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Keywords:

  • proclivity;
  • absorption;
  • Christianity;
  • anthropology of religion;
  • prayer

ABSTRACT  In this article, we use a combination of ethnographic data and empirical methods to identify a process called “absorption,” which may be involved in contemporary Christian evangelical prayer practice (and in the practices of other religions). The ethnographer worked with an interdisciplinary team to identify people with a proclivity for “absorption.” Those who seemed to have this proclivity were more likely to report sharper mental images, greater focus, and more unusual spiritual experience. The more they prayed, the more likely they were to have these experiences and to embrace fully the local representation of God. Our results emphasize learning, a social process to which individuals respond in variable ways, and they suggest that interpretation, proclivity, and practice are all important in understanding religious experience. This approach builds on but differs from the approach to religion within the culture-and-cognition school.