern Japanese are becoming used to more and more egalitarian speech, and can become lost when hearing more archaic forms of their own language. Japanese has developed as much in the last 100 years as English did in the 400 years since Shakespeare, and while English speakers are still used to hearing Shakespeare or the King James Version at least occasionally, as well as having passages as part of colloquial speech, Japanese are lost when they hear the translations of, say, the book of Mormon made circa 1915. So a lot of work has been put into updating the Book of Mormon translation so it is more understandable to modern Japanese.

    Saying prayers in King James language has become a way for us to signal those in the room that we are speaking to the God whose voice is known to us through that book. Mormons find themselves adopting some of those idioms into the formal language of their sermons in church meetings, as well.

    The prayers that every young Mormon male learns by heart are the ones pronounced on the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The language is formal and uses KJV “thee” and “thy”. In translation, it is less formal, perhaps even less poetic. At the beginning of every Sunday worship service, it exerts a normative pull for English-speaking Mormons in their own prayers.

  10. Clean Cut ~ It came out accidentally, but most sincerely: “I love thee”. It certainly provided a few chuckles…

    LOL. Reminds me of the time my husband called me by my RP character’s name by accident. You know you roleplay too much when you start referring to your spouse by their RP name.

    And yes, I roleplay. Make fun of me at will.

    Rob Perkins ~ I think the archaic language use in prayers is waning.

    I’d love for you to be right. I mean, my LDS friends are welcome to pray as they like, but it would make things a tad easier in my household.

    On a side note, the supervisor who critiqued my prayer wasn’t a student, or young. He was an older man and a convert.

    One more thing, to everyone who has talked about the folding-arms thing: when I was in high school but still studying the LDS church, I went out to a Mexican restaurant with a group of people from my Presbyterian youth group and was asked to say the prayer for the meal. So I stood up and said it. When I sat back down, one of the youth leaders blurted out, “You folded your arms like the Mormons do!”

    She meant it in good humor, but apparently my LDS friends had been rubbing off on me and I hadn’t even noticed. I guess it is something that some people see as an LDS thing.

  11. Lately I’ve been ditching the KJ language in public prayers on purpose – and the only time I fold my arms is so I can see my sweet daughters be “reverent”.

    Just wanna say, its great to hear from an evangelical (or mormon for that matter) that doesn’t hang the whole of us on the rudeness of one.

    Keep up the good work! My LIFE is an evangelical-mormon dialogue.

  12. One of my mission companions saw a Mormon sister slap the hand of a new member who tried to take the Sacrament with her left hand.

  13. For the record I usually don’t fold my arms when saying prayer but just bow my head and clasp my hands together. Although at dinner I fold them. I see lots of people do that here in Provo. It’s extremely common in my ward. So I can’t imagine that being unusually although I can see raised eyebrows at praying to Jesus if they didn’t know you were Evangelical.

  14. Oh, regarding KJV language (thees and thous) in prayers. I think the rarity is when it is done consistent. Most people switch back and forth between the two depending upon whether what they are saying is some text they’ve read in the KJV a lot. I don’t think most people even understand the distinction (although perhaps that’s unfair considering how many people speak more than one language since most languages other than English retain the two kinds of “you”)

  15. BJM asked;

    Hi, is this the same Eric who sometimes comments at LDS & Evangelical Conversations?

    Indeed.

  16. Yeah, those Utah Mormons can be odd creatures sometimes. That’s one of the primary reasons why I couldn’t stand living in Utah: Utah LDS culture way too often gets conflated with LDS doctrine. It was a constant source of frustration for me at BYU…

    P.S. Glad to know you’re alive… ;o)

  17. Kevin, I haven’t spoken with you in forever! How have you been? Finished your BA and got an MA in psychology I see, good for you.

    Still running with the LDS apologetics circles?

  18. Yeah. I was pleasantly surprised to see this linked from the T&S blog.

    Overall I’ve been good: married, divorced, still on good terms with the ex, dating a girl who is 1.5 hours away (in Birmingham, AL) with her 18-month old girl, and currently desperately trying to find a job! Haven’t done a lot with LDS apologetics lately and am currently rather inactive, but have been doing a lot with meditation and Buddhism lately (just a note: “counter-cult” works on Buddhism are just as bad as those on Mormonism). But I can honestly say that I’m doing better than I ever have in my life. :o)

    Are you guys still in UT?

  19. I was pleasantly surprised by the link, too. Normally I only have, like, five people reading. Now there are all kinds of new people dropping by.

    I’m sorry you’ve had marriage troubles; I almost went through that with my husband myself, so I feel for you. I confess to knowing very little about Buddhism, but I’m glad it’s helping you out right now. I hope things go well with your new lady and her little girl.

    I’ve had my own troubles; dropped out of the MA US History program at the University of Utah and my mother passed away last year from pancreatic cancer. I’ve got a two-year-old daughter with health issues so I’m not working right now, but would like to. Hopefully I’ll be back in grad school by fall.

    I moved back to the Puget Sound area of Washington state to be close to my family. I still have plenty of family in Utah though.

  20. In general I wouldn’t suggest divorce for anyone: it’s not pleasant. But I can say that it was an important shock for my life and I still believe it was the best move for us (both of us; she agrees).

    I saw the posts on your mother: I’m so sorry. I haven’t had to experience the loss of a parent yet and I literally can’t imagine what that would be like. I’m glad, though, that you have family to be with.

    Buddhism has always fascinated me. We have a resident Buddhist in the psychology program at UWG and he teaches a Buddhist Psychology class. When I took the class 1.5 years ago the meditation aspect of the class had a powerful effect on me and I believe it was central to my current happiness in life. It really has changed my life. I started a blog on my research and experience with Buddhism and yoga, but it is still very new so I don’t have much up yet.

  21. I’ll tell you the same thing I tell everyone else, Kevin: just do me a favor and treasure the time with your mom. Give her a big hug next time you see her. My time was gone before I knew it. I think I am on the mend though.

    I’ll dig into your blog sometime and I’m adding it to my friends blogroll list. I can always stand to learn a little more about other religions.

    I don’t know how interested you are in LDS-evangelical interfaith dialogue stuff now, but you know where to find me for those kinds of discussions. :)

  22. I could use to have a better relationship with my mom: we have a long and a tiny-bit complicated relationship with her. But I realize that it is a relationship that needs to be cultivated, so that’s a step in the right direction.

    I’ve grown rather tired of the L-E discussion: the more I try to interact the more I get disgusted with the violation of the teacher-student relationship by Evangelical “experts” on various topics. It really is an ethical violation to put yourself up as an expert when you are not. This has brought up some very un-charitable feelings in me, which is hurting me and the people I discuss things with. I fully realize that you are not of their ilk, but I definitely need some time to cool off, despite the strong feeling I have that such an injustice should not go unchallenged. But what good am I going to be if I just become as inflexible, pompous, and angry as they are?

  23. I know what you mean about being tired of L-E discussion. Last month the last straw fell for me at MADB and I kind of washed my hands of LDS apologists. I’ll still be on friendly terms with them if they seek me out, but I’m done trying to make new ground with people who are just looking for the fastest way to make me into the bad guy and score Jesus points off me.

    I’ve had better luck talking to people around the LDS bloggernacle. People are much more willing to learn new things about evangelicals, even if we sometimes argue a little bit, and I’m certainly learning new things about Mormons.

    On the evangelical side, Todd Wood at Heart Issues for LDS and Tim at LDS & Evangelical Conversations are always willing to have friendly conversations with Mormons.

  24. Well, it’s nice having a few more good Evangelicals over at those blogs.

    I’ve felt bad for Tim over at Mormon-Evangelical conversations for quite some time. For the past year its mostly been him and a bunch of Mormons – with him as the only Evangelical voice.

    I mean, sometimes you’d get Kullervo helping Tim fend off the Mormon arguments. But Kullervo’s an ex-Mormon searcher who is just as suspicious of Evangelicalism as any Mormon would be. So you can’t really say he’s in Tim’s corner really.

    Geez… this all sounds like gang warfare or something.

    Maybe my paradigm for interaction is just fundamentally screwed up. But anyway, point is, it’s nice to have more variation in views and it’s hard to be the only voice for your position in a debate.

  25. Seth ~ Geez… this all sounds like gang warfare or something.

    Maybe my paradigm for interaction is just fundamentally screwed up. But anyway, point is, it’s nice to have more variation in views and it’s hard to be the only voice for your position in a debate.

    Mmm, yeah, I’m kind of under the impression that Tim and Todd are weirded out by me. They don’t say much to me, although I didn’t exactly make a friendly entrance at Todd’s blog.

    But still, I’m an evangelical, if a dissenting one, and I don’t think that’s changing anytime soon. Happy to add my point of view.

  26. Seth,

    Unfortunately a “gang mentality” and warfare metaphors are rife in apologetics message boards, on both sides. This also means that there inevitably will be those who are uninformed: those who have read a book or two and with emphatic zeal thinks they have all the answers. When nuance is not both allowed and understood (both of which requires a lot of time for research and meta-analysis) misunderstanding and heated arguments are inevitable. There’s the common phrase: “zeal without knowledge”. Ignorance has done more damage (on both sides) than any given doctrine, dogma, or belief, including the mob-mentality that often shows itself in many exchanges.

    Misrepresentation is what frustrates me most about inter-religious dialogue, especially of the apologetic nature. Genuine, respected, and internationally known scholars take years to understand a particular religion, but Evangelical schools give two classes that deal with multiple religious traditions and then unleash them on the world as people with degrees in apologetics. They think they can understand a religion with less than a dozen or two dozen hours of research on them and with formal training that is so spread as to give vague generalizations at best without any feel for the nuance that is required (it happens, as well, when apologists are “experts” in psychology, philosophy [ancient and modern], physics, anthropology, hermeneutics, religious studies, archeaology, counseling, etc.). When things are so simple (or simplistic) it is no wonder that they think these other traditions are so obviously false, which then requires that they think of the followers as either exceptionally deluded (and, as such, weak minded) or incredibly stupid; I have yet to find a good third alternative when the truth is supposedly so “obvious”.

    While I use Evangelical “degrees in apologetics” as my example, please understand that I see ignorance as very present in both traditions (and others, but I’m not as familiar with them, so I won’t push the point).

    Anyway, stepping off my soap box…

    P.S. Let me say that I have incredible respect for Frank Beckwith because of his graceful leave of absence in debating theism and focusing on his expertise, ethics. If only all apologists were so aware of their limits.

  27. Kevin and Bridget,

    I concur with your frustrations about LDS-Evangelical dialogues and opinions of each other. I’m a former evangelical, or at least went through a period of attending evangelical/pentecostal/fundamental type churches before finding the LDS church.

    Both sides seem to ignore some of the major key elements we have in common, specifically the (goal or seeking the) working of the Holy Ghost in our lives, personal revelation, spiritual gifts, miracles, etc.

    I get disheartened when I read faithful Mormons make broad dismissive remarks denigrating all evangelicals as deliberate-hearted “antis”. I get disheartened when I read evangelicals dismiss Mormons (and Mormonism) as non-Christian because of technical differences in non-saving points of doctrine.

    The bigotry and uncharitable attitude of some insular Utah-Mormons (as the boss who said you had to fold your arms) is mind-numbing. And as Kevin pointed out, the conflation of Utah LDS culture (what I call or iconize as “green jello”) with LDS gospel.

    The bloggernacle generally has its own “deadly heresies” too, but it’s refreshing to associate with some people who can understand the difference between policy and doctrine. (IE, “doctrine” is being fully immersed in a baptism, “policy” is wearing white clothes in a baptism.)

    Some evangelicals I’ve encountered also have their own inconsistencies, such as while stating that salvation is nothing more than “faith alone in Christ alone”, they would deny someone’s claim to salvation for additional “incorrect” beliefs apart from that simple dictum.

    Bridget, the main key to resolution of things Evangelical viz-a-viz things LDS are what we have in common about the workings of the Holy Ghost and personal revelation.

    You may need to remind your husband that the Lord does pour out his Spirit on whom he will, not just on those with the “official” LDS Gift-of-the-Holy-Ghost. Modern LDS prophets have pointed this out (even though they also say that with the official Gift-of-the-Holy-Ghost it is more permanent than the [relatively] “brief[er] flashes” that non-LDS receive), and that many great things have been accomplished by non-LDS under inspiration from the Lord.

    Personally, I found the LDS church and its teachings to be the fulfillment of things I heard and felt promised when I attended evangelical/pentecostal type churches.

    I’m somewhat saddened by how many (perhaps most of the) fully active LDS don’t see the overlap, and deny our own scriptural and modern-prophetic promises of the workings, gifts, and outpourings of the Spirit.

    We LDS give lip sevice to these things, but we don’t very often live them or live for them.

    God bless ya.

  28. Bookslinger, I’ve seen your comments on LDS blogs as I’ve lurked and checked out past conversations. I like you.

    Some evangelicals I’ve encountered also have their own inconsistencies, such as while stating that salvation is nothing more than “faith alone in Christ alone”, they would deny someone’s claim to salvation for additional “incorrect” beliefs apart from that simple dictum.

    I’ve had other evangelicals deny my salvation because I think it’s possible that some Latter-day Saints are saved. Funny, I’m sure no one would have denied my salvation when people were congratulating me for having prayed with my aunt to accept Christ when I was 10, but grow up and take a few unconventional views and they throw you under the bus.

    In any case, regarding my husband, it’s not my husband who needs to be reminded that God may be working in my life. It’s me who needs to be reminded that God may be working in his even if his preferred style of prayer and worship don’t resonate well with me. My husband has always accepted me for who I am, with all the quirks that make me an evangelical, but I have a hard time reciprocating. It’s something I still struggle with, and believe me I’m trying, but the LDS way of doing things just seems to lack the passion I’m accustomed to seeing in evangelical churches.

    I’m trying to see it. I think it’s just hard to see what you can’t feel, but I’m willing to take his word for it.

  29. Bridget: you’re right about the often apparent, and sometimes real, lack of passion in the LDS church. Many wards come across as bland and white-bread, a bit namby-pamby or wimpy. Elder Holland, Elder Uchtdorf and Elder Bednar seem to have a little bit more fire, and maybe that will spread.

    It’s one thing to keep spiritual fire private, but there’s also a time to share it. Even past president Benson talked about “pulpits aflame” [with Book of Mormon messages.]

    There’s a lot of evangelical/pentecostal type passion in the Book of Mormon that we LDS seem to ignore, 1st Nephi 31:13 for example. Alma 26, which contains the rejoicing of Ammon. And some powerful outpouring of the Spirit in Alma, Helaman, and 3rd Nephi even prior to the Savior’s visit.

    There’s another point of overlap between LDS and Evangelicals that I forgot to mention. Both of our groups seem to have a disdain for the even more apparent (than ours) lack of passion in mainstream Protestant churches.

    In my opinion, “mainline” Protestants (Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.) seem to have taken the religion of the New Testament and done to it what the Pharisees did to the Law of Moses and the Old Testament. Things like deny the power and miracles. Things like “explain away” miracles, or say “those were for back then, not now.” Things like dismissing important events or doctrines by saying “That was just figurative.”

    Back in my evangelical days in the early 1970′s, we called it “churchianity.” Some in the LDS church appear to fall into the same rut by erroneously putting programs ahead of people, confusing policy and doctrine, conflating culture and gospel, reverencing the church and the restoration of the gospel more than Heavenly Father, Jesus and the gospel message itself. (Or at least giving the _appearance_ they are doing those things.)

    In other words, worshipping/reverencing the package or delivery vehicle rather than the precious cargo.

    One of my favorite lines, which is probably just urban legend anyway, is an investigator asking LDS missionaries: “If what you’re saying is true, shouldn’t you be a little more excited?”

  30. We have a thing called “prayer hands” for the little ones at meal time. It’s so freaking adorable because they clasp their hands together and squint their eyes and purse their lips….. *squee*

    I remember in my sunday school we were expected to put our hands behind our backs (while we swung around and kicked our legs of course) as we finished each lesson with a prayer. Sometimes we held hands in a circle (probably to keep kids from straying) and as we got older clasping our hands in front of our bodies in a relaxed stance was acceptable. I think whether hands are clasped, behind backs, or arms folded, the purpose remains the same: to focus inward and eliminate distraction as we pray.

    I think it’s fascinating how each form can be indicative of the type of prayer, like clasped hands could be a form of submission, humility, and pleading. Outreached palms can mean an expectation and faith in God’s blessings. And of course prayer can be done simultaneously while tending to tasks, driving, walking, etc.

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