In order to understand the religious mentality of ancient prayer, this article investigates the mode of public praying with respect to the use of fixed formularies, for which the most relevant references from Hellenistic and Roman antiquity are collected and presented. In spite of the different religious traditions, a surprisingly homogenous picture emerges: Public prayers had to be recited in accordance to formularies whose wording was prescribed and not at will of the praying persons. The correct recitation of a formulary (and even its proper pronunciation) was meant to guarantee the prayer's appropriateness and efficacy: an improperly recited prayer was considered to be either ineffective or even dangerous. This concept accounts for several closely related aspects which can be identified in all religious traditions: (1) Usually, the particular wording of a prayer is traced back to some divine origin which afforded its efficacy; knowledge of a prayer is, therefore, the result of revelation or of divine inspiration. (2) Correspondingly, the recitation of such formularies requires some spiritual quality of the praying person (righteousness, purity, priesthood, spiritual "ability" etc.). (3) Restriction of access to prayer formularies for certain people only is expressed by the prohibition to divulge the formulary, and by the exclusion of those considered unworthy. This picture encompasses the different religious traditions (accounting even for the "magic" prayers in the Greek magical papyri): an essential, phenomenological difference between pagan and Jewish-Christian praying cannot be substantiated. Furthermore, the concept relates to the most different hymnic genres and, therefore, can serve as the basis for a cultural comparison of ancient hymnody and for reconstructing the religious mentality of prayer.
The most recent debate of the Synoptic Problem resulted in a dead-lock: The best-established solutions, the Two-Source-Hypothesis and the Farrer-Goodacre-Theory, are burdened with a number of apparent weaknesses. On the other hand, the arguments raised against these theories are cogent. An alternative possibility, that avoids the problems created by either of them, is the inclusion of the gospel used by Marcion. This gospel is not a redaction of Luke, but rather precedes Matthew and Luke and, therefore, belongs into the maze of the synoptic interrelations. The resulting model avoids the weaknesses of the previous theories and provides compelling and obvious solutions to the notoriously difficult problems.