Taboo and Stigma in Praying for Mental Health: An Empirical-Theological Investigation into the Practice of Public Intercession

In: Ecclesial Practices
Armand Léon van Ommen University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK,

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Most churches intercede every Sunday in their public worship for the needs of the world and for their fellow members. However, it seems that some topics are consistently left out from the prayers, such as prayers for mental health. This article addresses the question whether some topics are taboo, by investigating what churches pray for or not. Empirical research in this area is largely absent. Through the gathering and analysis of prayers, and interviews and focus groups with prayer leaders in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium this article shows reasons why certain topics, such as mental health, are indeed absent from public intercession. A significant finding is that the prayer leaders explain this in terms of pastoral sensitivity rather than taboo. This article suggests that the pastoral sensitivity does indicate a taboo, or stigma, on these topics.

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