Why is Reverend Parris praying at the beginning of act 1?

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The minister is praying because his young daughter Betty seems to be sick; she cannot wake up, and she has been like this since the night before. Last night, Parris "discovered" Betty and Abigail, his niece, "dancing like heathen in the forest." They were with his slave, a woman named Tituba, and she was swaying and chanting over the fire in her native language. Moreover, the girls were dancing and singing around the fire, upon which there was a pot of some liquid boiling, and Parris says that he even saw "some movement" in the liquid. Further, he saw one of the girls running naked through the trees. Betty has been ill since Parris surprised them all, when she fainted. She has not awoken since then, and this has led to Parris's fear that there may be some unnatural cause of her illness.

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The Crucible opens in the upper bedroom of a home in Salem, Massachusetts. We find Reverend Parris knelt in fervent prayer at his daughter's bedside. Betty, who is ten years old, has come down with some mysterious illness. It seems that she cannot wake, and an assistant from the local doctor arrives to say that unfortunately no medicine can be found for her. Reverend Parris fears that his daughter has been cursed, or "witched," after dancing in the forest. The Reverend accuses his niece Abigail of having tricked Betty into performing a rite of witchcraft in the forest, and now Betty has been overtaken by some spirit. The rumor of Betty's illness having been caused by witchcraft quickly spreads, with people beginning to gather in and outside the house to demand answers.

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