Expressions of Preference and Other Morally Problematic Instances of Prayer: A Kierkegaardian Analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

When considering the role of prayer in the lives of believers, most theists agree that one important effect is the psychological impact on the person who is praying. Nevertheless, the way many of us pray, by primarily or solely focusing on our welfare and the welfare of our loved ones, agitates the human tendency towards exclusion. If we take seriously God’s commandment to love the neighbor as the self, we should use prayer, instead, as a prime opportunity to help cultivate a moral character that embraces more inclusion. In this paper, I use Søren Kierkegaard’s Works of Love as a framework for working towards this more inclusive view of prayer—one that widens our moral circle and awareness to include all human beings, and not just the select ones we have chosen to prefer above all others. It does not follow that we are prohibited from praying for our own welfare or the welfare of our loved ones, but it does mean that using prayer in a way that only (or primarily) shows concern for those whom we prefer is morally problematic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-695
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Religious Ethics
Volume47
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • agapē
  • ethics
  • prayer
  • Søren Kierkegaard
  • Works of Love

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies

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