Prayer, In Other Words:
New Testament Prayers in Social-Science Perspective

Jerome H. Neyrey
University of Notre Dame


1.0 Introduction: Status Quaestionis and Proposal

What is prayer? How do we interpret individual prayers? Biblical interpreters are grateful heirs of Gunkel's description of the psalms.(1) His work and that of his followers provides us with analyses of various types of psalms, identification of their formal elements and indication of their respective purposes. In addition, productive attention has been given both in antiquity and in modern criticism to understanding the premier Christian prayer, the Our Father.(2) Scholars have also examined topics related to prayer, such as the Israelite roots of Christian prayer,(3) the prayers of Jesus,(4) prayer in the Pauline letters,(5) the function of prayer in Luke's gospel,(6) and the shape of New Testament doxologies.(7) Of course there are many fine works examining prayer in the Bible,(8) the Greco-Roman world,(9) as well as the early church.(10) Recently, a working group in the Society of Biblical Literature undertook to study "Prayer in the Greco-Roman Period" (1989-92), the results of which appeared in The Lord's Prayer and Other Prayer Texts from the Greco-Roman Era.(11) While this volume contains seven articles on different ancient authors and their prayers, its major contribution lies in the rich bibliography of the text and history of interpretation of these select prayers. Yet it is fair to say that in terms of methods of interpreting prayer, even this latest effort prayer brings little new to the table. Current scholarship on biblical prayer operates from the perspective of form criticism and history-of-religions examination of background, but not necessarily from the perspective of interpretation, since its aim continues to be some form of history, not interpretation.

Yet there are available to scholars fresh and productive ways of interpreting prayers, namely the resources of cultural anthropology. Bruce Malina in particular has digested and made available to biblical scholars many of the basic, reliable models from the social sciences for understanding the communication which is prayer and the social exchange which occurs during it. Hence, if imitation is the sincerest form of praise, then the use of the materials which Bruce Malina has introduced to scholars is the sincerest form of praise I know. Other scholars have employed social science models for interpretation, whose suggestions will be considered as well.(12) This article, then, aims systematically to introduce readers to these cultural ways of interpreting prayers by providing an appropriate set of social and cultural lenses.

2.0 Prayer as Communication.

Twenty years ago in an article much too large for the journal in which it was printed,(13) Bruce Malina analyzed prayer as an act of communication. Typical of Malina, but unlike most commentators, he offered a definition of prayer:

Prayer is a socially meaningful symbolic act of communication, bearing directly upon persons perceived as somehow supporting, maintaining, and controlling the order of existence of the one praying, and performed with the purpose of getting results from or in the interaction of communication.(14)

This definition identifies the nature of the activity, its object and its purpose. Prayer may take the form of petition, adoration, contrition or thanksgiving, but it is always a communication. Since prayer always addresses the person perceived as supporting, maintaining and controlling the order of existence of the one praying, it presupposes a superior/subordinate relationship. Finally prayer aims to have some effect on the person with whom the pray-er communicates, that is, it seeks results.

Malina next classified prayers in terms of their purposes, identifying seven results or aims the pray-er desires through the communication which is prayer:

1. Instrumental ("I want..."): petitionary prayers to obtain goods and services for individual and social needs.

2. Regulatory ("Do as I tell you..."): prayers to control the activity of God, to command God to order people and things about on behalf of the one praying.(15)

3. Interactional ("me and you..."): prayer to maintain emotional ties with God; prayer of simple presence.

4. Self-focused ("Here I come. . .; here I am..."): prayers that identify the self -- individual and social -- to God; prayers of contrition and humility, as well as boasting and superiority.

5. Heuristic ("Tell me why...?"): prayer that explores the world of God and God's workings within us individually and collectively; meditative prayers, perceptions of the spirit in prayer.

6. Imaginative ("Let's pretend..."): prayer to create an environment of one's own with God; prayers in tongues and those recited in languages unknown to the pray-er.

7. Informative ("I have something to tell you"): prayers that communicate new information: prayers of acknowledgment, praise and thanksgiving.(16)

This taxonomy differs in many ways from the standard classification of psalms, and the differences are worthy of note. On the one hand, psalms are said to be either lament (complaint + petition) or praise and thanksgiving. But "prayer" is a more complex phenomenon than psalms, and needs a more discriminating classification. The lament and praise categories are further broken down by form critics of the psalms into six or seven types of psalms: 1) praise, 2) petition, 3) royal psalms, 4) songs of Zion, 5) didactic poetry, 6) festival psalms and liturgies.(17)This classification is based on several criteria: 1) instructions to the pray-er ("Praise the Lord!"), 2) repetitive formal characteristics, 3) differing sitze-im-leben (royal wedding, coronation of the king, festivals), 4) wisdom instructions, and the like. While such criteria are useful in classifying psalms, they prove less reliable in sorting out the communication which is prayer. Malina's taxonomy, however, builds on previous form-critical insights and provides a more discriminating classificatory system which focuses on the desired results of the communication and the social relationship between pray-er and deity.

Whereas psalm critics speak of psalms of lament, Malina's taxonomy more critically distinguishes the "lament" as interactive prayer and the petition as instrumental prayer. Psalms of "praise," "thanksgiving" and "trust" are informative prayers, a category which includes acknowledgment, blessing, honor, glory and the like. Communication classification aids greatly in appreciating prayers such as Ps 84 ("How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, God of hosts!) as both heuristic meditation which explores the world of God and imaginative construction of a personal environment with God.

In regard to prayers which are not psalms, the taxonomy based on communication theory allows those who read biblical prayers to analyze and classify them in more accurate and informative ways. For example, instrumental prayer describes the petitions in the Our Father for bread, debt remission and deliverance (Matt 6:13), as well as the charge of Jesus to his disciples in Mark 14:36 that they "pray" to escape the coming crisis. But the first part of the Our Father contains interactional prayer of praise and benediction. Interactional prayer captures Mary's sentiments of blessedness, as well as her informative thanksgiving to God (Luke 1:46-55). Self-focused prayer describes both the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18:10-13.(18) Heuristic prayer identifies well Job's many requests to God to know the reason for his suffering. Speaking in tongues provides an example of imaginative prayer (1 Cor 14:6-26); and informative communication describes thanksgivings offered to God,(19) doxologies proclaimed,(20) and praise extended to Him.(21) Communication taxonomy also aids in interpreting prayers such as Simeon's address to God in Luke 2:29-32 (informative and interactional), Jesus ' "acknowledgment" of God in Matt 11:25-26 (informative), and Zechariah's canticle extolling God's faithfulness in Luke 1:68-79 (informational).

3.0 The Value System of Addresser and Addressee.

In his work on the anthropology of illness and wellness in antiquity, John Pilch introduced to biblical scholarship a cross-cultural model which aids in the discovery of different configurations of values which characterize social groups.(22) Anthropologists originally developed this model to differentiate and understand the four different cultures found in New Mexico (Native American, Spanish, Mexican-American, and Anglo). Health-care deliverers then successfully utilized it for understanding the cultural variations among a host of immigrant groups in America in regard to illness and health care.(23) Recently John Pilch and Bruce Malina edited a volume entitled Biblical Social Values, to whose introduction we turn for a mature elaboration of a model of differing cultural values applicable to biblical literature. They define "value" as: ". . . some general quality and direction of life that human beings are expected to embody in their behavior. A value is a general, normative orientation of action in a social system."(24) Just as Americans consider money or wealth a "value," so early Christians held kinship and honor to be paramount values.(25) What, then, is value comparison all about?

The following diagram provides a productive way of discovering the value preferences of a group. In a given context and faced with a specific task, individuals prefer to act in certain predictable ways which would be recognized and approved by their peers; all three options are theoretically available, but generally one or two are more prevalent.(26)

Principal Mode of

Human Activity



Time Orientation
Relationship of

humans to Nature

Be subject to it
Live in harmony with it
Master it
View of Human Nature
Mixture of good and evil

In applying this to prayers in antiquity, one must distinguish the values of those praying from those attributed to the Deity, the object of prayer. 1. Activity Whereas the ancients themselves may be described as valuing "being," God is almost always described as "doing," whether creating and maintaining the universe or rising up to fight Israel's enemies (Acts 4:24-30).(27) All prayers of petition, then, ask God to "do something," that is, "be active" on behalf of the pray-er. 2. Relationships among mortals are both collateral and hierarchical; for, in addition to the vertical relationships people find themselves in (father/son; landlord/peasant; sovereign/subject), they also enjoy collateral relationships with friends and relatives. God, however, is generally addressed in terms of some hierarchical relationship, "Father,"(28) "Lord," "God of Israel," "Sovereign," and the like. The sense of social distance separating a pray-er and God is never made clearer than in prayers of petition, where the pray-ers confess that God alone controls the universe or at least their enemies, or the rain in their valley. Therefore God will be addressed and treated like the various patrons or sovereigns in the life of the pray-er. 3. In regards to time, ancient Judeans both appealed to the past (Israel's legal and wisdom traditions embodied in Scripture) and focused on the present. In contrast, the God of Israel enjoys an eternity which temporally reaches back and forward without limit: It is God alone "who is, who was, and who will be."(29) Unlike mortals who come into being and inevitably die, God -- the immortal one -- has no beginning and no end. Yet pray-ers ask God to act in the present; or, they call upon God to remember his actions "as of old" and to perform them now again. The future, however, belongs to God alone and it is sacrilegious to try and discover it; God alone knows the future, and those to whom it pleases God to disclosed it.(30) 4. Nature Native Americans are reputed to live in harmony with nature, whereas mainstream Americans consider themselves superior to it. Hence they dam rivers, tunnel under the seas, and make deserts bloom. But the ancients thought of themselves as subject to nature: storms wreck their vessels,(31) droughts cause terrible famines,(32) and the like. Yet God the all powerful rules sky, sea and earth; God can send rain as well as rescue people from shipwreck. God, who is both pantocrator and sovereign of the universe, can providentially aid pray-ers on land or at sea.(33) 5. Human nature. Whereas Euro-Americans are socialized to view their children as innocent and good, Sirach advises the wise of ancient Israel in regard to their sons, "Beat his ribs."(34) Yet certain strains of Christianity likewise believe that children are born in sin, and so must be treated accordingly. Ancient Israel in general seemed to consider human nature as a mixture of good and evil. In petitionary prayer, pray-ers regularly describe their oppressors as evil; yet pray-ers themselves on occasion seek forgiveness and reconciliation and so confess their own sinfulness, error or failure. Human nature for the ancients was, at best, a mixture of good and evil.

From this value map, we draw the following conclusions. (1) In both prayers of thanksgiving and petition God is always thought of as "doing" something, either in the past, present or future. Many prayers refer to past actions of God as warrants and proof of what God should presently do. (2) The vertical relationship between God and Israel or the disciples of Jesus expresses the transcendent distance between the Immortal One and His mortal subjects. In contrast, humans characteristically look laterally to their friends and relatives for aid, as well as hierarchically to their covenant Lord and Patron. (3) In terms of time, pray-ers in the Bible regularly looked to the past to clarify the present: i.e., reflection on God's faithfulness in the covenants with Abraham and David, the endurance of their ancestral law and the ancient system of worship as evidence of what God has done and should continue doing.(35) Yet if the roots of hope exist back in God's past actions, pray-ers expect God's assistance today ( "Give us this day our today bread," Matt 6:11; Luke 11:3 ) or stand under God's judgment today( "Today if you hear his voice. . ." Ps 95:7-11/Heb 3:7-4:13). They might also rejoice today that ancient prophecies or promises are now fulfilled (Luke 2:28; 4:21).(36) (4) All prayers of praise and petition celebrate God's omnipotence over nature, that is, divine power to make the rains fall (or not fall), to multiply food and to still storms. (5) With the story of Adam's sin, Israelites and early Christians thought of human nature as evil or a mixture of good and evil. In Romans Paul declared that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:22-23).(37) But God of course is holy beyond measure, who forgives humans their sins and sends Jesus as their savior. God will also transform corruptible humankind and make them incorruptible, and have their mortality changed to immortality so that they may worthily enter the presence of God (1 Cor 15:53-54).

4.0 Honor and Shame and Prayer

To my knowledge, Bruce Malina pioneered New Testament research on the importance of honor and shame for biblical interpretation.(38) His synthesis of various field studies from countries bordering on the Mediterranean led him to develop a model of this "pivotal value." Honor refers to the claim of worth, value and respect which must be publicly acknowledged.(39) The claim may be made either by the person demanding respect or by others on his behalf, usually family or fictive-kin (co-citizens, co-members of the army); and the acknowledgment must always be public approval of this claim. The ancients used many different verbs to express this acknowledgment, such as to glorify, praise, acclaim, exalt, magnify, celebrate, make famous, declare the name of the Lord, know the Lord, and the like. (40)

4.1 Sources of Honor. A person acquires honor in two basic ways: ascription by another or achievement by the claimant. Most people in antiquity have honor ascribed to them first and foremost by the parents, family and clan into which they were born.(41) If the family belongs to the elite strata and ruling class, the offspring -- primarily the male ones -- are born with high honor manifested in the family's power, wealth, reputation and worth. Conversely offspring born of peasants share in their relative honor, symbolized by modest land holdings or modest flocks. We observe constantly that most people are introduced as the "son of so-and-so" or the "wife of so-and-so." Thus children inherit the social worth or honor of their parents. Adoption into a family provides a comparable process, as would commissioning as ambassador or assignment as procurator. On the other hand, individuals may acquire fame, glory and renown through military, athletic or aesthetic prowess. A city's benefactor may earn the its praise for gift of an aqueduct or theater. Or individuals may engage in the ubiquitous game of challenge and riposte.

4.2 Honor and Virtue. Honor in antiquity dealt with "excellence" of some sort, either the prowesses mentioned above or some socially-sanctioned virtue or uniqueness. The most common virtues meriting respect and honor are courage (military and athletic prowess) and justice. Because of its importance for assessing behavior in prayer, we take a closer look at what the ancients understood by "justice." Since discourse on virtue was taught by ancient rhetoricians, we take the remarks of a Roman writer close in time to the New Testament to illustrate the traditional understanding of justice. This author represents the utterly conventional, ancient discourse stretching back to Aristotle and forward into Byzantine times.

We will be using the topics of justice if we say that we ought to pity innocent persons and suppliants; if we show that it is proper to repay the well-deserving with gratitude; if we explain that we ought to punish the guilty; if we urge that faith ought zealously to be kept; if we say that the laws and customs of the state ought especially to be preserved; if we contend that alliances and friendships should scrupulously be honored; if we make it clear that the duty imposed by nature towards parents, gods, and fatherland must be religiously observed; if we maintain that ties of hospitality, clientage, kinship, and relationship by marriage must inviolably be cherished (Herennium. 3.3.4, italics added).(42)

This rhetorician flags as marks of justice: (1) gratitude, (2) fair judgment, (3) fidelity, (4) duty to gods, parents, and fatherland, and (5) maintenance of important social ties. Thus pray-ers are just when they offer thanks for benefaction, keep covenant fidelity with God, fulfil their duty to God by obeying His commandments, and maintain their ties of clientage with their heavenly Patron. Similarly, God will be shown in prayer to be just and worthy of praise when God judges the wicked and rewards the faithful, when God's faithfulness is acknowledged, when God's patronage is seen as reliable and everlasting. Thus the psalmist praises God: "The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds" (Ps 145:13).

4.3 Honor and Benefaction. Benefaction may be one of the most productive concepts in assessing God's honor in the social structure of prayers. The custom whereby powerful and wealthy people in the ancient world provided important public services is well known.(43) Wealthy aristocrats and monarchs were expected to provide public festivals, fund war ships, and build aqueducts and theaters and the like for their cities or kingdoms.(44) Josephus provides the following record of how Athens honored the Judean king, Hyrcanus for his benefaction. In it we note the balance between Hyrcanus' benefaction and Athenian public acknowledgment of his noble deed. The acknowledgment took the form of a golden crown, a statue, and heralding of the Judean king's worth at the most important public events in the city's calendar -- both its dramatic and athletic festivals. Finally, Athens's leaders make their continued praise and honor contingent upon future benefaction from the king. But in general this proclamation registers their "reward of merit," the acknowledgment of Hyrcanus as a worthy benefactor.

Inasmuch as Hyrcanus, son of Alexander, the high priest and ethnarch of the Jews, has continued to show his goodwill to our people as a whole and to every individual citizen, and to manifest the greatest zeal on their behalf. . .it has therefore now been decreed to honor this man with a golden crown as the reward of merit fixed by law, and to set up his statue in bronze in the precincts of the temple of Demos and the Graces, and to announce the award of the crown in the theater at the Dionysian festival when the new tragedies are performed, and at the Panathenaean and Eleusinian festivals and at the gymnastic games; and that the magistrates shall take care that so long as he continues to maintain his good will toward us, everything which we can devise shall be done to show honor and gratitude to this man for his zeal and generosity (Josephus, Ant. 14.149-55).

This proclamation describes the gifts of a Judean monarch to a Greek city, a relationship in which no "duty" was involved. The same would not be true of elites and populations of the same city-state or region. For them the virtue of justice would indicate a duty to benefit one's own and a corresponding duty by those benefitted to acknowledge the gift.(45) In this convention the worthy person might well be addressed as "Benefactor" (), "Father," "Friend," or "Savior," names which evoke a kinship relationship even as they mask its harsher aspects.

4.4 Honor from Conflict. Another way of acquiring honor and respect deserves closer attention, namely, the game of challenge and riposte. It is regularly observed in Greco-Roman as well as early Christian literature that social games are played in public in which challenges are made to another, the purpose of which is to diminish the one challenged and so garner the esteem in which the challenged person basks.(46) These challenges are easily recognized in the rhetorical chreiai in which a philosopher or sage is asked a question intended to stump him.(47) A witty riposte dismisses the challenger and confirms the reputation of the wise man.

This ubiquitous social game of push-and-shove also serves as background for appreciating many prayers. A petitioner might complain to God that he, the petitioner, has been faithful and loyal to God, but is now hard pressed. He does not now experience God's beneficent generosity,(48) and his complaint puts God on the spot, so to speak. The pray-er has transformed the challenge from his enemy into a challenge to God. One thinks immediately of Jesus' dying words, which are formally a prayer, i.e., Ps 22:1, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"(49) God, then, is challenged to honor his loyal benefaction to Jesus. Similarly, if the Davidic monarch, the Temple, or Jerusalem were threatened, the pray-er might remind God of God's ancient promises and thus petition the Deity to defend His own interests. God, then, is put on the spot; and the pray-er petitions God to deliver the fitting riposte to the foreign monarch and the threatening army, thus fulfilling the divine promise to Israel. God, therefore, is perceived as engaged in a challenge/riposte situation. Divine failure to respond to such challenges might be considered a loss of divine honor as well as a lack of virtue (faithfulness) on God's part.

What do we know if we know all this? First, we recognize that many prayers acknowledge God's worth as the pray-er exclaims "praise to," "glory be to. . .," "honor be to. . ." and "alleluia!." Mortals give God nothing which God lacks, rather they acknowledge the deity's claims. Second, God's honor is never ascribed; for no one in the universe can be found higher than God to bestow it (see Heb 7:7).(50) Third, one finds in prayers a sense that there is a "more" and "less" to God's honor. For example, the Bible states that God acts so as to win Himself glory,(51) which suggests that pray-ers thought that God could increase in majesty in some way.(52) Similarly, pray-ers state that should the nation be destroyed or should the pious come to ruin, who then would praise God?(53) Fourth, the virtue of "justice" in its many aspects frequently appears in prayer, and praise is regularly awarded for virtue. God is acclaimed as "faithful" or "faithful and true"(54) and God's steadfast loyalty to the nation often serves as the reason for or basis of relationship in petitioning God. God's just judgment, especially of foreigners and sinners, redounds to God's honor, for it belongs to justice to judge justly. Fifth, God is frequently understood in prayers as the benefactor par excellence. Hence a rehearsal of God's deeds often precedes acknowledgment of God's honor in statements of praise and glory. Sixth, the psalmist occasionally challenges God by calling into question God's loyalty and faithfulness; such challenging questions beginning with "How long, O Lord. . .?"(55) or "Why have you. . ?"(56) or "Where is our God?"(57) Thus in terms of this human logic, God is expected to act vigorously to defend God's honor or be shamed as unfaithful or powerless.

5.0 Prayer and Exchange.

We saw earlier how Malina brought to our understanding of prayer a model of communication, consisting of sender - channel - receiver. Later he digested and adapted another model of communication from Talcott Parsons, this time paying attention to the "channel" by means of which a source presents a receiver "with goods, services, actions or a range of words."(58)

5.1 Power, Commitment, Inducement and Influence. Talcott Parsons identifies four basic media of communication, which result from his efforts to find meaningful ways to gather and classify diverse social phenomena.(59) He identified four basic media: power, commitment, inducement and influence, abstract categories which distinguish the means by which senders seek to have an impact on receivers. 1. Power refers to collective effectiveness systems such as government (king, president, ruler, judge); power means the ability to make others act in certain ways. 2. Commitment refers to the belonging system -- family, extended family, and groups of friends. 3. Inducement touches on the economic system, that is, the exchange of things of value (agricultural produce, clothing, money and the like). 4. Finally influence refers to the meaning system, the reasons for something or the learning amassed in a culture. In his characteristic way, Malina explains how even Euro-American audiences can quickly grasp these four categories:

Consider the following sentence and insert the roles of the persons who asked or told you to do or not to do something that in fact you did or did not do: "I did it because he or she was: my mother, father, sister, brother, friend, relative (= commitment); a doctor, lawyer, clergy person, teacher (=influence); the police, mayor, president of the U.S. (= power); my boss at work, employer, foreman, customer, client (=inducement)."(60)

Broadly speaking, the Deity addressed in ancient prayers possesses all four of the media of communication, but not the pray-ers. It is unthinkable that mere mortals would offer God power, especially as many prayers acclaim God as "omnipotent," "creator," and "mighty warrior." Pray-ers on the contrary pray to God to defeat their enemy, stop a drought, or deliver them from war: all petitions for God's unique power. Similarly, mortals have no influence, that is, knowledge, wisdom or secret, that they can bring to the "omniscient"(61) Deity. They may, however, inform God of sorrow for sin (Ps 51) or like Job petition to know the cause misfortune. God alone knows all things, especially the secrets of the human heart. Concerning inducement, although people have on occasion promised God wealth or vowed offerings to temples if their prayers are heard, this attempt at plying God with inducement received mixed reactions in antiquity.(62) On the one hand, Israel's temple system offered inducement to God in its vast array of sacrifices (holocausts and thanksgiving sacrifices; grain and wine offerings).(63) We also read of many prophetic denunciations of the temple system as a form of bribery.(64) No, God is the source of inducement, hence pray-ers petition that God send them food in due season, rain in time of drought or wealth to deliver them from debt. It is God from whom all goods flow. Finally, commitment seems to be the premier expectation of God by pray-ers as well as their unique manner of communicating with God. Commitment may express any or all of the following sentiments: obedience, faithfulness, thanksgiving, blessing, praise, acknowledgment, honor, glory, respect, and the like. When we read of relationships expressed as "God and the people He has chosen," "as a Father carries his infant. . ." and similar expressions, we recognize that commitment is being appealed to. Similarly, when pray-ers appeal to God's covenantal faithfulness and beg God to act once more as loyal Patron, they express their own commitment and seek to activate God's commitment. Moreover, many prayers consist of blessing and thanksgiving to God for benefaction received, thanksgiving being another example of commitment; other prayers may pledge faithfulness and loyalty. Therefore, biblical pray-ers primarily use commitment as their medium of communication with God, along with sacrificial inducement, but never power and influence. God, on the other hand, is perceived as having all four of the media at His disposal and in great supply.

5.2 Reciprocity. Discussion of the media of communication leads to an inquiry about the kind of exchange in which the participants engage. Malina has digested the relevant theory of exchange which identifies three kinds: generalized, balanced or negative reciprocity.(65) 1. Generalized reciprocity refers to the altruistic, asymmetrical attention payed to the wants and needs of another. Characteristic of kinship, it includes hospitality, gifts, and assistance to kin. 2. Balanced reciprocity focuses on the mutual interests of both parties in a symmetrical way. This type of reciprocity characterizes the communication between neighbors, not kin; and its typical forms are trade agreements, fees payed for services and exchange or barter. 3. Finally negative reciprocity describes the attempt in an exchange to get as much as possible for oneself, while giving as little as possible in return. Examples of negative reciprocity include use of fraudulent weights in commerce, as well as devaluation of coinage and theft. Obviously one does not treat either kin or neighbors in this way, but rather strangers or enemies.

What forms of reciprocity do the pray-ers use in communicating with God and what forms do pray-ers think characterize God's dealing with them? Most frequently in prayers of petition and praise/thanksgiving, God's creatures, whose being, life and happiness are in God's hands, acknowledge the Deity as Creator, Father, Savior and Benefactor to whom they turn "to give them their food in due season." As clients in a patron-client relationship with the deity, they depend on God's election of them (generalized reciprocity) and faithful maintenance of the covenant bond. They appreciate the gratuity of God's benefaction of all four symbolic media (power, commitment, inducement and influence), but indicate that their commitment (loyalty, obedience, praise, thanks and honor) in no way balances the scales of reciprocity. Pray-ers do not engage God in terms of generalized reciprocity; on the contrary they are recipients of God's altruism.

When pray-ers communicate with God or the gods, even the ancients agree that negative reciprocity is blasphemous, for mortals are shameful who attempt to despoil God by lying, deceiving, cheating or stealing from Him.(66) Yet their criticism of superstition acknowledges that indeed some pray-ers do just this, even though such prayers are recognized as shallow and self-serving.(67)

Although some ancients described the petitionary relationship between Deity and pray-er as a balanced exchange (do ut des or "give so as to get"). Lucian's famous satire of ancient sacrifice describes sacrifice and prayer by some as negative reciprocity.

So nothing, it seems, that they [the gods] do is done without compensation. They sell men their blessings, and one can buy from them health, it may be, for a calf, wealth for four oxen, a royal throne for a hundred, a safe return from Troy to Pylos for nine bulls, and a fair voyage from Aulis to Troy for a king's daughter! Hecuba, you know, purchased temporary immunity for Troy from Athena for twelve oxen and a frock. One may imagine, too, that they have many things on sale for the price of a cock or a wreath or nothing more than incense (Lucian, On Sacrifices 2).

At first glance Lucian seems to mock the exchange of sacrificial petitions from mortals with benefactions provided by the gods. This is by no means a balanced exchange, but tends rather toward negative reciprocity. Mortals give as little as possible for indescribable results: health, wealth and royal rule can be had for a mere calf or four oxen or a hundred oxen. Although bad enough to imagine that one could engage in a balanced exchange of the general symbolic media with God, it is shameful to think that one could trick a deity into bestowing superior goods for a meager offering.

Yet, some pray-ers on occasion imply that their communication with God has an element of balanced reciprocity. In some cases we read of complaints against the deity, which express the pray-ers' commitment and even sacrificial inducement to God which is not now being reciprocated.(68) At least for the moment, such complaints testify both to the pray-er's commitment to God (faithfulness, constant prayer; sacrifice), but also to the experience of shame, mockery and humiliation. An imbalance is perceived and so God is faulted for failing to respond with divine benefaction to the pray-er's commitment to God. Moreover, although in some situations pray-ers seem to engage in a sort of balanced reciprocity when they make promises and vows to God(69) to be fulfilled upon receipt of God's grant of deliverance or health, the psalmist declares that nothing that could be offered would be a sufficient repayment: "What shall I render to the Lord for all of his bounty to me?" (Ps 116:12). The best that can be done is "to pay my vows to the Lord," a remark which I suggest is but acknowledging God's honorable benefaction, not balancing it with anything. In the main, pray-ers receive God's generalized reciprocity, and their public praise only acknowledges God's claims of honor. Balanced reciprocity, at best, is but an occasional and illusory suggestion. Negative reciprocity, such as Lucian described, is shameful.

According to the definition of justice noted earlier, we often read of virtuous people who fulfil their duties to God, country and family. Does God have duties and obligations to the world He created and the people God has made His own? Does justice contain an element of balanced reciprocity? Just worshipers owe God the fulfilment of their vows, even as justice dictates that benefactions received are to be acknowledged. Commitment, as we saw, is what pray-ers owe the Deity, whether this be hymns of thanksgiving and praise or sacrifices, which acknowledge God's benefaction. Yet this relationship is hardly balanced, nor were ancient pray-ers bold enough to say that they had satisfied for all time the debt of benefaction from the Creator-Parent, which is implied in balanced reciprocity. Mortals can never repay the Lord or balance the scales, but live forever with the duty to praise and thank God. Josephus describes just this sort of piety:

Twice every day, at the dawn thereof, and when the hour comes for turning to repose, let all acknowledge before God the bounties which he has bestowed on them through their deliverance from the land of Egypt: thanksgiving is a natural duty, and is rendered alike in gratitude for past mercies and to incline the giver to others yet to come (Ant. 14.212, italics added).

"Duty," the emic term describing what mortals express in prayer of thanksgiving, encodes a sense of obligation to acknowledge God's benefaction. While it may be viewed by some as reciprocity (see Athens' honoring of Hyrcanus earlier), it looks more to the protocols of honor claims which are acknowledged, than to balanced reciprocity which seeks to equalize the scales of the exchange and thus terminate a particular act of barter. To render God His due, then, is not to engage in balanced reciprocity, but to send a response of commitment in view of altruistic benefactions received.

What do we know if we know this? First, we become aware of the four media of exchange (power, commitment, inducement and influence), which aid us in appreciating what a sender might communicate to a receiver. In general, mortal pray-ers communicate with God in terms of commitment, but also inducement-as-sacrifice; God may respond with all four forms of symbolic media. Second, if exchange appropriately describes the communication between pray-er and Deity, it seems best to describe God as exercising generalized reciprocity or altruism in bestowing divine benefaction in the form of power, commitment, inducement or influence. The pray-er's petition for or praise of divine benefaction does not seem to be a form of reciprocity of any kind. Pray-ers, we saw, approach God either as needy or grateful; but they are not exercising any power over God, nor bribing Him, nor bringing God anything God lacks. Unless by magical prayers they bind God (superstition) or think to extract resources from God through sacrifice (negative reciprocity). They engage in no reciprocity with God; pray-ers are the recipients of divine benefaction, that is, of divine favoritism or election. As recipients they are thereby indebted to God and have an obligation in justice to offer praise and thanksgiving. But this is hardly what was meant by balanced reciprocity, for there is no commensurability between gift and thanksgiving. The commitment of pray-ers is balanced by God's commitment, so to speak, but the Deity's eternal faithfulness and loyalty greatly surpass that of the pray-ers; hence there is no balance here.(70)

6.0 Patron-Client Relationships

Classicists have long appreciated the importance of the patron-client relationship in antiquity.(71) Frederick Danker brought to the attention of New Testament interpreters the grand tradition of honoring benefactors, a form of patron-client relations characteristic of the eastern Mediterranean.(72) Bruce Malina, however, pioneered the formal use of the anthropology of patron-client relations for interpreting early Christian literature.(73) His adapted model(74) of patron-client relations describes those that arise among peoples of unequal status and resources: landlord/ vassal, aristocrat/peasant, king/subject, father/son, and God/Israel. Thus patron-client relationships describe the vertical dimension of exchange between higher-status and lower-status persons. A full inventory of the standard features of patron-client relationships is found in the following note,(75) but we highlight those pertinent to this discussion.

First, patron-client relations all contain an element of exchange/benefit in them; otherwise, it would be difficult to know why patron and client engaged in a relationship at all. Malina noted: "Patron-client relations are based on strong inequality and difference between patrons and clients. Patrons monopolize certain positions of crucial importance to clients, especially access to means of production, major markets, and centers of society."(76) What, then, do patrons bestow on clients and what do clients render in return? Patrons are usually wealthy and powerful people, who have first-order goods, that is: (1) power to stop agonistic behavior threatening the life and livelihood of a client; (2) commitment to support clients by giving them a sense of kinship, albeit fictive, with the patron; (3) inducement, such as a dowry for the client's daughter, seed for his fields, or a daily ration of bread or money(77); and (4) influence, passing on a favorable word to the client's creditor or putting the client in touch with the right person to solve the client's problems. As Malina has shown, God is regularly understood as the patron-benefactor who bestows "grace" or favor,(78) that is altruistic benefaction. God's patronage, similar to that of earthly patrons, consists of first-order goods: (1) power: ability to create, to defeat Egyptian, Assyrian, and Seleucid armies, and to subdue the heavenly spirits who attack God's clients; (2) commitment: pledges of eternal loyalty and fidelity in a covenant of steadfast love with Abraham, David and their descendants; (3) inducement: bestowal of rain and sunshine for crops, increase of herds, and many children; (4) influence: knowledge of God's law and prophetic information of God's plans. Clients, as we saw above, cannot give power to this Patron, for God is omnipotent, or provide God with information, for God is omniscient. But clients can bring inducement, a material gift, such as a sacrifice, and offer commitment, public praise of and loyalty to Him.

Second, although we identified earlier four distinct symbolic media of exchange, the patron-client relationship does not seem to function in a one-for-one exchange: i.e., clients petition for inducement to pay taxes, in return for which they offer commitment. Rather, the symbolic media are exchanged as a package. With commitment from God the Patron comes power and/or inducement. In prayer, however, it becomes clear that the pray-er best brings God only commitment; for, as many biblical instances note, sacrifices and holocausts do not move the Deity, but rather faithfulness, obedience and loyalty, i.e., commitment.(79)

Third, anthropologists describe the relation between patron and client as particularistic, in that the patron does not treat all real or potential clients the same. Some individuals or groups are "chosen" favorites, singled out from the rest, and most favored.(80) Thus favoritism, so offensive to modern democratic ears and their notions of egalitarianism, thrives in a patron-client world. The Bible knows of many favorites of God(81): Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 15:13-16), David (2 Sam 7:8-16), and Israel: "The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the people that are on the face of the earth. It is not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples"(Deut 7:6-7).

Fourth, patron-client relations purport to endure for a long time, either the lifetime of the patron and client or, in the case of God's covenant with Israel, forever. An important corollary of this suggests that the virtues of loyalty and faithfulness, which are parts of the virtue of justice, will then become important in prayer relationships with the Deity.(82) As Deuteronomy said above about God's covenant with Israel, the Deity "keeps covenant and steadfast love. . .to a thousand generations." Similarly, the promise to David came to be interpreted as the patron's pledge of an eternal dynasty: "Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever" (2 Sam 7:13). Mortal clients, on the other hand, may pledge the same undying loyalty, but be unable to maintain the commitment. Nevertheless mutual pledges are frequent characteristics of patron-client relations, especially in prayers. In this context we recall the Athenian benefaction proclamation to Hyrcanus, in which they made it painfully clear that the client's duty to acknowledge the patron's worth entirely depends on Hyrcanus' continued patronage to them. Ideally, then, faithfulness and loyalty are core elements of a patron-client relationship.

What do we know as a result of this? The ubiquitous and ancient pattern of benefactor and patron-client relations greatly aids our interpretation of prayer. First, in prayer God and the pray-er are hierarchically or vertically positioned. God, who is Sovereign, Father, Lord and Savior, is also the Most High and vastly removed in status from mortals; nevertheless, there is a personal relationship expressed in these patron- client relationships. Second, in terms of the commerce of this relationship, God possesses and bestows all four media of exchange; but mortals, always the recipients of patronage, have only their commitment with which to acknowledge divine benefaction, and frail commitment at that. Prayer, then, is not an exchange of heavenly patronage for clients' earthly gifts. Rather, divine patronage is honorably acknowledged (i.e., commitment) with the sense that nothing else is suitable to bring to God. Finally, favoritism emerges as a significant element in patron-client relationships. Only some individuals or some peoples enjoy the patron's attention.

7.0 Prayer and Ritual

Bruce Malina conveniently summarized for us the anthropological understanding of ritual, an essential element for appreciating the social dynamics called prayer. Gathering the insights of those who study ritual, Malina articulated a basic distinction between status-transformation ritual and ceremony.(83) By status-transformation ritual, he means the process where persons assume a new role or status, hence a transformation of their status. For example, two people who marry move from single to exclusive status; and should the female in this marriage bear a child, she assumes a new role, namely, mother. Similarly, in the transformation which is baptism, people enter a Christian church, changing status from outsider to insider and from unclean to washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. Other status-transformation rituals include: birth and death (entering and leaving the land of the living), trial and imprisonment (unfit for society); graduation (from unskilled or ignorant status to that of a skilled and trained professional), and the like. Conversely, ceremonies serve to confirm institutions as well as roles and statuses within them. For example, a school or business or municipality may at a picnic or dinner host people employed by it or who are benefactors of it. The institution experiences confirmation of loyalty and support from those who attend the fete. Ceremonies include all memorials, anniversaries and birthdays at which the roles and statuses of those honored are re-burnished and thus confirmed. The entire liturgical calendar of the Christian church consists of a series of ceremonies.

The following diagram aims at sharpening the differences between status-transformation rituals and ceremonies so to make salient the social functioning of each.

Elements of a Ritual
Elements of a Ceremony
1. irregular pauses
1. regular pauses
2. unpredictable, when needed
2. predictable, planned
3. present-to-future
Temporal Focus
3. past-to-present
4. professionals
Presided Over By
4. officials
5. status reversal

status transformation

5.confirmation of roles and statuses in institutions

1. It is evident that transformation rituals are irregular, since no one plans to be ill or unclean or guilty or dead. Ceremonies such as meals, anniversaries or festivals, on the other hand, occur regularly, either daily, weekly, monthly or annually. 2. Thus transformation rituals, which focus on the change from sickness to health, sinfulness to holiness or life to death, do not fit into a calendar or schedule, since they occur unpredictably. Yet ceremonies are anticipated and planned for: the civic calendar marks the founding of the city, the birthday of the emperor and the feasts of the city's patron deities. 3. Transformation rituals all begin with the present, current situation (illness, sinfulness) and look to the future when that status will be changed. On the contrary, ceremonies look to some past event, historical or mythical, and affirm its significance in the present, as do national holidays such as July 4th or Memorial Day. 4. Transformation rituals are presided over by people deemed competent to deal with the situation; police deal with criminals, doctors treat the sick, firemen control blazes, ministers and priests counsel and forgive, and sanitation engineers dispose of our waste. On the other hand, the officials in our various national, state or local political institutions conduct ceremonies such as anniversaries and memorials (politics); priests and ministers officiate at liturgies (church), and parents prepare daily as well as birthday festivities for their children (kinship). 5. Finally, rituals of transformation do just that, ritualize either elevation or demotion in role and status. The person undergoing a transformation ritual experiences social change which is noted by a public: in marriage two people "become one flesh," a new social entity; in criminal proceedings the accused may be convicted and thus incarcerated or acquitted and set free; in illness the sick may either recover and return to family or worsen, die and be buried. Ceremonies, however, function to confirm role and status in a given institution. Anniversaries and birthdays bring to mind the king's birthday (Mark 6:21 ) or deliverance from bondage (Exod 12) or the Temple's purification (2 Macc 10:7-8; John 10:22). In the realm of sacrifice, those who participate in the consumption of the meat of the offering indicate their status as members of a clan or family or fictive-family.(84) Thus Antipas' powerful status is acknowledged both by the feast he prepares and by the attendance of his courtiers.(85) Participation with Jesus at the Passover meal on the night before he died confirms for all time the identity and status of Jesus' select disciples (Luke 22:14-34 ).

When we interface this information on prayer as either status transformation or confirmation with the earlier classification of prayer as communication, we further appreciate the character of those seven types of prayer.

Type of Communication
Status Transformation or

Distinguishing Aim
1. instrumental
status transformation
petition for what is lacking
2. regulatory
status transformation
petition to change self or other
3. interactional
contentment with current

4. self-focused
contentment with current status
5. heuristic
status transformation
seeking information which is

currently lacking
6. imaginative
status transformation when

newcomer participates; ceremony

in repeated performances
7. informational
confirmation of relationship

Instrumental or petitionary prayer, then, implies status transformation situation. Sinners beg for mercy so as to be changed into a state of blamelessness and holiness once more (Pss 38, 51); those overwhelmed by trials or attacked by enemies ask to be elevated from the current negative status to one of peace and harmony (Pss 56, 59). Regulatory prayers look to changes in status, either the rise in the pray-er's status or the lowering of some one else's. Interactional prayer ceremonially confirms roles and statuses in the institution of the House of Israel. The pray-er who prays Ps 84 ("How lovely is your dwelling place") is a member of the House of Israel who finds contentment and fulfilment in the temple of Israel's God; and the Deity addressed in this way is confirmed as the Patron of the people. Far from asking for change, the pray-er expresses satisfaction in his current status and wishes it to continue. Self-focused prayer confirms the status of the prayer, who may even boast in his present situation. Heuristic prayer seeks a status transformation from not knowing to knowing the mind and plans of God. Imaginative prayer, such as speaking in tongues, seems to have functioned at Corinth initially as status transformation but subsequently as ceremony. Those speaking in tongues initially experienced a transformation from non-elite to elite status, but every subsequent prayer in tongues confirmed them as special elite members of the Corinthian church. The informational type of prayer would seem to reflect what was said about ceremonies; namely, it serves to confirm roles and statuses in a given institution. Hence prayers of praise, thanks, honor and glory to God do not change the status of the pray-er or the Deity so honored; on the contrary, such prayers confirm God's role and status as Creator or Patron, while at the same time confirming the status of the pray-er as client of this heavenly Patron and worshiper of this particular Deity, all within the House of Israel. For example, the rubrics for Passover specify that Israel pray the Hillel psalms, Pss 113-114 after the third cup and Pss 115-116 at the very end of the meal (Mark 14:26). Those who pray these psalms confirm their membership in the people whom God rescued from slavery in Egypt. God, moreover, is confirmed as the Deity who works mighty works for his chosen people. Finally, prayers and psalms which became attached to certain festivals serve to confirm the roles and statuses of the pray-ers and the Deity addressed; they commemorate and thus bring a past event to present consciousness, thus renewing and strengthening the relationship of the clients with their Patron.(86)

8.0 Summary, Conclusions and Further Questions

8.1 Summary and Conclusions. This article aimed to introduce into the scholarly conversation about biblical prayer other ways of interpreting prayer texts, one that should take its place alongside of and in conversation with more conventional form-critical and history-of-religion studies. We do not find this approach in conflict with other methods of interpretation, rather it is a new player drafted into the team. This article has presented a systematic approach to understanding prayer in terms of cultural patterns which make up the social and political lives of the pray-ers. It began with a taxonomy of prayer based on a communications model, followed by a model for uncovering the complex value systems of both pray-er and God. Then it brought into conversation cultural and rhetorical notions of honor and shame, highlighting how honor is acquired [virtue, prowess, benefaction, conflict] and how this material relates to God as described in Israelite and Christian prayers. The system of exchange and modes of reciprocity served to clarify what pray-ers think they are offering and receiving from God. Most importantly, this material sharpened the ancient criticism of ritual and sacrifice, offering a coherent way of appreciating the frequent critique of formal religion by ancient reformers. Finally, the theory of ritual allowed us to examine more closely the process (transformation or confirmation) and players (prophet or priest) involved in the various types of prayer classified by the communications taxonomy. Thus we see that the various models used in this study overlap and often replicate one another.

The scope of this paper allowed no space for a lengthy interpretation of this or that prayer to test the model so as to draw any conclusions about its suitability for ancient prayers and pray-ers or the worth of a cultural analysis of ancient prayers. And this is unfortunate, because the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Hence, what is needed now is detailed analysis of certain prayers in Luke-Acts, the Letters of Paul, and Revelation to see what is gained or lost by using such modeling. Moreover, the use of the exchange and reciprocity models raises sensitive questions about the understanding of one's relationship to God, whether one can be said to add to God's honor or in any way obligate God. It may be that the answers in the biblical literature are many, not uniform; and further study is warranted which may involve philosophical and theological discussions of religion in antiquity. As far as I am concerned, this question remains open and troublesome.

8.2 Further Questions. What other cultural models for interpreting prayers might be added to those developed here? The following four perspectives seem like fresh questions to ask about prayers. 1. The conversation on prayer would benefit by the use of the model of social stratification articulated by Lenski and Lenski.(87) This allows a reader to plot the pray-er as well as others mentioned in the psalm in terms of social location and social status. Thus the pray-er may be immediately in communication with God, or be employing priests and liturgy as intermediaries. The pray-er may be asking God to turn the world upside down, raising the lowly and humbling the mighty. Hence, the presence and performance of mediating figures is at stake, as well as a petition for reform of the social order.

2. Many biblical prayers employ language reflecting both the vocabulary of purity and pollution and the social function of this language. Strong boundary making and identity confirming is often noticed by scholars, which can be brought into conversation with the treatment above concerning status transformation rituals and ceremonies, which move people across social lines or confirm social lines in and around a group. 3. Models of ancient personality should be brought into the conversation on prayer.(88) For, if the ancients are group-oriented persons, not individualists as modern Westerners are, then the ego of the pray-er must be assessed in terms of that construct, lest we engage in ethnocentrism. By group-oriented person, we refer to the type of individual Josephus describes:

Our sacrifices are not occasions for drunken self-indulgence-such practices are abhorrent to God-but for sobriety. At these sacrifices prayers offered for the welfare of the community take precedence of those for ourselves; for we are born for fellowship, and he who sets its claims above his private interests is especially acceptable to God (Against Apion 2.195-96).

4. Finally, since so many psalms and prayers contain references to body parts, lifting of hands, falling to one's knees, God's right hand, eyes, ears, and heart, it would be worthwhile to bring the description of the three body zones into the conversation on prayer.(89) This model might be particularly useful in assessing the degree of personal involvement in either sin (many zones) and repentance or praise. Moreover it provides a way of assessing the tension that might arise in prayer between the external rituals of some (hands and feet) and the internal processes of reformers (heart).



1. Herman Gunkel, The Psalms. A Form-Critical Introduction (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967; B. W. Anderson, Out of the Depths. The Psalms Speak for Us Today (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1983); Claus Westermann, Praise and Lament in the Psalms (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981) and Hans- Joachim.Kraus, Psalms 1-59 : A Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub. House, 1988); see also Patrick Miller, They Cried to the Lord. The Form and Theology of Biblical Prayer (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994).

2. Patristic materials on the Our father

3. Roger T. Beckwith, "The Daily and Weekly Worship of the Primitive Church in Relation to its Jewish Antecedents. Pt 1," EvQ 56 (1984) 65-80. James H. Charlesworth, "A Prolegomenon to the Study of the Jewish Background of the Hymns and Prayers in the New Testament," Journal of Jewish Studies 33 (1982) 264-85; "Prayer in the New Testament in Light of Contemporary Jewish Prayers." SBLSP 1993 773-86, "Jewish Hymns, Odes, and Prayers (ca. 167 b.c.e - 135 c.e.), " Early Judaism and Its Modern Interpreters.. R.A. Kraft and G.W.E. Nicklesburg, eds. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996) 411-36. See also Michael Wyschogrod, "The 'Shema Israel' in Judaism and the New Testament (Deut 6:4-9; 11:13-21; Num 15: 37-41)." Pp. 23-32 in H. G. Link, ed., The Roots of our Common Faith (1984) and T. Zahavy, 1989 "Three Stages in the Development of Early Rabbinic Prayer." Pp. in Jacob Neusner, Ernest Frerichs, and Nahum Sarna, eds., From Ancient Israel to Modern Judaism: Essays in Honor of Marvin Fox. Vol. 1 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989).

4. For example, Joachim Jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978) and The Lord's Prayer (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980).

5. Gordon P. Wiles, Paul's Intercessory Prayers: The Significance of the Intercessory Prayer Passages in Paul's Letters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974).

6. Gerald F. Downing, "The Ambiguity of 'The Pharisee and the Toll-Collector' (Luke 18:9-14) in the Greco-Roman World of Late Antiquity," CBQ 54 (1992) 80-99; Allison A. Trites, "The Prayer Motif in Luke-Acts." Perspectives on Luke-Acts. Charles H. Talbert, ed. (Danville, VA: Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, 1978) 168-86; and Steven F. Plymale, The Prayer Texts of Luke-Acts (New York: Peter Lang, 1991).

7. Reinhart Deichgräber, Gotteshymnus und Christushymnus in der frühen Christenheit (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1969) 25-40, 97-102; Matthew Black, "The Doxology to the Pater Noster with a Note on Matthew 6:13b, " A Tribute to Geza Vermes (Philip Davies and Richard White, eds.; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991) 327-38.

8. Samuel E. Balentine, Prayer in the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993) and Patrick Miller, They Cried to the Lord.

9. Pieter van der Horst and Gregory Sterling, Prayers in Antiquity: Greco-Roman, Jewish and Christian Prayers (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 199?); and Simon Pulleyn, Prayer in Greek Religion (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997).

10. See Carl A. Volz, "Prayer in the Early Church., A Primer on Prayer. Paul R. Sponheim, ed. (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988) 36-50.

11. This volume was edited by James H. Charlesworth with Mark Harding and Mark Kiley (Trinity Press International: Valley Forge, PA, 1994). See also Mark Kiley, ed., Prayer from Alexander to Constantine. A Critical Anthology (New York: Routledge, 1997).

12. Jerome H. Neyrey, 2 Peter, Jude (AnB 37C; New York: Doubleday, 1993) 94-101; Douglas E. Oakman, "The Lord's Prayer in Social Perspective." Pp. in Bruce Chilton and Craig Evans, ---- (forthcoming, available in manuscript); and John J. Pilch, "Prayer in Luke." The Bible Today 18 (1980) 221-25.

13. Bruce J. Malina, "What Is Prayer?" The Bible Today 18/4 (1980) 214-20.

14. Malina, "What Is Prayer?" 215.

15. Included here are curses, spells, incantations and the like. See Christopher A. Faraone and Dirk Obgink, eds., Magika Hiera. Ancient Greek Magic and Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); Hans Dieter Betz, ed., The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, 2nd edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986) and Martin Meyer and Richard Smith, eds., Ancient Christian Magic. Coptic Texts of Ritual Power (San Francisco: Harper, 1994).

16. Malina, "What Is Prayer?" 217-18.

17. Kraus, Psalms 1-59. A Commentary, 38-62. See Claus Westermann, The Praise of God in the Psalms (Richmond, VA: John Knox, 1961) and The Psalms, Structure, Content, and Message (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1980). Patrick D. Miller, Interpreting the Psalms, passim

18. In a careful study of Luke 18:9-14, F. Gerald Downing carefully analyzed the prayers of pharisee and tax collector against the background of prayers in the Israelite and Greco-Roman world ("The Ambiguity of 'The Pharisee and the Toll-Collector' (Luke 18:9-14) in the Greco-Roman World of Late Antiquity" CBQ 54 [1992] 80-99). One of Downing's conclusions was that both prayers were "self-absorbed," but he had no broader classification system to sort out the prayers.

19. For example, both Psalms of thanksgivings (Ps 116) and epistolary prayers of thanksgiving (Rom 1:8-15; 1 Cor 1:4-9; Phil 1:3-11; Col 1:3-8; 1 Thess 1:3-10) and blessings of God (2 Cor 1:3-7; Eph 1:3-10; 1 Peter 1:3-9).

20. For example, Rom 16:25-27; Phil 4:20; Jude 24-25.

21. Ps 118 is the clearest example of this, but see also Pss 30 and136.

22. John J. Pilch, "Healing in Mark: A Social-Science Analysis," BTB 15 (1985) 142-50; "The Health Care System in Matthew," BTB 16 (1986) 102-106; "Understanding Biblical Healing: Selecting the Appropriate Model," 18 (1988) 60-66; "Sickness and Healing in Luke-Acts," The Social World of Luke-Acts. Models for Interpretation (Jerome H. Neyrey, ed.; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991) 181-210;

"Understanding Healing in the Social World of Early Christianity," BTB 22 (1992) 26-33; and "Insights and Models for Understanding the Healing Activity of the Historical Jesus," SBLSP 1993: 154-77.

23. F. R. Kluckhorn and F. L. Strodbeck, Variations in Value Orientations. (New York: Harper and Row, 1961); Arthur Kleinman, Patients and Healers in the Context of Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980); and Monica McGoldrick John K. Pearce, and Joseph Giordano, eds., Ethnicity and Family Therapy (New York: The Guilford Press, 1982).

24. John J. Pilch and Bruce J. Malina, Biblical Social Values and Their Meanings (Peabody MA: Hendrickson, 1993) xiii.

25. Time and again in their efforts to sensitive Euro-American readers to the differences between us moderns and them ancients, Bruce Malina in particular has provided a detailed series of contrasts between modern first-world countries and the ancient world. See, for example, Bruce J. Malina and Jerome H. Neyrey, Calling Jesus Names. The Social Value of Labels in Matthew (Sonoma, CA: Polebridge, 1988) 145-51; Bruce Malina, Windows on the World of Jesus. Time Travels to Ancient Judea (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993); and Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey, Portraits of Paul. An Archeology of Ancient Personality (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1996) 226-31.

26. This adaptation of the value map appeared first in Pilch's Introducing the Cultural Context of the New Testament (New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1991) 244; the version in our text is that of Pilch and Malina, Biblical Social Values, xxiii.

27. Especially in the holy war tradition, Israel is told to "be still" while God battles on their behalf (Exod 14:4; Ps 37:7 and 46:10).

28. In response to the work of Joachim Jeremias, James Barr ("Abba Isn't Daddy," JTS 39 [1988] 28-47) examined the linguistic evidence concerning interpretation of the Abba in Jesus' own prayer; it does not mean "Daddy." For accessing some of the political meaning of the term, see Mary Rose D'Angelo...

29. See Isa 41:4; Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8; see also Jerome H. Neyrey, "'Without Beginning of Days or End of Life' (Hebrews 7:3): Topos for a True Deity," CBQ 53 (1991) 439-55.

30. Bruce Malina ("Christ and Time: Swiss or Mediterranean?" CBQ 51 [1989] 1-31) provided the biblical guild with an excellent anthropological study on the meaning of time as it applies to the Bible. Of the future he writes: "The past and the future as the possible cannot belong and never will belong to human beings. To glimpse the world of the distant past, or of the future, the world of the possible, is to assume divine prerogatives. In Israel such insolence was idolatry, while for Greeks it was hubris. The possible past and the possible future are simply closed to human beings" (p. ??).

31. Jonah 1:4-16, Mark 4:35-41, Acts 27:13-44; storms themselves were thought to be caused by some heavenly being, either the God of Israel or a hostile spirit. Nevertheless, those caught in storms were powerless against them. See Vernon Robbins, "'By Land and by Sea': The We-Passages and Ancient Sea Voyages," Perspectives on Luke-Acts (Charles H. Talbert, ed.; Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1978) 215-42.

32. In addition to the seven-year famine at the end of Genesis, see 1 Kings 17:1-16; Acts 11:27-30.

33. See Wilhelm Michaelis, "," TDNT 3.914-15.

34. Particularly helpful here is the study by John Pilch, "'Beat His Ribs While He Is Still Young' (Sirach 30:12): A Window on the Mediterranean World," BTB 1993: 101-13.

35. In Phil 1:6 Paul states his hope in God relative to past and present: "And I am sure that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

36. On the motif of prophecy-fulfilment, see R. H. Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew's Gospel (NovTSupp 18; Leiden: Brill, 1967); G. M. Soares-Prabhu, The Formula Quotations in the Infancy of Matthew (Analecta Biblica 63; Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1976); on Luke's gospel, see David L. Tiede, Prophecy and History in Luke-Acts (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980) and Charles H. Talbert, "Prophecy and Fulfillment in Lucan Theology," Luke-Acts. New Perspectives from the Society of Biblical Literature Seminar (Charles H. Talbert, ed.; New York: Crossroads, 1984) 91-103.

37. On Romans 5:12-21, see the sage remarks of Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans (AnB 33; New York: Doubleday, 1993) 405-28.

38. Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World. Insights from Cultural Anthropology (Rev. ed.; Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993) 28-62. See also Bruce J. Malina and Jerome H. Neyrey, "Honor and Shame in Luke-Acts: Pivotal Values of the Mediterranean World," The Social World of Luke-Acts. Models for Interpretation (Jerome H. Neyrey, ed.; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991) 97-124. See also Johannes Pedersen, Israel: Its Life and Culture, vol 1 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991) 213-44.

39. Julian Pitt-Rivers, "Honour and Social Status," Honour and Shame: The Values of Mediterranean Society (J. G. Peristiany, ed.; London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965) 19-78;

"Honor." IESS 6.503-11 ( 1968); The Fate of Shechem or The Politics of Sex: Essays in the Anthropology of the Mediterranean (Cambridge Studies in Social Anthropology 19; Cambridge University Press, 1977) 1.

40. Malina, New Testament World, 59. The study of "honor" by Johannes Schneider ("," TDNT 8.169-80) presents the various meanings of ; but "honor" is expressed by other terms, hence semantic word field studies are needed, such as A. Klose,"Altrömische Wertbegriffe (honos und dignitas)," Neue Jahrbücher für Antike und deutsche Bildung 1 (1938) 268-78 and Emile Benveniste, Indo-European Language and Society (Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1969) 334-45.

41. See Malina, New Testament World, 33-34; see also Bruce J. Malina and Jerome H. Neyrey; Portraits of Paul, 16-17, 92-93, 202-205.

42. The definition given by Ps. Aristotle goes as follows: "To righteousness (di) it belongs to be ready to distribute according to desert, and to preserve ancestral customs and institutions and the established laws, and to tell the truth when interest is at stake, and to keep agreements. First among the claims of righteousness are our duties to the gods, then our duties to the spirits, then those to country and parents, then those to the departed; among these claims is piety (), which is either a part of righteousness or a concomitant of it. Righteousness is also accompanied by holiness () and truth and loyalty () and hatred of wickedness" (Virtues and Vices, V.2-3, italics added). See also Cicero, Inv. 2.160-161; Menander Rhetor I.361.17-25.

43. The premier collection of benefaction inscriptions for biblical study is that of Frederick C. Danker, Benefactor. Epigraphic Study of a Graeco-Roman and New Testament Semantic Field (St. Louis: Clayton Publishing House, 1982); see also A. R. Hands, Charities and Social Aid in Greece and Rome (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1968) 175-209. See also S. R. Llewellyn, "The Development of Systems of Liturgies," NDIEC 7 (1994) 93-111; Stephen C. Mott, "The Power of Giving and Receiving: Reciprocity in Hellenistic Benevolence," Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation (Gerald Hawthorne, ed.; Grand Rapids: W.E. Eerdmans, 1975) 60-72.

44. Isaeus provides an excellent example of this: "Our forefathers. . .performed every kind of choregic office, contributed large sums for your expenses in war, and never ceased acting as trierarchs. As evidence of all these services, they set up in the temples out of the remainder of their property, as a memorial of their civic worth, dedications, such as tripods which they had received as prizes for choregic victories in the temple of Dionysus, or in the shrine of Pythian Apollo. Furthermore, by dedicating on the Acropolis the first-fruits of their wealth, they have adorned the shrine with bronze and marble statues, numerous, indeed, to have been provided out of a private fortune" (On the Estate of Dicaeogenes 5.41-42).

45. For a clearer sense of the do ut des character of benefactions, see Josephus, Ant. 14.212.

46. One is reminded of the practice of victorious kings putting atop their already crowned head the crown of the monarch just vanquished. Thus the honor taken from the defeated directly increased that of the victor. The same would be true of the spoils of war.

47. See Ronald F. Hock and Edward N. O'Neil, The Chreia in Ancient Rhetoric. Volume I. The Progymnasmata

(Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986) and Jerome H. Neyrey, "Questions, Chreiai, and Challenges to Honor: The Interface of Rhetoric and Culture in Mark's Gospel," CBQ 60 (1998) 657-81.

48. For an enlightened exposition of these psalms of complaint or lament, see Patrick Miller, They Cried to the Lord, 68-86.

49. For a fuller exposition of Ps 22 as Jesus' dying prayer, see my Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998) 156-60. The aggressive nature of questions such as "Where is. . .? Why have you. . .?" has been splendidly analyzed by Patrick Miller, They Cried to the Lord, 68-79 and 99-100.

50. Yet Harold Attridge (The Epistle to the Hebrews [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989] 196, where he cites biblical examples of lesser people blessing greater ones. Yet his discussion seems innocent of social- science concepts such as ascribed and achieved honor.

51. The premier example is the boast God makes before destroying the Egyptian army at the Exodus: "And I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host" (Exod 14:4; see also vv 17-18; Ezek 28:22).

52. In a henotheistic world, Yahweh competes with the gods of the nations for glory and honor; therefore God is in conflict with the gods of the nations as these peoples fight against Israel. In a monotheistic world, Yahweh as the only deity in the universe does not need to battle other deities. Hence, it would seem that notions such as God "getting glory" would belong to henotheistic times and would have little meaning in a monotheistic world.

53. God is regularly reminded that "The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence" (Ps 115:17; see also Isa 38:18-19). The same sentiment appears also at Qumran: "Surely a maggot cannot praise thee nor a grave-worm recount thy lovingkindness, but the living can praise thee" (11QPs-a XIX. 1-2). Thus pray-ers, at least, see God as gaining more or less honor in proportion to the number of the living who acknowledge the Lord.

54. See Deut 7:9; Pss 31:5; 69:13; 97:10; 111:7; 145:13; Isa 49:7; 1 Cor 1:9; 10:13; 2 Cor 1:18; 1 Thess 5:24; 2 Thess 3:3; 2 Tim 2:13; Heb 10:23 and 1 John 1:9.

55. Pss 13:1-2; 35:17; 74:10; 79:5; 80:4; 89:46; 90:13; 94:3.

56. Pss 10:1; 22:1; 42:9; 44:23-24; 74:1, 11; 88:14.

57. Pss 79:10; 115:2; as mentioned above, an excellent treatment of this questioning material can be found in Miller, They Cried to the Lord, 71-74.

58. Bruce J. Malina, Christian Origins and Cultural Anthropology. Practical Models for Biblical Interpretation (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1986) 75-76; he is digesting Talcott Parsons, Politics and Social Structure (New York: Free Press, 1969) 352-429.

59. Talcott Parsons, Politics and Social Structure (New York: Free Press, 1969) 352-437; see also his earlier article, "On the Concept of Influence," Public Opinion Quarterly 27 (1963) 37-62.

60. Malina, Christian Origins and Cultural Anthropology, 77.

61. Earlier we described one of the types of prayer as "informative," in which senders make known sentiments such as sorrow for sins as well as thanksgiving. The pray-er may consider this secret information, yet some Psalms indicate that God knows the hearts of all (Ps 139 "O Lord, you have searched me and know me").

62. In the case of Saul, "to obey (commitment) is better than sacrifice (inducement)" (1 Sam 15:10-23); see Ps 40:6-8 LXX.

63. On sacrifice as a form of inducement, Bruce J. Malina ( "Mediterranean Sacrifice: Dimensions of Domestic and Political Religion," BTB 26 [1996] 37) defined sacrifice as, "Sacrifice is a ritual in which a deity or deities is/are offered some form of inducement, rendered humanly irretrievable, with a view to some life-effect for the offerer(s)."

64. See Isa 1:11-16; Jer 6:20; 7:3-29; Hos 6:6; 8:11-13; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Malachi 1:6-14.

65. Malina, Christian Origins and Cultural Anthropology, 98-106; he drawing on the work of Marshall Sahlin, Stone Age Economics (Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1972).

66. One might profitably think of "regulatory" prayer as in some way being an example of negative reciprocity; the pray-er performs perfunctory rites, bringing as little as is needed to secure a powerful result. God is shamed both by the assertion of the pray-er's power or control and by the desire to reduce contact with the deity to the most minimal level. God loses all around.

67. See James 1:5-8; on the traditions reflected here, see Luke T. Johnson, The Letter of James (AnB 37A; New York: Doubleday, 1995) 179-81.

68. See Claus Westermann, Praise and Lament in the Psalms, 176ff; Samuel Balentine, The Hidden God: The Hiding of the Face of God in the Old Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983) 116-35; Craig Broyles, The Conflict of Faith and Experience in the Psalms (JSOTSup 52.; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1989) 80-82; and Patrick Miller, They Cried to the Lord, 70-76.

69. See Num 21:2; 30:2-3; Deut 23:18, 21; Pss 22:25; 50:14; 56:12; 61:5, 8; 66:13; 116:14, 18.

70. The Sacramentary of the Roman Catholic Church contains a preface prayer for use on weekdays: "You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness, but makes us grow in your grace" (Weekdays IV P40).

71. For example, Richard P. Saller, Personal Patronage Under the Early Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Paul Veyne, Bread and Circuses. Historical Sociology and Political Pluralism (London: Penguin Press, 1990); and Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, ed., Patronage in Ancient Society (London: Routledge, 1989).

72. Frederick W. Danker, Benefactor. Epigraphical Study of a Graeco-Roman and New Testament Semantic Field, mentioned above in note 43. 1982.

73. The initial study is Bruce J. Malina, "Patron and Client: The Analogy Behind Synoptic Theology," Forum 4,1 (1988) 2-32; this article was made more widely available in Malina's The Social World of Jesus and the Gospels (London: Routledge, 1996) 143-75. See also John H. Elliott. . .

74. The important anthropological literature includes Steffen Schmidt, James Scott, Carl Landé, and Laura Guasti, Friends, Followers and Factions: A Reader in Political Clientalism (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1977); Jeremy Boissevain, Friends of Friends: Networks, Manipulators and Coalitions (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1974);and Shlomo Eisenstadt and Louis Rhoniger, Patrons, Clients, and Friends: Interpersonal Relations and the Structure of Trust in Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).

75. The following features of patron-client relations as described in anthropological literature include: 1. patron-client relations are particularistic; 2. patron-client interaction involves the exchange of a whole range of generalized symbolic media: power, influence, inducement and commitment; 3. the exchange entails a package deal, so that the generalized symbolic media cannot be given separately (i.e., concretely useful goods must go along with loyalty, solidarity); 4. solidarity here entails a strong element of unconditionality and long-range social credit; 5. hence, patron-client relations involve a strong element of personal obligation, ranging from high to low salience, even if relations are often ambivalent; 6. these relations are not fully legal or contractual, but very strongly binding, i.e., they are informal and often opposed to official laws of the country; 7. in principle, patron-client relations entered into voluntarily can be abandonded voluntarily, although always proclaimed to be life-long, long-range, forever, etc. 8. patron-client relations are vertical and dyadic (between individuals or networks of individuals) and, thus, they undermine the horizontal group organization and solidarity of clients and other patrons. 9. patron-client relations are based on strong inequality and difference between patrons and clients. Patrons monopolize certain positions of crucial importance to clients, especially access to means of production, major markets, and centers of society (Malina, "Patron and Client," 3-4).

76. Malina, "Patron and Client," 4.

77. Duncan Cloud ("The Patron-Client Relationship: Emblem and Reality in Juvenal's First Book," Patronage in Ancient Society, 210) notes that Pliny, Martial and Perseus all describe Roman patrons bestowing 25 asses on each client at the morning salutatio.

78. In a lengthy note, Malina ("Patron and Client," 171-172) describes the various meanings of , , and which express patronage.

79. The more notable examples are 1 Sam 15:22; Pss 40:6-8; 50:8-15; 51:16, 17; Isa 1:10-17; Jer 7:21-26; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-24.

80. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is declared "favored" by God (Luke 1:28, 30), a favoritism which forms part of her canticle (1:47-49). In ancient Israel, David, his successors in his dynasty, and also the people Israel are all declared "chosen" or "elected" by God. The psalmist prays "I know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself" (Ps 4:3); and in another place, "Thou art the glory of their strength; by thy favor is their horn exalted" (Ps 89:17); "He led forth his people with joy, his chosen ones with singing" (Ps 105:43). In the Christian scriptures, Jesus himself is "that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious" (1 Peter 2:4); and the followers of Jesus are called "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people" (1 Peter 2:9). On this theme of favoritism, see G. Quell, "," TDNT 4.145-68.

81. For example, it seems to be a pattern that God chooses the younger son over his older brother, a clear mark of favoritism: Abel over Cain, Isaac or Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Joseph over his brothers. The same argument is used by Paul in his explanation of the choosing of the gentiles (Rom 9:6-29).

82. Paul's "thanksgiving" prayer which opens 1 Corinthians contains an inventory of God's blessings past and future; it concludes appropriately with confession of God's faithfulness: "God is faithful () by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son" (1:9; see 10:13). And the doxology which concludes 1 Thessalonians also expresses the same idea: "He who calls you is faithful () and he will do it" (5:24; see 2 Thess 3:3).

83. Malina, Christian Origins and Cultural Anthropology, 139-65. Victor Turner makes this distinction clear: "I consider the term 'ritual' to be more fittingly applied to forms of religious behavior associated with social transitions, while the term 'ceremony' has a closer bearing on religious behavior associated with religious states. . .Ritual is transformative, ceremony confirmative" (The Forest of Symbols. Aspects of Ndembu Ritual [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967] 95). See also Raymond Firth and John Skorupski, Symbol and Theory. A Philosophical Study of Theories of Religion in Social Anthropology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976) 164.

84. Nancy Jay, Throughout Your Generations Forever (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991) 41-60; see Marcel Detienne, "Culinary Practices and the Spirit of Sacrifice," The Cuisine of Sacrifice among the Greeks (Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant, eds.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989) 4-14.

85. Matt 22:3-4 and Luke 14:17-20, 24. See Richard L. Rohrbaugh, "The Pre-Industrial City in Luke-Acts," The Social World of Luke-Acts (Jerome H. Neyrey, ed.; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991) 137-46.

86. The traditional classification of certain types of psalms are best seen as ceremonies: 1) royal psalms (Pss. 2; 20; 21; 45; 72; 89; 101; 110; 132; 141:1-11); 2) songs of Zion (Pss (46); 48: 76; 84; 87; 122; (132); 3) festival psalms and liturgies (Pss 50; 81; 95).

87. Gerhard Lenski and Jean Lenski, Human Societies. An Introduction to Macro-sociology (New York: McGraw Hill, 1987). For excellent use of this model, see Dennis C. Duling, "Matthew's Plurisignificant 'Son of David' in Social Science Perspective: Kinship, Kingship, Magic and Miracle," BTB 22: 99-116; and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, 1993a"The Social Location of the Marcan Audience," BTB 23: 114-27.

88. Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey, "First-Century Personality: Dyadic, Not Individual" (Jerome H. Neyrey, ed., The Social World of Luke-Acts. Models for Interpretation. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991) 67-96; and Portraits of Paul. An Archaeology of Ancient Personality (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press) 1996.

89. Bernard De Geradon, O.S.B.,L'homme à l'image de Dieu," NRT 80 (1958) 683-95.


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