The Arrow prayer in the Coptic tradition
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 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.