Columba Stewart OSB
Prayer is a universal feature of human religious practice. Among early Christians, it had two broad and frequently overlapping categories. First, and primordially, there was communal or liturgical prayer, consisting largely of conventional words and actions. Second, there was individual or ‘private’ prayer, more variable in form. This article focuses on private prayer, though the language of private prayer often drew from liturgical prayer. Silent prayer, like silent reading, was rare in antiquity. The study of prayer in early Christianity highlights the uneasy position of Christian religion in late antiquity. Oriented toward Judaism by their sacred writings and devotional practices, Christians found themselves in their early years struggling on two fronts to define their distinctive religious identity and to justify their understanding of God as disclosed in Jesus Christ.