Ancient Writings of the Primitive Church and the Prayer Circle

The prayer circle was very prominent in early apocryphal Christian literature. In several accounts, the Twelve Apostles gather in a circle around Jesus Christ to be taught the mysteries of the kingdom, particularly how to progress in the eternal worlds.

Initiates often repeat the words of the prayer or say "amen" at the end of each line. In another text, Adam is portrayed as the model for all suppliants as he prays with uplifted arms at an altar. Other literature describes the early Christian practices of helping the dead through saving ordinances and of placing names on the prayer altar as a way to devote special prayers to those people. Extensive and varied ancient sources generally state that prayer circles are solemn ordinances designed to introduce initiates to the sacred mysteries of the kingdom; that prayer circles always take place within the temple or a similar setting; that the words and gestures integral to the prayer circle make sense to participants in the context of the circle, but not to outsiders; and that participants in the circle are ordinary church members, with a high priest presiding. The prayer circle as introduced by Joseph Smith provides a perfect consistency between historical materials and theology.(The Early Christian Prayer Circle, BYU Studies 19, no. 1 (1978): 41–78.)

The Early Christian Prayer Circle Rite

InThe Early Christian Prayer Circle by Hugh Nibley, we are told, "the actual performance of such a rite [Prayer Circle] is described in a very old text, attributed to Clement of Rome and preserved in a seventh century Syriac translation entitled "The Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ as delivered orally by him to us the Apostles after his Resurrection following his death."

In celebrating the sacrificial death of the Lord, Max Pulver in his study "The Round Dance and the Crucifixion," tells how the bishop would:
make the sacrifice, the veil of the gate being drawn aside as a sign of the straying of the former people; he would make the offering within the veil along with priests, deacons, authorized widows, subdeacons, deaconesses, readers and such as were endowed with spiritual gifts. As leader the Bishop stands in the middle . . . [the men and women are assigned their places, north, south, east and west, around him]. Then all give each other the sign of peace. Next, when absolute silence is established, the deacon says: "Let your hearts be to heaven. If anyone has any ill feeling towards his neighbor, let him be reconciled. If anyone has any hesitation or mental reservations [doubts] let him make it known; if anyone finds any of the teachings incongenial, let him withdraw [etc.]. For the Father of Lights is our witness with the Son and visiting angels. Take care lest you have aught against your neighbor. . . . Lift up your hearts for the sacrifice of redemption and eternal life. Let us be grateful for the knowledge which God is giving us." The Bishop . . . says in an awesome voice: "Our Lord be [or is] with you!" And all the people respond: "And with thy spirit."(Ignatius Ephraem II Rahmani, ed., Testamenturn Domini Nostri Jesu Christi (Moguntiae: Kirchheim, 1899). The age of the work is discussed on pp. ix—xiv, 36—37.)

A sort of antiphonal follows with the people in the ring responding to the words of the bishop. Then the bishop begins the prayer proper, the people repeating these same things, praying. He thanks God for the Plan of Salvation, by which "thou hast fulfilled thy purposes by preparing a holy people, hast stretched forth thy hands in suffering, that they who have faith in thee might be freed from such suffering and from the corruption of death."

E. Louis Backman cites a passage from the Stromata in which Clement reveals that the initiates raised their hands in prayer during the dance: "So also we raise the head and lift the hands to heaven, and set the feet in motion at the closing utterance of the prayer." (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7.7, in ANF, 2:534.)

Similar descriptions of the ring dance/prayer circle are found in the writings of Gregory Thaumaturgus (A.D. 210—60) and Basileios of Caesarea (A.D. 344—407), as well as in the Gnostic Acts of John. (Backman, Religious Dances, 22—25; Max Pulver, "Jesus' Round Dance and Crucifixion according to the Acts of John," in The Mysteries, ed. Joseph Campbell, 173-93.)

The Prayer Circle in Early Christianity

Lecture by Aaron Snyders at BYU's 2008 SANE (Students of the Ancient Near East) Symposium; Parts 1-3.

The Temple as a House of Prayer

Referring to the temple as a "House of Prayer," Isaiah 56: 7 states, "Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people."

In Matthew 21: 13 Jesus declared, "My house shall be called the house of prayer."

In The Doctrine and Covenants the Lord calls the temple a "house of prayer" as prayer is one of the more important activities performed in LDS temples.

"Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God; that your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your out-goings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High" (D&C 88:119—20 & D&C 109:8)


"And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;"
(D&C 59:9)

"And ye are called to do this by prayer and thanksgiving, as the Spirit shall give utterance in all your doings in the house of the Lord, in the school of the prophets, that it may become a sanctuary, a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit to your edification."
(D&C 88:137)

Prayer Circles in the Early Christian Church

From ancient Christian texts we learn that the prayer circle was part of the early Christian Church.
In "Temple Prayers in Ancient Times," by John A. Tvedtnes, he tells how,
aspects of ancient temple prayer are discussed, notably posture and how prayer opens the veil to allow one to enjoy the presence of God.
Particularly impressive are the descriptions of the prayer circle given in the Christian Gnostic works known as the Pistis Sophia and the Books of Jeu, thought to date to the second century. In 1 Jeu 41, the resurrected Christ "said to them, the twelve: 'Surround me, all of you.'" He then instructed them to "answer me and give glory with me as I give glory to my Father," and offered a lengthy prayer. At the end of each utterance of the prayer, the apostles, in chorus, repeated, "Amen. Amen. Amen." (Carl Schmidt and Violet MacDermot, The Books of Jeu and the Untitled Text in the Bruce Codex (Leiden: Brill, 1978), 92-98.)
One of the most remarkable descriptions is in the fifth book of the Pistis Sophia, where we find Jesus standing at the altar praying, surrounded by his apostles and women disciples clad in linen garments (Pistis Sophia 138). A short while later, Jesus commands the disciples to set out an offering of wine, water, and bread. He then stands before the offering, with the disciples behind him clad in linen garments and making signs with their hands as Christ prays (Pistis Sophia 142).

The account of this offering is also found in another Coptic document, 2 Jeu 45-47, where Jesus has the disciples, men and women, dress in linen garments and surround him while he makes offerings at the altar and prays. The scene is followed by Jesus' instructions on how the disciples can use the signs and names to pass by both gods and angels to enter the presence of the Father (2 Jeu 48-50). In 1 Jeu 41, Jesus has the twelve surround him while he prays and they repeat after him. In the following chapters (2 Jeu 42-43, rather than 1 Jeu), Jesus asks that the twelve and the women disciples surround him so he can teach them the mysteries of God. What then follows in the text is a discussion of signs, seals, and how to pass by the guardians at the veils to the presence of God.

Also see:
The Early Christian Prayer Circle
Temple Worship and A Possible Reference to a Prayer Circle in Psalm 24
Painting of the 'Pentecost' in the Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

Dance of the Angels

References to the mystery of the ring-dance/prayer circle in early Christianity can also be found in the writings of Basileios (A.D. 344-407), bishop of Caesarea, and Gregory Thaumaturgus (A.D. 210-260), bishop of Pontus:

In [Basileios's] writings there are several references to the existence of the dance in early Christianity. Thus he says of one who has died in blessedness (Letter 40): 'We remember those who now, together with the Angels, dance the dance of the Angels around God, just as in the flesh they performed a spiritual dance of life and, here on earth, a heavenly dance.' Thus life in this temporal world, where it is lived in righteousness, may be described as a spiritual heavenly dance. In another letter (ad 1:2) he writes 'Could there be anything more blessed than to imitate on earth the ring-dance of the angels and at dawn to raise our voices in prayer and by hymns and songs glorify the rising creator.'(Backman, Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine, 24-25.)

We do find the following [in Gregory's writings]: 'He who has done everything preserved and prescribed by Providence in its secret mysteries, reposes in Heaven in the bosom of the Father and in the cave in the bosom of the Mother (Christ Jesus). The ring-dance of the angels encircles him, singing his glory in Heaven and proclaiming peace on earth.' In his Four Sermons (10:1146) he quotes a curious legend, 'Today (Christ's birthday) Adam is resurrected and performs a ring-dance with the angels, raised up to heaven'. (Backman, Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine, 22. (See 'The Temple'; Ch.6; Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity by Barry R. Bickmore) with the angels around the Unbegotten and Eternal One

Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 153-193-217, wrote how they "raise the head and lift the hands towards heaven, and stand on tiptoe as we join in the closing outburst of prayer". He also wrote: "Come to our mysteries and you shall dance with the angels around the Unbegotten and Eternal one, while Logos of God sings along with us. . . the great High Priest of God, who prays for men and instructs them." (The Library of Christian Classics, vol.2, Alexandrian Christianity, Selected Translations of Clement & Origen with Introductions and Notes by John Ernest Leonard Oulton, D.D., Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Dublin; Chancellor of St. Patrick's and Henry Chadwick, B.D., Fellow & Dean of Queens' College, Cambridge. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press). vol. 2, p. 117, Clement of Alexandria, On Spiritual Perfection, chapter 7, see also note 37 on p. 117: Cf. Origen, de Orat., 31, below, p. 322 ff. Clement of Alexandria, 2nd century, Cohortation ad gentes, xxi, in Migne, PG 8:241.)

Clement of Rome, A.D. 30--100, writing to the Corinthians, wrote: "Full of holy designs, ye did, with true earnestness of mind and a godly confidence, stretch forth your hands to God Almighty, beseeching Him to be merciful unto you, if ye had been guilty of any involuntary transgression."

Further on: "Let us then draw near to Him with holiness of spirit, lifting up pure and undefiled hands unto Him, loving our gracious and merciful Father, who has made us partakers in the blessing of His elect." (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., T&T Clark, Edinburgh, reprinted October 1989), 1:5, 12, The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, chapters 2; 29).

Job and a Prayer Circle

In the opening lines of his Testament, Job tells his three virgin daughters and seven sons (see Job 1:2) to form a circle around him (the second son's name is Choros): "Make a circle around me, and I will demonstrate to you the things which tha Lord expounded to me, for I am your father Job who is faithful in all things."(Testament of Job or ToJ 1:2.) Job next tells the circle how the Lord, after healing him of his awful ailments, said, "Arise, gird up thy loins like a man!"(ToJ 47:5.) "And the Lord spoke to me in power, showing me things past and future." (ToJ 47:10.) He tells his daughters that they will have nothing to fear in this life from the adversary because the garments they wear are "a power and a protection from the Lord." (ToJ 47:11—12.) Then he tells them to arise and gird themselves to prepare for heavenly visitors. (ToJ 47:12.) "Thus it was that when one of the three daughters . . . arose and clothed herself . . . she began to utter words of wisdom in the angelic language, and sent a hymn up to God, using the manner of praising of the angels. And as she recited the hymns, she let the Spirit make marks [charagmata, cuts or rents] on her garment." (ToJ 48:1—4.) The next daughter girded herself likewise and recited "The Hymn of the Creation of the Heavens," speaking "in the dialect of the archons [cf. the council in heaven]."(ToJ 49:1—3.) The third daughter "chanted verses in the dialect of those on high . . . and she spoke in the tongue of the cherubim," her words being preserved as "the prayers of Amaltheias-Keras." (Abraham's Temple Drama by Hugh Nibley)

Orants - "The Praying Ones"

Definitions of orant:
* Orant [Orans; Orantes ]is a type of gesture during prayer in which the hands are raised, set apart, and the palms face outward. ...
* An image of a person with hands up in prayer.
* the representation, usually in ancient or Early Christian art, of a standing figure praying with outstretched arms.

Many figures in religious art are seen with uplifted arms, an image so common in early Christian art that historians have given them the name orants, "the praying ones," and speculate that they stood in this position in imitation of their crucified Lord, though Jewish artists used the gesture as well.

Temple Prayer in Ancient Times
by John A. Tvedtnes (excerpt)
The raising of hands in prayer is mentioned in the Old Testament (see 1 Kings 8:22, 38, 54; Ezra 9:5; Job 11:13; Psalm 68:31; Psalm 143:6; Isaiah 1:15; and Lamentations 2:19; Lamentations 3:41), the New Testament (see 1 Timothy 2:8), and various pseudepigraphic texts,(Testament of Moses 4:1; Joseph and Aseneth 11:15, 19.) including Christian gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt.(Exegesis on the Soul, II, 6, 136; Second Apocalypse of James, V, 4, 62.)

In the pseudepigraphic Gospel of Bartholomew 2:6—13, Mary stands with the apostles in prayer, spreads out her hands to heaven, and prays. The History of the Virgin also has Mary spreading out her hands to pray for the apostles, who were then preaching in various nations.(The text is cited in Ernest A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Bee, 98 n. 1.)

In Acts of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, John "stretched forth his hands, and prayed." (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers (1886; reprint, Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1995), 8:563.)

The Psalms, many of which are prayers, reflect the method of prayer in the temple. In one, the petitioner asks the Lord, "Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle" (Psalm 28:2).

In Psalm 141:2, the lifting of hands in prayer is associated with temple sacrifice: "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." (In the Keret text from Ugarit (KTU 1.14.II.22—24), lifting the hands to heaven parallels the offering of sacrifice.)

This lifting of the hands in prayer is reflected in a variant of Psalm 135, "Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord" (Psalm 134:1—2).
Also see:
Early Christian Orant Gesture in Prayer

Orants in Historical Christian Art (Slide Show)

In early Christian lore, the spreading of the hands symbolized Christ. Thus, Ode of Solomon 27 reads, "I extended my hands and hallowed my Lord; for the expansion of my hands is his sign. And my extension is the upright cross." (James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha; 2:759.)

Another of the odes declares, "I extended my hands and approached my Lord, because the stretching out of my hands is his sign. And my extension is the common cross, that was lifted up on the way of the Righteous One." (James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:770.)

Compare Paul's concept of "Dying and rising with Christ":

"For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:"  Romans 6:5

"And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."  Romans 8:17

"For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."  2 Corinthians 1:5

"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh."  2 Corinthians 4:10-11

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20

"From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus."  Galatians 6:17

"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and  the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."  Philippians 3:10-11

cf also:

"For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:"  1 Peter 2:21

"But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."  1 Peter 4:13

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."  Matthew 16:24-25

Uplifted Hands in Prayer a Symbol of the Crucified Lord

Early Christians apparently saw in the manner of prayer a representation of the cross on which Christ was crucified.(See D. Plooij, "The Attitude of the Outspread Hands ('Orante') in Early Christian Literature and Art," Expository Times 23 (1912): 265—69).

The cross is, in early traditions, the tree of life, bringing us back into the presence of God through the Savior's atonement (see Epistle of Barnabas 11:1—11). Epistle of Barnabas 11:1—6 sees the cross and Christ's crucifixion prefigured by the tree of life, while Epistle of Barnabas 12:2—3 says it was represented by Moses raising his hands to provide salvation to Israel during their struggle with the Amalekites (see Exodus 17:8—13) and by Isaiah stretching out his hands to his people to call them to repentance (see Isaiah 65:2, cited in Romans 10:21). Both the sixth-century AD Ethiopic document Kebra Nagast 98(See Budge, The Queen of Sheba, 181—82.)

Sibylline Oracles 8:251—53 indicate that Christ's crucifixion was symbolized by Moses stretching out his hands during the Amalekite war. Two of the earliest Christian writers, Justin Martyr (see Dialogue with Trypho 111) and Tertullian (see Against Marcion 3.18), indicated that Moses' actions were a prayer and that he prefigured the cross.
See Temple Prayer in Ancient Times by John A. Tvedtnes

"That Magnificent Gesture" and True Mourning

The raising of both hands high above the head by those in the prayer circle as they began their prayer is referred to by Biblical scholar, H. Leclercq, a liturgist and Christian archaeologist as "that magnificent gesture" and he states it was a natural gesture both of supplication and submission. It was specifically a conscious imitation of the crucifixion, and that brings to mind the significant detail, mentioned by the Synoptic writers, that the Lord on the cross called upon the Father in a strange tongue: those who were standing by, though Aramaic was supposed to be their native tongue, disagreed as to the meaning (see Mark 15:33—36), and indeed the manuscripts give many variant readings of an utterance which the writers of the Gospels left untranslated, plainly because there was some doubt as to the meaning. It recalls the cry of distress of David in Psalms 54:2: "Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth" and in Psalms 55:1—4: "Give ear to my prayer, O God. . . . Attend unto me, and hear me. . . . My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me."

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

"Suffering is an important theme of the ancient prayer circle. The rite is always related to the crucifixion, which was anticipated by it in the upper room, for "the core of the Lord's Supper is the idea of sacrifice." In the rites "the believer must incur the same sufferings as his god, and therefore he must mourn with him"—hence the peculiar passage in Matthew 11:16—17. Pulver notes that mourning denotes that the initiate is expected to suffer after the manner of the leader. The word for "mourn" in Matthew 11:17 is koptomai, literally, to inflict wounds upon oneself. (Max Pulver, The Round Dance and the Crucifixion.)

Ignatius' Letter to the Romans shows that "real suffering . . . alone enables one to become a disciple, to learn and gain experience. . . . For Ignatius, the believer must repeat the destiny of his God, he must become an imitator of God, mimētēs tou Theou."

This is done ritually as is plainly stated by Cyril of Jerusalem and the author of the Testament of Jesus Christ: "and thou hast stretched forth thy hands in suffering, that they might be freed from such suffering" by an act of imitation.

Plainly the rite is intimately involved with the suffering of the crucifixion. How do we as true disciples truly mourn for the suffering of the Savior? Repentance and having a broken heart and a contrite spirit are all apart of an offering. Then comes understanding in greater measures of just how the Savior suffered. The mysteries are unfolded and life changing effects take hold of one's soul.

"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4) It seems paradoxical that Jesus calls those who mourn "blessed"! It is interesting and noteworthy that God places the Sermon on the Mount near the beginning of the very first book in the New Testament, immediately after Jesus begins to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Also of note is that it follows His call for repentance—for deep, heartfelt, sincere and radical change in a person's thinking and way of life. This change is what causes conversion to God's way. Then the Beatitudes appear as the preamble to the best-known sermon ever preached, teaching intended for those who have repented and are being converted.

Concerning Matthew 5:4, William Barclay writes in his commentary, The Gospel of Matthew: "It is first of all to be noted about this beatitude that the Greek word for to mourn, used here, is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. . . . It is defined as the kind of grief which takes such a hold on a man that it cannot be hid. It is not only the sorrow which brings an ache to the heart; it is the sorrow which brings the unrestrainable tears to the eyes." (See: Commentary on Matthew 5:4 of BibleTools)

This illustrates mourning's emotional power, indicating it has enough power to produce the resolve to accomplish more than merely feeling badly and crying. It is a strange phenomenon that the more clearly we see our sins the better person we are. Perhaps the most damaging of all sins is to be conscious of no sin.

The Early Christian Prayer Circle, Hugh Nibley

Prayer Posture Looks Like a 'W'

The Hebrew word for "name" is sheme. Ha-Shem is still used sometimes as a "meta-word," part of a prayer pattern, used to avoid saying the most sacred name. In Judaism the "sh" (which in English looks like a "W') has often had ritual importance because it pictures a position of prayer—arms raised above the head.** Thus one symbolizes the name in prayer whether or not he uses it.

One Psalm declares, "I have seen thee in the sanctuary . . , , my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name" (Psalm 63:2—4; see Psalm 88:9).

**The prayer posture symbolized by the Hebrew letter for "sh," "shin," may be traced to an Old Testament verse; Abraham replies to the king of Sodom, "I have lift[ed] up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high" Genesis 14:22. In Hebrew it means literally, "I raised up my hand." It is an oath formula. (Speiser, Genesis, 104—5, n. 22.)(Putting on the Names: A Jewish-Christian Legacy by Truman G. Madsen; Note 12.)

See Also:
Jewish Twice Daily Prayer-The Shema

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

John A. Tvedtnes in Temple Prayer in Ancient Times explains how:
There is symbolism in raising the hands in prayer. The gesture exposes to God both the breast and the palms of the petitioner to show that they are pure (clean). This is reflected in one of the temple hymns found in the Bible, Psalm 24, which Donald W. Parry has suggested may relate to a prayer circle: (Donald W. Parry, "Temple Worship and a Possible Reference to a Prayer Circle in Psalm 24," BYU Studies 32/4 (1992): 57—62.)
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. (Psalm 24:3—4)

The message of the Psalm is clear: In order to enter into the temple (the "hill of the Lord," called "the mountain of the Lord's house" in Isaiah 2:2), one must have clean hands and a pure heart. (Compare Doctrine and Covenants 88:74: "purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean." Doctrine and Covenants 88 contains many temple elements. Also note one of Jesus' beatitudes, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8), which reminds us that, in ancient Israel, God frequently appeared to the prophets in his temple. Returning to Psalm 24, we note that verse 6 speaks of those who seek the face of the Lord.)

In other words, both acts (represented by the hands) and thoughts (represented by the heart) must reflect righteousness, along with the lips that utter the prayer.(The Book of Mormon teaches that God will judge us on the basis of our actions, our words, and our thoughts (see Mosiah 4:30; Alma 12:14; compare D&C 18:38; D&C 88:109; D&C 137:8-9; Isaiah 55:7; Matthew 12:36—37; Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21; Acts 8:22). According to 2 Enoch (J) 71:10, one can sin before God by word and thought, while in 3 Enoch 45:1, we read that the deeds and thoughts of all mankind are written on the curtain that hangs before God. The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs indicate that we should love in deeds and thoughts, in the heart (see Testament of Gad 6:1, 3; 7:7; compare Testament of Joseph 4:6).)

This is probably what the author of Job had in mind when he wrote, "prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him" (Job 11:13). Note also Lamentations 3:41, "Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens."

The Mother of God "Of the Sign"

The image of the Virgin with hands raised in prayer is one of the oldest in Christian art as it symbolically relates to her position as an intercessor in prayer for all; examples are found dating from 3rd century sarcophagi. The Latin term is 'orans' or 'orants'-literally meaning 'praying'-and was common to both Jews and Christians in Roman times. The Mother of God "Of the Sign" is a popular icon image in Eastern Orthodox Christianity of the Virgin Mary in an Orants pose, with hands reaching upward and a medallion of the Christ Child on her breast. The depiction of the Virgin Mary with her hands upraised in prayer is of very ancient origin in Christian art.

Saint Basil the Great, writing in the 4th century, gave the Greek term Platytera -'Wider than Heaven'- to the image of the Virgin in the 'orants' posture many times with a medallion of Christ on her breast. The term, 'The Mother of God "Of the Sign"' was also used throughout Byzantium time and the Orthodox religions still use it today. In the mausoleum of St Agnes in Rome is a depiction dating to the fourth century which depicts the Theotokos (Greek title for the Virgin) with hands raised in prayer and the infant Jesus sitting upon her knees. There is also an ancient Byzantine icon of the Mother of God "Nikopea" from the sixth century, where the Virgin Mary is depicted seated upon a throne and holding in her hands an oval shield with the image of "Emmanuel".

Icons of the Virgin, known as "The Sign", appeared in Russia during the eleventh to twelfth centuries. The icon became highly-venerated in Russia because of what Orthodox Christians believe to be the miraculous deliverance from an invasion in the year 1170.

Many believe the icon of 'the Mother of God “Of the Sign”' depicts the mystery of the Nativity of Christ. The seventh chapter of the Prophet Isaiah tells how Jerusalem was besieged from all sides. There was no longer any hope of salvation, however, the prophet urged the king to appeal to the Lord and ask for His protection, and ask the Lord to give a sign that this will be fulfilled. King Ahaz refuses: “I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord.” Then the prophet said: “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel,” Isaiah 7:14, which means “God is with us.”

Although for some, this scripture is essentially how this particular type of icon of the Virgin Mary received its name, 'the Mother of God "Of the Sign"' yet in light of LDS Temple theology the symbolism of the orant pose and the name are clearly striking. As Nibley liked to say, there are “scattered fragments” of the temple endowment that keep showing up throughout Christian history.

Also See:
The Mother of God "of the Sign"

"...aught against your neighbor..."

One aspect of the Prayer Circle as described in ancient texts has to do with those who participate and the bishop's instruction to them about their relationship to their neighbors:

"As leader the Bishop stands in the middle . . . [the men and women are assigned their places, north, south, east and west, around him]. Then all give each other the sign of peace. Next, when absolute silence is established, the deacon says: "Let your hearts be to heaven. If anyone has any ill feeling towards his neighbor, let him be reconciled. If anyone has any hesitation or mental reservations [doubts] let him make it known; if anyone finds any of the teachings incongenial, let him withdraw [etc.]. For the Father of Lights is our witness with the Son and visiting angels. Take care lest you have aught against your neighbor. . . . Lift up your hearts for the sacrifice of redemption and eternal life. Let us be grateful for the knowledge which God is giving us." The Bishop . . . says in an awesome voice: "Our Lord be [or is] with you!" And all the people respond: "And with thy spirit." (Ignatius Ephraem II Rahmani, ed., Testamenturn Domini Nostri Jesu Christi (Moguntiae: Kirchheim, 1899). The age of the work is discussed on pp. ix—xiv, 36—37.)

Cyril of Jerusalem describes the priesthood standing in a circle around the altar ("leave the altar if thy brother hath aught against thee"), the mutual embracing "which signifies a complete fusion of spirits," and then "that thrilling hour when one must enter spiritually into the presence of God." (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis XXIII [V], 3—4, in PG 33:1112.)

The "Diptych" or the Prayer Roll

(click pictures to enlarge)

"Diptychs;" were an ancient writing tablet. The more elaborate ones were carved from wood, metal or ivory and and functioned as book covers that were re-usable for medieval ecclesiastical manuscripts. Many were used in churches as grand bindings for lists of bishops and other important records. It is in this form that the mention of "diptychs" in early Christian literature is found. The term refers to official lists of the living and departed that are commemorated by the local church. The living would be inscribed on one wing of the diptych, and the departed on the other. The names in the diptychs would be read publicly by the deacon during the Divine Liturgy (Eucharist), and by the priest during the Liturgy of Preparation. Diptychs were also used to inscribe the names of the saints. The term is still used in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches to describe the contents of the diptychs, with all the same connotations.

The Early Christian Prayer Circle
by Hugh Nibely
The fullest expression of that altruism by which one saves oneself in saving others is a simple but ingenious device employed in the prayer circle; it was the "diptych," a sort of looseleaf notebook or folded parchment placed on the altar during the prayer. It contained the names of persons whom the people in the circle wished to remember. The diptychs are among the oldest treasures preserved in the oldest churches. The name means "folded double," though the documents could be folded triple or quadruple as well if the list of names was very long.(O. Stegmüller, "Diptychon," in Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1957) 3:1138.)

The prayer for the people on the list was never part of the later mass but was always a litany, a special appeal for certain persons: "By litanies one intercedes for certain classes of persons."(F. Cabrol, "Diptyques (Liturgie)," in DACL 4:1050.)

The original diptychs were the consular diptychs, carried around by top Roman officials—the mark of the busy pagan executive in high office. According to Leclercq, when bishops became important figures in city politics, high government officials would present them with diptychs "as flattering presents."(Ibid., 1095—96.)
As notebooks they were convenient and practical—just the thing for keeping and handling important lists of names, and to such a use the Christians gladly put them.(Ibid., 1046—47; Stegmüllier, "Diptychon," 1140.)

"In the place of the diptychs properly so designated [those used in government business] there were substituted at an early time notebooks or leaves of parchment which one would place on the altar during the celebration of the Mass. . . . Gradually that practice [the reading of the names (out loud)] was given up, [and] the priest merely referred to all the faithful whose names were written down on the diptychs or the leaves taking the place of diptychs."(Cabrol, "Diptyques," 1061.)

Diptych of Anastasius, consul in 517 (Bishop at the time of the Nicene Council)

The practice of laying names on the altar is of unknown origin though it is very old and, it is agreed, may well go back to the days of the apostles.(Stegmüller, "Diptychon," 1138, 1147; Cabrol, "Diptyques," 1051, citing Bona.)

Confusion with the old Roman pagan custom of reading off the names of donors from such lists caused it to be repeatedly denounced by the early fathers in the West; (Stegmüller, "Diptychon," 1143; Cabrol, "Diptyques," 1059, noting that the donor lists were unknown in the East until Constantine introduced them from Rome.)
but the problem never arose in the East, and "the laying of a small tablet containing the names is to this day the practice in the Western Syrian rite."(Stegmüller, "Diptychon," 1147; cf. 1144—46.)

At first the list of names was read aloud before being placed on the altar, but as that took up too much time (one of the surviving lists has over 350 names) the reading was phased out; "the list could be placed on the altar without any vocal reading of the names." (Ibid., 3:1147, citing the famous Bobbio Missal.)

The common practice of scratching one's name on the altar to assure inclusion in the prayers forever after may go back to old Jewish practice, for in 3 Enoch when the ministering angels utter the prayer (the Qaddish) "all the explicit names that are graven with a flaming style on the Throne of Glory fly off. . . . And they surround and compass the Holy One . . . on the four sides of the place of His Shekhina."(Odeberg, 3 Enoch or the Hebrew Book of Enoch, ch. 39.)

Also See:
Prayer, Catholic Saints, and the Mormon Temple
Submit a Name to the Prayer Roll
Anyone can call any LDS Temple or call Salt Lake toll-free at 1-800-453-3860 ext. 22685. Submitted names stay on the prayer roll for two weeks. (Names cannot be submitted online.)
LDS Temples-World Map
Temples to Dot the Earth

Prayer at the Veil

Hugh Nibley tells in "The Early Christian Prayer Circle," how, Rabbi Ishmael recited his prayer just before passing through to the throne which was behind a curtain, and he also informs us that God "made for me a garment of glory," (This is made perfectly clear in Odeberg, 3 Enoch or the Hebrew Book of Enoch, chs. 10 and 12.) bearing the same markings as the veil and having the same cosmic significance, which reminds one of the close affinity between robe and veil in the very early Christian Hymn of the Pearl and also recalls how the bishop leading the prayer circle in the Syriac Testament of Our Lord "stands with upraised hands and offers a prayer at the veil," after which he proceeds "to make the sacrifice, the veil of the gate being drawn aside."

St. Augustine's version of the Priscillian prayer circle ends with the apparently incongruous statement, "I am the Gate for whoever knocks on me," which Augustine explains in terms of Psalms 24:7, referring to the veil of the temple.(Augustine, Letters 237, in PL 33:1037—38.)

Also See:
Admitted into God's Presence - The Temple Veil
Garments, the Veil and Gammadia Markings

Prayer Opens the Veil

Early Christian art has many examples of God's hand extending down through a curtain, a cloud or from the sky.

John Tvedtnes explains in Temple Prayer in Ancient Times how:
anciently, a veil or curtain separated the holy of holies from the rest of the tabernacle or temple (see, for example, Exodus 26:31—33; 2 Chronicles 3:14; and Hebrews 9:3, 5). The Lord instructed Moses that the high priest should not pass through the veil until he had been washed, dressed in priestly clothing, and brought a sacrifice (see Leviticus 16:2—4).

The earthly veil is paralleled by the veil of the heavenly temple mentioned in many early Jewish and Christian texts. When the brother of Jared prayed, "the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord" (Ether 3:6; see Ether 3:1—6). The same thing has happened in modern times. Joseph Smith recorded that after dropping the veils of the Kirtland Temple around the pulpit (see the preface to D&C 110) on 3 April 1836, he and Oliver Cowdery offered prayer and "the veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened. We saw the Lord" (D&C 110:1—2). Significantly, it is only after prayer that the veil is uncovered. This is symbolic of the uncovering of the heavenly veil, which also occurs after prayers.

According to 1 Enoch 9:10, prayers go to the gate of heaven. In 3 Baruch 11:1—9, we also learn that the gates of heaven are opened to receive prayers, an idea confirmed in Testament of Adam 1:10. A prayer in Sepher Razi'el 441 asks God to open "the gates of light and prayer."(Martin S. Cohen, The Shi'ur Qomah: Texts and Recensions, 120.)

Rabbi Ishmael reported that it was only after prayer that he was ushered by an angel into the presence of God (see 3 Enoch 1:1—6).

The symbolism of the veil extends to women during temple prayer. Paul wrote that the woman's head should be covered during prayer (see 1 Corinthians 11:4—7, 13—15), which led to the practice of women covering their heads in the Catholic and Eastern churches (traditionally with a veil), though the practice is also known in orthodox Judaism.

Ancient temple prayer was symbolic of the crucified Christ. It is in this light that we must understand some of the teachings found in the Epistle to the Hebrews. In Hebrews 10:19—20 we read that the veil is the flesh of Jesus, who went ahead as a forerunner for us. The veil, then, is mortality, or our present carnal state. Jesus submitted the flesh to the will of the spirit and was thus able to pass beyond the carnal or earthly state into the celestial, where he now stands as the eternal high priest of the church and as our advocate with the Father. Having entered through the veil into the heavenly holy of holies, Christ desires that we, too, should pass by the veil into the presence of God. Hebrews 6:19—20 speaks of the "hope [which] we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec."

Prayer is also tied to the opening of the heavenly door in the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus admonished, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7—8).(Welch, in Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple, 90, has noted the threefold petition involved in asking, seeking, and knocking and ties this aspect of prayer and of the opening of the door to the temple.)
See Temple Prayer in Ancient Times by John A. Tvedtnes

Theophany - Object of the Ring Dance

Frederick M. Huchel, the only Mormon presenter at the recent Temple Studies Group Symposium II in London, England, shared his paper titled, "THE COSMIC RING-DANCE OF THE ANGELS - An Early Christian Rite of the Temple." It is a redacted version of a much longer one which will be available soon. In the released presented version we learn many wonderful aspects of what he calls, "sacred choral ring dance of prayer" and other elements that are connected to this sacred rite in antiquity. One such element is the topic of theophany and how the object of the ring dance was to open a conduit to heaven, a means to open the veil. Brother Huchel in the Abstract shares this:

In examining what can be reconstructed of the liturgy of the First Temple, and its apparent restoration in early Christianity, no loss can be more significant — or more poignant — than the loss of the sacred choral ring dance of prayer, which was seen to mirror the cosmic circle dance of the concourses of angels, in their concentric heavenly spheres — a dance which had the effect of opening up a conduit, from the Holy of Holies, up through the planetary spheres, to unfold a view of God Most High upon his celestial throne, in the highest Heaven, as chronicled in the experiences of such ancient prophets as Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the apostle John on Patmos.

The experiences of the nineteenth-century prophet Joseph Smith, from his initial theophany to his translation of the experiences of Lehi and the Lord Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon, to the Pentecostal experiences surrounding the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836, combine with his restoration of the ancient circle of prayer to bolster our understanding of the Biblical record, and provide a greater understanding of this ancient rite of the Temple.

For Frederick M. Huchel book by the same title see here:
The Cosmic Ring-Dance of the Angels: An Early Christian Rite of the Temple. Huchel has traced the roots of this temple ritual from ancient times to the modern day and in doing go has done some incredible research. He presents a lot of evidence that suggests that the early Christians performed and perpetuated ancient temple rituals that were meant to connect the throne of God and angelic hosts in heaven with worshipers on earth.

Seeing the Throne of God

Philo, a Jewish teacher in Egypt, was an exact contemporary of Jesus. He described the angels as the powers of God throughout creation, binding it together, and said they were a choir, serving their leader and following Him.’(On the Confusion of Tongues 174). He also said that people could not express their gratitude to the Creator by buildings and ceremony, but only by silent hymns of praise from a pure mind.(On Planting 126). The pure mind, when it had explored the arts and sciences, ‘is borne yet higher to the ether and circuit of heaven, and is whirled around with the dances of the planets and fixed stars, in accordance with the laws of perfect music, following that love of Wisdom who guides its steps.’ Eventually the pure mind perceived the light of the great King himself (Philo, On Creation, 70-71). Jesus said something similar: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart’ - and for his culture, the heart was the seat of the intellect - ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’(Matthew 5: 8).

This is what Enoch saw too. In his vision, there were angels in white robes encircling the holy of holies, and Enoch was dazzled by the light(1 Enoch 71: 1,8). The Therapeuts, a monastic group in northern Egypt whom Eusebius said were the earliest Christian communities, used to sing, and as they sang they danced, the ‘wheeling and counterwheeling of a choric dance.’ (Philo, Contemplative Life 84). We do not usually imagine the early Christians worshipping with circle dances, but Eusebius, writing early in the fourth century, knew a good deal more about the early Christians than we do, and he found nothing in their dancing to make him doubt they were Christian.(Eusebius, History 2.17)

In contrast, the fallen angels, those who rebelled and thus destroyed the harmony of creation, could not sing. When Enoch stood in the fifth heaven, his angel guide explained that he was looking at the fallen angels; they were dejected and silent ‘and there was no liturgy in the fifth heaven.’(2 Enoch 18). (Margaret Barker on Temple Music, Temple Study Symposium)

See Also:
The Divine Comedy - The Vision of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise: Paradise
Angels and Angelology - Jewish Virtual Library
Angels - The Nine Orders

Ascention to Heaven

Edward T. Jones has noted, "the technical term for the experience of visiting heaven is ascension." And Mircea Eliade indicated that it is "one of the oldest religious means of personally communicating with the Gods."
Dr. James D. Tabor talks about the different ascent stories in the Bible. He tells how,
"the motif of the journey to heaven is a vitally important phenomenon of ancient Mediterranean religions. There are five figures in the Bible who, according to standard Jewish and Christian interpretation, are reported to have ascended to heaven: Enoch (Genesis 5:24); Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-12); Jesus (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9); Paul (2 Cor 12:2-4); and John (Rev 4:1). There are also four related accounts in which individuals behold the throne, or heavenly court, of Yahweh: Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel (Exodus 24:9-11); Micaiah (1 Kings 22:19-23); Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-13); and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1, Ezekiel 10). Finally, there is the scene in which an otherwise unidentified "son of man" comes before the throne of God in an apocalyptic vision of Daniel (Dan 7:11-14). This notion, that mortals enter into, or behold, the realm of the immortal God (or gods) undergoes various complicated developments from the Ancient Near Eastern into the Hellenistic period. It is closely related to a number of other topics such as the descent or journey to the underworld of the dead, the heavenly destiny of the immortal soul, the apotheosis or divinization of selected mortals (rulers, philosophers, divine men), and aspects of Greco-Roman, Jewish and Christian mysticism. Sorting through this complex conceptual web, and trying to understand these Biblical texts with their contexts and complicated traditional development, has occupied historians of ancient religions for the past 150 years." (Bousset 1901; Segal 1980) See more of this article at Ascent to Heaven in Antiquity.

Also See:
Temple Motifs in Jewish Mysticism (
The Temple as a Place of Ascent to God
Enoch’s Anointing & Investiture during Ascension in 2 Enoch
Ascent to Heaven - in Jewish & Christian Apocalypses by Martha Himmelfarb (book)
Ascension, Testaments, of Prophets, Apocalyptic Instructions, and Prophetic Warnings

The Ascension of Christ

Jesus is "taken up into heaven" in the Ascension narratives in Mark 16:19-20, Luke 24:50-53, and Acts 1:6-12.

The Syriac illumination at left is an early example of what became in the west the most common way of representing this event. Christ is in a mandorla on a chariot, attended by angels, facing the viewer. Below, the Virgin Mary stands in the canter with hands raised in an orant position of prayer flanked by two angels, who apparently are addressing to the apostles the words in Acts 1:11, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven?"

It is suggested that the chariot refers to a reading for Ascension Day in the Syriac liturgy from Ezekiel 1. A Syrian ampulla of the same century, however, has all the elements seen at left except the chariot. There is also a quite similar 6th-century Palestinian icon with all but the chariot. Perhaps the mandorla functions visually as a signifier of the chariot.
See: What is Ezekiel's Merkabah?

In any case, a great many western Ascension images adapt the pattern seen in the Syrian image, dispensing with the chariot and sometimes with one or two other details. Thus, Perugino's Ascension omits the two angels on the ground but adds St. Paul. A Florentine illumination from the 14th century has St. Paul but no angels at all. In Renaissance and Baroque images Christ ascends through clouds under his own power rather than borne by angels (example). This seems to reflect the mood of the times, as well as the Golden Legend's firm insistence on self-portation:

And also St. John [3:13] saith: "No man ascendeth into heaven by his own puissance and might, but the Son of Man that is in heaven." And how be it that he ascended in a cloud, he had none need, but because that he would show that every creature is ready to serve his creator, he ascended in his proper virtue.
(Source-The Ascension of Christ)

Also See:
Ascension, Testaments, of Prophets, Apocalyptic Instructions, and Prophetic Warnings
Golden Legend #72
Ascent to Heaven in Antiquity

Prayer Circles and Universal Laws and Faith

Christ taught the "Law of the Harvest," which is, "you reap what you sow" whether it be for good or ill. We create our own existences through those things we bring into our lives by our actions which first start out as thoughts. "As Man thinketh so is he." This tells us that thoughts are powerful forces in everyone's life and are connected to Universal Laws.

"The Law of Vibration"

The smallest particles known to man are vibrations. Thoughts are vibrations. Words are vibrations. Sounds are vibrations. Light is a vibration. Our planet is a vibration. Our entire universe and everything within it (seen and unseen) is a vibrating mass of atoms and subatomic particles.

"The Law of Resonance"
The Law of Resonance which is closely interconnected and works in harmony with the Law of Attraction is the Universal Law which determines precisely what it is that you will attract into your life based on the resonance or frequency of the energy that you are projecting. The Law of Resonance is the law which determines precisely WHAT IS attracted based on the resonance or the frequency of energy that is chosen by you through your emotional response system and as a result of that choice determines the kind and quality of the resonance or frequency projected which the Law of Attraction utilizes to determine precisely what IS attracted. See, The Law of Resonance.

"The Law of Reciprocity"
The Law Of Reciprocity is the Universal Law that states that whatever is sent out into the cosmos, what modern day science refers to as "The Unified Field", and what I personally choose to refer to as "The Infinite Field Of Potentiality", in the way of energy or vibration through the resonance of your thoughts, emotions and actions, will manifest outcomes in the physical world... physical outcomes that unfold in your life based on whatever is given or broadcast out through those thoughts, emotions and actions.

"The Law of Harmony"
The whole question to ask is how do the thoughts you constantly think in your mind make you feel? If they give you the feeling of faith, the response from the universal mind is immediate. It is the answer to your prayer of faith.
Every thought from your mind is a communication to the universal mind. Therefore every thought is a prayer. When your thought is a thought that inspires a feeling of faith, your prayer is a prayer of faith. It is the prayer of faith that shall save the sick and not the prayer of the faithless. You must understand that there is a reciprocity effect from the universal mind. As above, so below. The answer is sent forth but it only arrives when you are in the right frequency to receive it. Being in vibrational harmony is the key.
This is when you find it essential to "let go and let GOD" "if it doesn't flow, it doesn't go" in other words, some may say "P-ray U-ntil S-omething H-appens" (push) yet it works due to the faith of believing the universe will work this situation out as you release the natural desire of control. Affirmations state that what you believe to be true and what you are consciously calling into your life is your choice and completely voluntarily. The only way to accomplish this is to let go of the control factor and embrace the harmony found within the universe by finding harmony within our own thoughts and feelings toward ourselves. There is nothing permanent without harmony as harmony is another name for love.

Also See:
Universal Laws
20 Primary Universal Laws
Prayer is Advanced Level of Reality Creating

The temple is where one can go to reset our inner vibrations, to be in harmony with God's intent....and his purpose is to bring joy into the lives of his children. Through the prayer circle vibrations combine to enhance a prayer of faith. There is power in numbers to create a spiritual synergy that is more than the sum of the parts....through which prayers are answered and miracles can happen. Fasting, we are told can help to heighten those vibrational properties. Faith, or another way to describe it, Vibration, is the sum of life in the universe and is the power through which God works.

Also See:
For the Power Is in Them... in Neal A. Maxwell, For the Power Is in Them . . . : Mormon Musings ( - subscription required)
THE GREAT LAW in John A. Widtsoe, Rational Theology ( - subscription required)
SECTION III Faith and Our Lives in Hugh B. Brown, Eternal Quest ( - subscription required)

Understanding the Power of Prayer

Bryce Haymond at his great Temple Study site reviews some of the information on group thought and concentrated collective intention titled, Prayer Circles and the Power of Group Thinking in Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol.’

Dr. Masaru Emoto did some interesting experiments on the power of thought or consciousness and prayer. His book, 'The Hidden Messages in Water' is an eye-opening theory showing how water is deeply connected to people's individual and collective consciousness. Drawing from his own research, scientific researcher, healer, and popular lecturer Dr. Masaru Emoto describes the ability of water to absorb, hold, and even retransmit human feelings and emotions. Using high-speed photography, he found that crystals formed in frozen water reveal changes when specific, concentrated thoughts are directed toward it. Music, visual images, words written on paper, and photographs also have an impact on the crystal structure. Emoto theorizes that since water has the ability to receive a wide range of frequencies, it can also reflect the universe in this manner. He found that water from clear springs and water exposed to loving words shows brilliant, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns, while polluted water and water exposed to negative thoughts forms incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors. Emoto believes that since people are 70 percent water, and the Earth is 70 percent water, we can heal our planet and ourselves by consciously expressing love and goodwill.

At Conscious Water Crystals, The Power of Prayer Made Visible, Emoto's research is demonstrated in some amazing photos as they explain how: "...the evidence is clear that we really can heal our Mother Earth through intent, love, and the action of scientific prayer. But one other ingredient is crucially important. That ingredient is belief. And since a picture is worth much more than any number of words, we sought to show you the simplest and most convincing pictures that we could find, demonstrating how our thoughts, words, and feelings affect so-called physical objects, right down to the molecular level."

Prayer, Fasting and Spirituality

The Temple is to be a house of fasting. Fasting is an integral part to developing righteousness and increasing one's spirituality.

The LDS have a program that is called "fast offerings." "This unusual practice involves the giving up of two meals on the first Sunday of each month, the price of which is turned over to the church as a voluntary contribution to support and feed the poor." Ancient Christianity also engaged in this "unusual practice."
"[t]hat day on which thou fastest thou shalt taste nothing at all but bread and water; and computing the quantity of food which thou art wont to eat upon other days, thou shalt lay aside the expense which thou shouldest have made that day, and give it unto the widow, the fatherless, and the poor." (Shepherd of Hermas, Similitude V:28-30.)

John W. Welch, founder of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) writes about "Fasting in Earliest Christianity." He explains:
"From the Sermon on the Mount, we know that Jesus instructed his earliest disciples to fast, Matthew 6:17–18; and from his admonition that certain evil spirits come out only from fasting and prayer, we know that his early apostles fasted, Matthew 17:21. But from the New Testament as it exists today, we have little idea how these early Christians fasted. We learn only that they were told not to fast as the hypocrites who disfigure their faces to be seen of men.

"Interestingly, an early Christian text entitled the Shepherd of Hermas provides considerable information about the prescribed practice of fasting among very early Christians. Probably written near Rome and perhaps as early as the first generation after the time when the apostles Peter and Paul were in Italy, this text was accepted as scripture by many Christian Fathers of the second and third centuries. It was even included effectively as scripture in the extremely important fourth-century Codex Siniaticus, housed for centuries in the library at St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai, which I visited earlier this year in connection with advancing the work of the FARMS Early Christianity Initiative.

"In this book, Hermas receives several visions, commandments, and parables from the oracles of the Lord. In Parable 5, Hermas is instructed how to fast. In particular, he is told:
1. You are first to “guard against every evil word and every evil desire, and cleanse your heart of all the vanities of this world.”
2. Then you must “estimate the cost of the food you would have eaten on that day on which you intend to fast, and give it to a widow or an orphan or someone in need.”
3. Moreover, “you must observe these things with your children and your whole household and in observing them you will be blessed [makarioi].”
4. Furthermore, those who receive fast offerings are to pray “on behalf of [hyper]” those who have extended their generosity in this way.

“This fast,” the Christian is told, “is very good in keeping the Lord's commandments,” and if you will do these things, “this fast of yours will be perfect [teleia]” and “your sacrifice will be acceptable in God's sight, and this fast will be recorded, and service performed in this way is beautiful and joyous” (compare perfect and rejoicing in D&C 59:13–14).

"If these directives may be described as the true order of fasting, it is evident that few Christian churches today follow this essential instruction. Is it possible that this was one of the “plain and precious things” taken away from the original gospel as it went forth from the mouth of the Son of God as foreseen by Nephi of old, 1 Nephi 13:28? But Nephi also beheld that some of those truths would be restored by “other books” that would come forth “from the Gentiles,” 1 Nephi 13:39.

"Interestingly, the Old Latin version of the Shepherd of Hermas was first published in 1873 in Germany, and with the study of the crucial Greek text in Codex Siniaticus in the late nineteenth century, people soon realized the great antiquity of this important document. Yet only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as far as we know, teaches and actually operates a regular program of fasting along these earliest Christian lines."

See Also:
A House of Glory