Grants Program Overview
New Directions in the Study of Prayer aims to facilitate research that brings innovative perspectives, methods, and approaches to previously under-investigated or poorly understood dimensions of prayer. Prayer and associated practices are widely shared aspects of human life. While in the past much attention has been given to questions concerning the efficacy of prayer, much remains to be discovered about its sources, varieties, and relations to other important aspects of modern society and culture.
Of special interest are proposals for research that will shed new light on the relationships between the practice of prayer and virtue, human flourishing, altruism, and creativity, or that examine the cognitive aspects of prayer, the embeddedness of prayer in religious and nonreligious institutions, the social dimensions of prayer, and cultural variations in prayer across societies and religious traditions.
In Western religious traditions, in particular, prayer is usually understood as a way of communicating with God. However, the activities that are commonly described as prayer vary widely, ranging from brief thoughts uttered in private to conversational prayers in small groups to formal prayers recited in liturgical settings, and from vague yearnings of the heart to enduring practices, disciplines, and expressions in song, art, and visual culture. In the world’s major religious traditions, the object of veneration to whom prayers are directed is understood variously, as are the reasons for and expectations associated with prayer, the contexts in which it is practiced, and the languages used to describe it.
Given such widely varying practices and descriptions, no single or simple definition of prayer need or should be imposed on proposed studies. Rather, requests for funding will be asked to specify which aspects and varieties of prayer are to be investigated, and how the proposed investigation promises to make significant contributions to the study of prayer and associated fields. At the present moment, when religious traditions are in greater contact with one another than ever before, and when questions about the meaning and value of religion and spirituality are being asked in both academic and non-academic settings, rigorous empirical investigations that shed new light on the varieties of the practice and experience of prayer are in order.
Proposals will be especially encouraged from, but will not be restricted to, the following disciplines: anthropology, cognitive science, history, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, religious studies, and sociology. New Directions in the Study of Prayer will welcome proposals for projects that study any religious tradition(s) and milieu(s), and that focus on populations in any geographical region(s) of the world. Proposals must include a clearly articulated program of empirical research. Proposals may include a focus on theology but should not be restricted to theological inquiry. Historical topics are of interest only insofar as they specifically contribute to understanding practices of prayer in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
New Directions in the Study of Prayer will consider proposals in four areas of inquiry.