Anglo-Saxon Theories of Prayer

Anglo-Saxon Theories of Prayer at Kalamazoo’s 48th Medieval Congress
Stephanie Clark, U of Oregon
degree at U of Illinois
small taste of her book on Gift Theory of Prayer

Catholic Homily 131—praying over xxx with paternoster rather than chanting to enchant them…

“if prayer is at the heart of religion…. the use of prayer that Aelfric advocates has real implications for the way that AS …

usually looked at this prayer as charm creation

Obviously none of us like it when the medievalists ignore the Dark Ages, but some of it is the type of prayer, set prayer as opposed to personal or contemplative prayer. We assume that highest form of prayer is the individual soul gaining knowledge of the divine.

As in Christianity in general, not a lot of OE… but Aelfric and Bede… place prayer in the context of gift exchange.
Xianity uses gift exchange, models.
AS Eng added native English practices of gift…

both use language and obligation of gift, when talking about prayer
both cases practices of lordship are related to Germanic expectations
both wary of certain exchange models
both articulate different limits/boundaries to reciprocity

gift theory… gifts have a so-to-speak voluntary character…
100 years of gift theory… to tease out…

question of self-interest
gifts are constrained and self-interested

opposition between interested gifts and selfless gift is important in modern experience
we are uncomfortable with gift giving.
pure gift has particular ideological implication

quite often gift giving’s continuum goes from self-interest and selfishness
Those who try to blur the line between the two are selling something.

considering Bede, would expect to find strong reciprocity in Aelfric
exchange model is ideal gift (or balanced reciprocity)

commodity makes relationship between commodity
gift exchange expresses relationship between the givers
(restrained and self-interested)

to spell out responsibilities is to destroy gift…
gift is already insincere, because talked about one way and used in another

How can we tell if intention is pure or gift is counterfeit?

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