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Private Prayer

"Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has given us life, and sustained us, and brought us to this season.”Traditional Jewish prayer

The vicissitudes of daily life, as well as the constraints imposed by time and distance, frequently precluded the full participation of individuals in communal prayer services with their co-religionists. Individual worshippers, unable to join other members of their respective faith communities in the performance of liturgical rites and rituals, nevertheless incorporated many of the traditions of group worship into their personal devotions and prayers. The ritual practices and prayers of the public sphere were in this way combined with familiar customs and often influenced by personal experience. The traditions of private prayer evolved over time, passed down through generations of believers, until these traditions themselves became codified and regulated by religious authorities. Still, at the very core of private prayer is the individual, standing in the presence of no one but God. It is at that moment that he or she most closely approximates the circumstances of the divine and revelatory experience vouchsafed to Abraham, and to the seminal figures of each of the faith traditions that emanated from him.

Image: Al-Kalim al-Tayyib wa al-Ghayth al-Sayyib [Good Words and Abundant Rain]. ‛Ali ibn Sadr al-Din al-Husayni. Iran, 19th century. NYPL, Spencer Collection.