- Prayer circle
Prayer circles have several different interpretations across
Christianityand other religions. The most common definition of a prayer circle is where participants simply join hands in a literal circle of prayer, often as part of a vigil. Although these informal prayer circles have been practiced for centuries, their recent resurgence in popularity is frequently attributed to their use in the Catholic Charismatic Renewalmovement. Similarly, amongst North American and specifically Native American Catholics, prayer circles have formed around Kateri Tekakwitha, who was the first Native American to be beatified by the Roman Catholic Church. Tekakwitha Conference prayer circles, called Kateri Prayer Circles, have been formed on nearly all U.S. Indian Reservations. In Islam, Muslims who make the pilgrimage to Meccawill form concentric circles around the Kaabain prayer, and these too are commonly referred to as prayer circles.
A more modern definition of the prayer circle has recently been coined, referring to a growing number of
online communitieswhere people visit certain Web sites in order to share their thoughts and prayers with other like-minded worshippers, usually within specially-designated message board areas.
Origin of Prayer Circles
Ritual prayer in a circle around an altar is not unique to
Christianity. Ritual ceremonies around an altar are common in paganism, and ritual prayer dances around an altar were practiced by early Christians, especially Gnostics, before the practice was condemned as a heresyby the Second Council of Nicaeain 787 A.D. ("See" Nibley, "The Early Christian Prayer Circle", page 41.) Much later, Protestants began conducting informal prayer circles. Sometimes these communities are developed online such as PrayerCircleOnline.com [http://www.PrayCircleOnline.com]
Online Prayer Circles
With the World Wide Web's rapid growth amongst all sectors of society, many Christians and other faith-based peoples have found a niche on the Internet where they can share their prayers, thoughts and wishes with each other. It's not known who was the first to set up an online prayer circle, but today there are dozens, if not hundreds, of Web sites set up for these purposes, from large-scale sites run by The
American Bible Societyand Beliefnetto smaller message boards run by community churches.
An online prayer circle is often a
vigilset up by a participant in honor of someone close to that participant. Larger online prayer circles are also formed in honor and remembrance of the victims of notable disasters or tragedies. Though religious in tone, online prayer circles are by and large non-denominationaland at times are not even explicitly Christian.
Prayer Circles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Mormonism, a Prayer Circle, also known as the True Order of Prayer, is a ritual established by Joseph Smith, Jr.that some Mormonswho believe is a more potent means of receiving blessings and revelation from God. The ritual involves an antiphonic recitation of prayer by participants joined in a circle around an altar.
Prayer circles were common in the Protestant revivals of the
Second Great Awakeningthat occurred in the youth of Joseph Smith, Jr.Early Mormons practiced conventional Protestant-type prayer circles at least as early as 1833.
On May 4, 1842, Smith met with nine other men and performed the first Endowment Ceremony. It is not clear whether this ceremony included a prayer circle. However, prayer circles became the main purpose of meetings of the
Anointed Quorumon May 26, 1843. Women were first included in the ceremony on September 28, 1843. ("See" D. Michael Quinn, "Latter-day Saint Prayer Circles", page 84.)
After the murder of
Joseph Smith, Jr., The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintscontinued to practice prayer circles in Latter-day Saint temples. In addition, local stake and ward prayer circles were organized and conducted until May 3, 1978, when the First Presidencyannounced that all prayer circles should be discontinued except those performed in a temple as part of an Endowment ceremony. ("See" Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney, Letter to All Stake Presidents and Bishops, May 3, 1978; "Update", 3 "Sunstone" 6 (July-August 1978).) The reason for this change is unknown, but could have resulted in part from the explosive growth of the Church, and the fact that prayer circles were usually organized by a member of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. ("See" Quinn, "Latter-day Saint Prayer Circles", page 105.) Otherswho have speculated that the change stems from the desire of the Latter-day Saint leadership to more tightly control the use of the associated "priesthood keys" and spiritual gifts to prevent misuse of God's power and gifts.
* [http://www.circleofprayer.org ABS Circle of Prayer]
* [http://www.circulodeoracion.com ABS Círculo de Oración]
* [http://www.beliefnet.com BeliefNet]
* [http://www.myprayercircle.com My Prayer Circle]
#Harvard reference | First=Hugh | Last=Nibley | Authorlink=Hugh Nibley | Title=The Early Christian Prayer Circle | Journal=BYU Studies | Year=1978 | Volume=19 | Issue=1 | Pages=41–78.
#Harvard reference | First=D. Michael | Last=Quinn | Authorlink=D. Michael Quinn | Title=Latter-day Saint Prayer Circles | Journal=BYU Studies | Year=1978 | Volume=19 | Issue=1 | Pages=79–105 .
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