According to "Self-Reliance," what is Emerson's opinion on prayer?

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chsmith1957 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emerson addresses this tenet in paragraphs 36-37-38, as the first of his challenges to the numbered “offices and relations of men.” He rails against traditional uses of prayer. Individuals should ultimately realize and trust their own judgments and abilities. They should not look outside themselves to ask assistance from “some foreign addition to come through some foreign virtue,” he says. In other words, don’t ask for help for something you can and should take charge of yourself. And don’t ask for material gain. “Prayer that craves a particularly commodity, anything less than all good, is vicious.” Don’t even pray for divine intervention for someone else who is going through challenges or difficult times, either. Give the best of yourself in person to any folks in need, instead. Emerson also attacks the “creeds” and the recited “fables” that the churches promote in their services and works: ones that their members are proud to parrot but repeat without thinking about their meanings. You can interpret religion and spirituality on your own without participating in such community efforts, he maintains. What should prayer be, instead? Emerson says:

Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul.

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