Journals Higher Education



Published: 02 November 2000

248 Pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

ISBN: 9780195136104

Also Available As:


Bookseller Code (04)

The Life of Prayer in a World of Science

Protestants, Prayer, and American Culture, 1870-1930

Rick Ostrander

Religion in America

By the end of the 19th century, the ascendance of a naturalistic worldview had made it increasingly difficult for many educated Christians to believe in a God who intervened in the natural world. At the same time, many in the emerging middle-class culture saw themselves as too busy to practice the rigorous devotions of their ancestors. In this book, Rick Ostrander explores the attempts of American Protestants to articulate a convincing and satisfying ethic of prayer in these changing circumstances. Ostrander shows that, in response to the assault on petitionary prayer by naturalistic scientists, American Evangelicals articulated a highly supernatural ethic of prayer and co-opted the "scientific method" to defend their stance, recording and cataloging numerous answers to prayer as empirical proof of prayer's efficacy. Liberal Protestants, on the other hand, with their desire to adapt to modern thought, gradually abandoned traditional belief in petitionary prayer. The debate about the efficacy of petitionary prayer and other "alternative therapies" in mental and physical healing has taken on new vigor today; this timely and engagingly written work not only chronicles the history of that debate, but serves to illuminate the issues that are at stake.