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The Arrow prayer in the Coptic tradition

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posted on 2022-03-28, 12:04 authored by Anthony St Shenouda
The New Testament injunction to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) was put into practice by early Christians and was further formulated by the Egyptian monks and was eventually known as the Arrow Prayer. The Arrow Prayer was practised by the continuous repetition of a formula, which consists of a bible verse, a saying of a monastic elder, the name of Jesus, or a liturgical formula. From reading key monastic, liturgical and hagiographical sources, we can appreciate the extent of the use of the Arrow Prayer across various social milieus. The aim of this thesis is to provide the social backdrop that explains the widespread use of this prayer, providing evidence from the education system, and the practice of memorisation and meditation in antiquity. I further argue that the Bible was one of the primary sources for the formulas for the Arrow Prayer and for how the practice of this prayer was prominently used to identify the Holy Man in hagiography. By providing the historical context and stipulating the use of the prayer in different milieus, it becomes clear that the Arrow Prayer was in use by monastics and laity in the Coptic Church from the early centuries of Christianity and to an erratic degree the twentieth century.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Part One. The status quaestionis and the sources of the arrow prayer. 1. Literature review 2. The sources -- Part Two. Antecedents and context. 3. Arrow prayer as weapon of war 4. Oral cultures 5.Education as a source of formula -- Part Three. Mapping the practice of the arrow prayer. 6. Memorisation 7. Meditation 8. The Bible as arrow prayer 9. The arrow prayer in hagiography -- Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 253-268

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Malcolm Choat


Copyright Anthony St Shenouda 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




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