Prayer

Prayer

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Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport
Rapport
Rapport is a term used to describe, in common terms, the relationship of two or more people who are in sync or on the same wavelength because they feel similar and/or relate well to each other....

 to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

 is used, prayer may take the form of a hymn
Hymn
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification...

, incantation
Incantation
An incantation or enchantment is a charm or spell created using words. An incantation may take place during a ritual, either a hymn or prayer, and may invoke or praise a deity. In magic, occultism, witchcraft it may be used with the intention of casting a spell on an object or a person...

, formal creed
Creed
A creed is a statement of belief—usually a statement of faith that describes the beliefs shared by a religious community—and is often recited as part of a religious service. When the statement of faith is longer and polemical, as well as didactic, it is not called a creed but a Confession of faith...

, or a spontaneous utterance in the praying person. There are different forms of prayer such as petitionary prayer, prayers of supplication, thanksgiving, and worship
Worship
Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship.Evelyn Underhill defines worship thus: "The absolute...

/praise. Prayer may be directed towards a deity
Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

, spirit, deceased person, or lofty idea, for the purpose of worshipping, requesting guidance, requesting assistance, confessing sin
Sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

s or to express one's thoughts and emotions. Thus, people pray for many reasons such as personal benefit or for the sake of others.

Most major religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

s involve prayer in one way or another. Some ritualize the act of prayer, requiring a strict sequence of actions or placing a restriction on who is permitted to pray, while others teach that prayer may be practiced spontaneously by anyone at any time.

Scientific studies regarding the use of prayer have mostly concentrated on its effect on the healing of sick or injured people. The efficacy of petition in prayer for physical healing to a deity has been evaluated in numerous studies, with contradictory results. There has been some criticism of the way the studies were conducted.

Forms of prayer


Various spiritual traditions offer a wide variety of devotional acts. There are morning and evening prayers, graces said over meals, and reverent physical gestures. Some Christians bow their heads and fold their hands. Some Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 regard dancing as a form of prayer.
Some Sufis
Sufism
Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

 whirl
Sufi whirling
Sufi whirling , is a form of Sama or physicaly active meditation which orginated among Sufis, and which is still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. It is a customary dance performed within the Sema, or worship ceremony, through which dervishes aim to reach the source of all...

.
Hindus chant mantras.
Orthodox Jews sway their bodies
Shuckling
Shuckling , from the Yiddish word meaning "to shake", is the ritual swaying of worshipers during Jewish prayer, usually forward and back but also from side to side. This practice can be traced back to at least the eighth century, and possibly as far back as Talmudic times...

 back and forth, plus at some point of prayer all Jewish communities partially kneel and bow their bodies
and Salah for Muslims ("kneel and prostrate as seen on the right"). Quakers keep silent.
Some pray according to standardized rituals and liturgies, while others prefer extemporaneous prayers. Still others combine the two.

These methods show a variety of understandings to prayer, which are led by underlying beliefs.

These beliefs may be that
  • the finite can communicate with the infinite
  • the infinite is interested in communicating with the finite
  • prayer is intended to inculcate certain attitudes in the one who prays, rather than to influence the recipient
  • prayer is intended to train a person to focus on the recipient through philosophy and intellectual contemplation
  • prayer is intended to enable a person to gain a direct experience of the recipient
  • prayer is intended to affect the very fabric of reality as we perceive it
  • prayer is a catalyst for change in oneself and/or one's circumstances, or likewise those of third party beneficiaries
  • the recipient desires and appreciates prayer
  • or any combination of these.


The act of prayer is attested in written sources as early as 5000 years ago. Some anthropologists
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

, such as Sir Edward Burnett Tylor
Edward Burnett Tylor
Sir Edward Burnett Tylor , was an English anthropologist.Tylor is representative of cultural evolutionism. In his works Primitive Culture and Anthropology, he defined the context of the scientific study of anthropology, based on the evolutionary theories of Charles Lyell...

 and Sir James George Frazer, believed that the earliest intelligent modern humans practiced something that we would recognize today as prayer.

Friedrich Heiler
Friedrich Heiler
Friedrich Heiler was a German theologian and historian of religion.Heiler came from a Roman Catholic family...

 is often cited in Christian circles for his systematic Typology of Prayer which lists six types of prayer: primitive, ritual, Greek cultural, philosophical, mystical, and prophetic.

The act of worship


Prayer has many different forms. Prayer may be done privately and individually, or it may be done corporately in the presence of fellow believers. Prayer can be incorporated into a daily "thought life", in which one is in constant communication with a god. Some people pray throughout all that is happening during the day and seek guidance as the day progresses. This is actually regarded as a requirement in several Christian denominations, although enforcement is not possible nor desirable. There can be many different answers to prayer, just as there are many ways to interpret an answer to a question, if there in fact comes an answer. Some may experience audible, physical, or mental epiphanies. If indeed an answer comes, the time and place it comes is considered random.
Some outward acts that sometimes accompany prayer are: anointing with oil; ringing a bell; burning incense or paper; lighting a candle or candles; facing a specific direction (i.e. towards Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 or the East); making the sign of the cross
Sign of the cross
The Sign of the Cross , or crossing oneself, is a ritual hand motion made by members of many branches of Christianity, often accompanied by spoken or mental recitation of a trinitarian formula....

. One less noticeable act related to prayer is fasting
Fasting
Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a single day , or several days. Other fasts may be only partially restrictive,...

.

A variety of body postures may be assumed, often with specific meaning (mainly respect or adoration) associated with them: standing; sitting; kneeling; prostrate on the floor; eyes opened; eyes closed; hands folded or clasped; hands upraised; holding hands with others; a laying on of hands and others. Prayers may be recited from memory, read from a book of prayers, or composed spontaneously as they are prayed. They may be said, chanted, or sung. They may be with musical accompaniment or not. There may be a time of outward silence while prayers are offered mentally. Often, there are prayers to fit specific occasions, such as the blessing of a meal, the birth or death of a loved one, other significant events in the life of a believer, or days of the year that have special religious significance. Details corresponding to specific traditions are outlined below.

Etruscan, Greek, and Roman paganism


In the pre-Christian religions of Greeks and Romans (Ancient Greek religion
Ancient Greek religion
Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs and rituals practiced in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and cult practices. These different groups varied enough for it to be possible to speak of Greek religions or "cults" in the plural, though most of them shared...

, Roman religion
Religion in ancient Rome
Religion in ancient Rome encompassed the religious beliefs and cult practices regarded by the Romans as indigenous and central to their identity as a people, as well as the various and many cults imported from other peoples brought under Roman rule. Romans thus offered cult to innumerable deities...

), ceremonial prayer was highly formulaic and ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

ized. The Iguvine Tables
Iguvine Tables
The Iguvine Tablets are a series of seven bronze tablets discovered at Iguvium , Italy, in the year 1444. They are also known as Eugubian tablets...

 contain a supplication that can be translated, "If anything was said improperly, if anything was done improperly, let it be as if it were done correctly."

The formalism and formulaic nature of these prayers led them to be written down in language that may have only been partially understood by the writer, and our texts of these prayers may in fact be garbled. Prayers in Etruscan
Etruscan language
The Etruscan language was spoken and written by the Etruscan civilization, in what is present-day Italy, in the ancient region of Etruria and in parts of Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna...

 were used in the Roman world by augur
Augur
The augur was a priest and official in the classical world, especially ancient Rome and Etruria. His main role was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds: whether they are flying in groups/alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of...

s and other oracle
Oracle
In Classical Antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such it is a form of divination....

s long after Etruscan became a dead language. The Carmen Arvale
Carmen Arvale
The Carmen Arvale is the preserved chant of the Arval priests or Fratres Arvales of ancient Rome.The Arval priests were devoted to the goddess Dea Dia, and offered sacrifices to her to ensure the fertility of ploughed fields . There were twelve Arval priests, chosen from patrician families. ...

 and the Carmen Saliare
Carmen Saliare
The Carmen Saliare is a fragment of archaic Latin, which played a part in the rituals performed by the Salii of Ancient Rome.The rituals revolved around Mars and Quirinus, and were performed in March and October...

 are two specimens of partially preserved prayers that seem to have been unintelligible to their scribes, and whose language is full of archaism
Archaism
In language, an archaism is the use of a form of speech or writing that is no longer current. This can either be done deliberately or as part of a specific jargon or formula...

s and difficult passages.

Roman prayers and sacrifice
Sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

s were often envisioned as legal
Religious law
In some religions, law can be thought of as the ordering principle of reality; knowledge as revealed by a God defining and governing all human affairs. Law, in the religious sense, also includes codes of ethics and morality which are upheld and required by the God...

 bargains between deity and worshipper. The Roman principle was expressed as do ut des: "I give, so that you may give." Cato the Elder
Cato the Elder
Marcus Porcius Cato was a Roman statesman, commonly referred to as Censorius , Sapiens , Priscus , or Major, Cato the Elder, or Cato the Censor, to distinguish him from his great-grandson, Cato the Younger.He came of an ancient Plebeian family who all were noted for some...

's treatise on agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 contains many examples of preserved traditional prayers; in one, a farmer addresses the unknown deity of a possibly sacred grove, and sacrifices a pig in order to placate the god or goddess of the place and beseech his or her permission to cut down some trees from the grove.

Germanic paganism



An amount of accounts of prayers to the gods
Æsir
In Old Norse, áss is the term denoting a member of the principal pantheon in Norse paganism. This pantheon includes Odin, Frigg, Thor, Baldr and Tyr. The second pantheon comprises the Vanir...

 in Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism refers to the theology and religious practices of the Germanic peoples of north-western Europe from the Iron Age until their Christianization during the Medieval period...

 survived the process of Christianization
Christianization
The historical phenomenon of Christianization is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire peoples at once...

, though only a single prayer has survived without the interjection of Christian references. This prayer is recorded in stanzas 2 and 3 of the poem Sigrdrífumál
Sigrdrífumál
Sigrdrífumál is the conventional title given to a section of the Poetic Edda text in Codex Regius....

, compiled in the 13th century Poetic Edda
Poetic Edda
The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius. Along with Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda is the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends, and from the early 19th century...

from earlier traditional sources, where the valkyrie
Valkyrie
In Norse mythology, a valkyrie is one of a host of female figures who decides who dies in battle. Selecting among half of those who die in battle , the valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin...

 Sigrdrífa prays to the gods and the earth
Jörð
In Norse mythology, Jörð and also called Jarð as in Old East Norse, is a female jötunn. She is the mother of Thor and Meili, and the personification of the Earth. Fjörgyn and Hlôdyn are considered to be other names for Jörð...

 after being woken by the hero Sigurd
Sigurd
Sigurd is a legendary hero of Norse mythology, as well as the central character in the Völsunga saga. The earliest extant representations for his legend come in pictorial form from seven runestones in Sweden and most notably the Ramsund carving Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigurðr) is a legendary hero of...

.

A prayer to the bigger god Odin
Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

 is mentioned in chapter 2 of the Völsunga saga
Volsunga saga
The Völsungasaga is a legendary saga, a late 13th century Icelandic prose rendition of the origin and decline of the Völsung clan . It is largely based on epic poetry...

where King Rerir
Rerir
In Völsunga saga, Rerir, the son of Sigi, succeeds his murdered father and avenges his death. He rules the Huns in Hunaland and becomes a powerful ruler. Rerir's son is Völsung....

 prays for a child. His prayer is answered by Frigg
Frigg
Frigg is a major goddess in Norse paganism, a subset of Germanic paganism. She is said to be the wife of Odin, and is the "foremost among the goddesses" and the queen of Asgard. Frigg appears primarily in Norse mythological stories as a wife and a mother. She is also described as having the power...

, wife of Odin, who sends him an apple
Apple
The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family . It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits, and the most widely known of the many members of genus Malus that are used by humans. Apple grow on small, deciduous trees that blossom in the spring...

, which is dropped on his lap by Frigg's servant in the form of a crow while Rerir is sitting on a mound
Tumulus
A tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgrab or kurgans, and can be found throughout much of the world. A tumulus composed largely or entirely of stones is usually referred to as a cairn...

. Rerir's wife eats the apple and is then pregnant with the hero Völsung
Volsung
In Norse mythology, Völsung was the son of Rerir and the eponymous ancestor of the ill-fortuned Völsung clan , including the greatest of Norse heroes, Sigurð...

. In stanza 9 of the poem Oddrúnargrátr
Oddrúnargrátr
Oddrúnargrátr or Oddrúnarkviða is an Eddic poem, found in the Codex Regius manuscript where it follows Guðrúnarkviða III and precedes Atlakviða....

, a prayer is made to "kind wights
Vættir
Vættir or wights are nature spirits in the Norse religion. These nature spirits divide up into 'families', including the Álfar , Dvergar , Jötnar , and even gods, the Æsir and Vanir, who are understood to be prominent families among them. The term 'families' is often translated as 'clans' or...

, Frigg and Freyja, and many gods," although since the poem is often considered one of the youngest poems in the Poetic Edda, the passage has been the matter of some debate.

In chapter 21 of Jómsvíkinga saga
Jómsvíkinga saga
The Jómsvíkinga saga relates of the founding of Jomsborg by Palnatoke, and of the famous Viking brotherhood of the Jomsvikings....

, wishing to turn the tide of the Battle of Hjörungavágr
Battle of Hjörungavágr
The Battle of Hjörungavágr is a semi-legendary naval battle that took place in the late 10th century between the Jarls of Lade and a Danish invasion fleet led by the fabled Jomsvikings...

, Haakon Sigurdsson
Haakon Sigurdsson
Haakon Sigurdarsson was the de facto ruler of Norway from about 975 to 995.-Background:Haakon was the son of Sigurd Haakonsson, Jarl of Lade and ruler of Trøndelag and Hålogaland. His mother was Bergljot Toresdatter, daughter of Tore Ragnvaldsson, Earl of Møre...

 eventually finds his prayers answered by the goddesses Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr and Irpa
Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr and Irpa
In Norse mythology, Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr and Irpa are goddesses. Þorgerðr and Irpa appear together in Jómsvíkinga saga, Njáls saga, and Þorleifs þáttr jarlsskálds...

 (the first of the two described as Haakon's patron goddess) who appear in the battle, kill many of the opposing fleet, and cause the remnants of their forces to flee. However, this depiction of a pagan prayer has been criticized as inaccurate due to the description of Haakon dropping to his knees.

The 11th century manuscript for the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon may refer to:* Anglo-Saxons, a group that invaded Britain** Old English, their language** Anglo-Saxon England, their history, one of various ships* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, an ethnicity* Anglo-Saxon economy, modern macroeconomic term...

 charm Æcerbot
Æcerbot
Æcerbot is an Anglo-Saxon charm recorded in the 11th century, intended to remedy fields that yielded poorly. The charm consists of a partially Christianized prayer and a day-long ritual that began at night with four sods taken from the field, to the root-mats of which a poultice was applied in the...

presents what is thought to be an originally pagan prayer for the fertility of the speaker's crops and land, though Christianization is apparent throughout the charm. The 8th century Wessobrunn Prayer
Wessobrunn Prayer
The Wessobrunn Prayer, sometimes called the Wessobrunn Creation Poem , believed to date from c790, is among the earliest known poetic works in Old High German.-Origins:...

 has been proposed as a Christianized pagan prayer and compared to the pagan Völuspá
Völuspá
Völuspá is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a völva addressing Odin...

and the Merseburg Incantations
Merseburg Incantations
The Merseburg Incantations are two medieval magic spells, charms or incantations, written in Old High German. They are the only known examples of Germanic pagan belief preserved in this language...

, the latter recorded in the 9th or 10th century but of much older traditional origins.

Bible


In the common Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 of the Abrahamic religions, various forms of prayer appear; the most common forms being petition
Petition
A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity. Petitions to a deity are a form of prayer....

, thanksgiving
Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Day is a holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Thanksgiving is celebrated each year on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. In Canada, Thanksgiving falls on the same day as Columbus Day in the...

, and worship
Worship
Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship.Evelyn Underhill defines worship thus: "The absolute...

. The longest book in the Bible is the Book of Psalms, 150 religious songs which are often regarded as prayers. Other well-known Biblical prayers include the Song of Moses
Song of Moses
The Song of Moses in this article relates to the name sometimes given to the poem that appears in Deuteronomy of the Hebrew Bible written/orated just prior to Moses' death atop Mount Nebo....

 (Exodus 15:1-18), the Song of Hannah
Song of Hannah
The Song of Hannah is a poem interrupting the prose text of the Books of Samuel. According to the surrounding narrative, the poem was a prayer delivered by Hannah, to give thanks to God for the birth of her son, Samuel.-Contents and themes:...

 (1 Samuel 2:1-10), and the Magnificat
Magnificat
The Magnificat — also known as the Song of Mary or the Canticle of Mary — is a canticle frequently sung liturgically in Christian church services. It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn...

 (Luke 1:46-55). But perhaps the best-known prayer in the Christian Bible is the Lord's Prayer
Lord's Prayer
The Lord's Prayer is a central prayer in Christianity. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it appears in two forms: in the Gospel of Matthew as part of the discourse on ostentation in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Gospel of Luke, which records Jesus being approached by "one of his...

 (Matthew 6:9–13; Luke 11:2-4).

Judaism




Jews pray three times a day, Shacharit
Shacharit
Shacharit is the the daily morning Tefillah of the Jewish people, one of the three times there is prayer each day.Shacharit is said to have been established by the patriarch Abraham when he prayed in the morning...

, Mincha
Mincha
Mincha, מנחה is the afternoon prayer service in Judaism.-Etymology:The name "Mincha" is derived from the meal offering that accompanied each sacrifice.-Origin:...

, and Arvit with lengthier prayers on special days, such as the Shabbat
Shabbat
Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until a few minutes after when one would expect to be able to see three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact times, therefore, differ from...

 and Jewish holidays including Musaf and the reading of the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

. The siddur
Siddur
A siddur is a Jewish prayer book, containing a set order of daily prayers. This article discusses how some of these prayers evolved, and how the siddur, as it is known today has developed...

 is the prayerbook used by Jews all over the world, containing a set order of daily prayers. Jewish prayer is usually described as having two aspects: kavanah
Kavanah
Kavanah or Kavannah is the mindset often described as necessary for Jewish rituals ....

(intention) and keva (the ritualistic, structured elements).

The most important Jewish prayers are the Shema Yisrael
Shema Yisrael
Shema Yisrael are the first two words of a section of the Torah that is a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services...

 ("Hear O Israel") and the Amidah
Amidah
The Amidah , also called the Shmoneh Esreh , is the central prayer of the Jewish liturgy. This prayer, among others, is found in the siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book...

 ("the standing prayer").

Communal prayer is preferred over solitary prayer, and a quorum of 10 adult males (a minyan
Minyan
A minyan in Judaism refers to the quorum of ten Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations. According to many non-Orthodox streams of Judaism adult females count in the minyan....

) is considered by Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...

 a prerequisite for several communal prayers.
There are also many other ritualistic prayers a Jew performs during their day, such as washing before eating bread, washing after one wakes up in the morning, and doing grace after meals.

Rationalist approach to prayer


In this view, ultimate goal of prayer is to help train a person to focus on divinity through philosophy and intellectual contemplation. This approach was taken by Maimonides
Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

 and the other medieval rationalists. One example of this approach to prayer is noted by Rabbi Steven Weil, who was appointed the Orthodox Union's Executive-Vice President in 2009. He notes that the word “prayer” is a derivative of the Latin “precari”, which means “to beg”. The Hebrew equivalent “tefilah”, however, along with its root “pelel” or its reflexive “l’hitpallel”, means the act of self-analysis or self-evaluation. This approach is sometimes described as the person praying having a dialogue or conversation with God.

Educational approach to prayer


In this view, prayer is not a conversation. Rather, it is meant to inculcate certain attitudes in the one who prays, but not to influence. This has been the approach of Rabbenu Bachya, Yehuda Halevy, Joseph Albo
Joseph Albo
Joseph Albo was a Jewish philosopher and rabbi who lived in Spain during the fifteenth century, known chiefly as the author of Sefer ha-Ikkarim , the classic work on the fundamentals of Judaism.-Early life:Albo's birthplace is generally assumed to be Monreal, a town in Aragon...

, Samson Raphael Hirsch
Samson Raphael Hirsch
Samson Raphael Hirsch was a German rabbi best known as the intellectual founder of the Torah im Derech Eretz school of contemporary Orthodox Judaism...

, and Joseph Dov Soloveitchik. This view is expressed by Rabbi Nosson Scherman
Nosson Scherman
Nosson Scherman born 1935, Newark, New Jersey) is an American Haredi rabbi best known as the general editor of ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications.-Biography:...

 in the overview to the Artscroll
ArtScroll
ArtScroll is an imprint of translations, books and commentaries from an Orthodox Jewish perspective published by Mesorah Publications, Ltd., a publishing company based in Brooklyn, New York...

 Siddur (p. XIII); note that Scherman goes on to also affirm the Kabbalistic view (see below).

Kabbalistic approach to prayer


Kabbalah
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

 (Jewish mysticism) uses a series of kavanot, directions of intent, to specify the path the prayer ascends in the dialog with God, to increase its chances of being answered favorably. Kabbalists ascribe a higher meaning to the purpose of prayer, which is no less than affecting the very fabric of reality itself, restructuring and repairing the universe in a real fashion. In this view, every word of every prayer, and indeed, even every letter of every word, has a precise meaning and a precise effect. Prayers thus literally affect the mystical forces of the universe, and repair the fabric of creation.

Among Jews, this approach has been taken by the Chassidei Ashkenaz
Chassidei Ashkenaz
The Chassidei Ashkenaz was a Jewish movement in the 12th century and 13th century founded by Rabbi Judah the Pious of Regensburg, Germany and several other German Jews members of the Lehr family and the Kalonymus family.Rabbi Judah was born in Speyer, Germany in 1150 during a time of persecution...

 (German pietists of the Middle-Ages), the Arizal's
Isaac Luria
Isaac Luria , also called Yitzhak Ben Shlomo Ashkenazi acronym "The Ari" "Ari-Hakadosh", or "Arizal", meaning "The Lion", was a foremost rabbi and Jewish mystic in the community of Safed in the Galilee region of Ottoman Palestine...

 Kabbalist tradition, Ramchal
Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
Moshe Chaim Luzzatto , also known by the Hebrew acronym RaMCHaL , was a prominent Italian Jewish rabbi, kabbalist, and philosopher.-Padua:Born in Padua at night, he received classical Jewish and Italian educations, showing a...

, most of Hassidism
Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...

, the Vilna Gaon
Vilna Gaon
Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kramer, known as the Vilna Gaon or Elijah of Vilna and simply by his Hebrew acronym Gra or Elijah Ben Solomon, , was a Talmudist, halachist, kabbalist, and the foremost leader of non-hasidic Jewry of the past few centuries...

, and Jacob Emden
Jacob Emden
Jacob Emden also known as Ya'avetz, , was a leading German rabbi and talmudist who championed Orthodox Judaism in the face of the growing influence of the Sabbatean movement...

.

Christianity



Christian prayers are quite varied. They can be completely spontaneous, or read entirely from a text, like the Anglican Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

. The most common prayer among Christians is the Lord's Prayer
Lord's Prayer
The Lord's Prayer is a central prayer in Christianity. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it appears in two forms: in the Gospel of Matthew as part of the discourse on ostentation in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Gospel of Luke, which records Jesus being approached by "one of his...

, which according to the gospel
Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

 accounts (e.g. Matthew 6:9-13) is how Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 taught his disciples
Disciple (Christianity)
In Christianity, the disciples were the students of Jesus during his ministry. While Jesus attracted a large following, the term disciple is commonly used to refer specifically to "the Twelve", an inner circle of men whose number perhaps represented the twelve tribes of Israel...

 to pray. The Lord's prayer is a model for prayers of adoration, confession and petition in Christianity.

Christians generally pray to God or to the Father. Some Christians (e.g., Catholics, Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

) will also ask the righteous in heaven and "in Christ," such as Virgin Mary or other saints to intercede by praying on their behalf (intercession of saints
Intercession of saints
Intercession of the saints is a Christian doctrine held by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and some Anglican churches, that deceased saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for believers, and that it is possible to ask deceased saints for their prayers...

). Formulaic closures include "through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, through all the ages of ages," and "in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

It is customary among Protestants to end prayers with "In Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

' name, Amen" or "In the name of Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

, Amen" However, the most commonly used closure in Christianity is simply "Amen
Amen
The word amen is a declaration of affirmation found in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Its use in Judaism dates back to its earliest texts. It has been generally adopted in Christian worship as a concluding word for prayers and hymns. In Islam, it is the standard ending to Dua and the...

" (from a Hebrew adverb used as a statement of affirmation or agreement, usually translated as so be it).

In the Western or Latin Rite of Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, probably the most common is the Rosary
Rosary
The rosary or "garland of roses" is a traditional Catholic devotion. The term denotes the prayer beads used to count the series of prayers that make up the rosary...

; In the Eastern Church (the Eastern rites
Eastern Rite Catholic Churches
The Eastern Catholic Churches are autonomous, self-governing particular churches in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Together with the Latin Church, they compose the worldwide Catholic Church...

 of the Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 and Orthodox Church), the Jesus Prayer
Jesus Prayer
The Jesus Prayer or "The Prayer" is a short, formulaic prayer esteemed and advocated within the Eastern Orthodox church:The prayer has been widely taught and discussed throughout the history of the Eastern Churches. It is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice, its use...

. The Jesus Prayer is also often repeated as part of the meditative
Christian meditation
Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditārī, which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice...

 hesychasm
Hesychasm
Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

 practice in Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity. The term is generally used in Western Christianity to...

.

Roman Catholic tradition includes specific prayers and devotions as acts of reparation
Acts of reparation
In the Roman Catholic tradition, an Act of Reparation is a prayer or devotion with the intent to repair the "sins of others", e.g. for the repair of the sin of blasphemy, the sufferings of Jesus Christ or as Acts of Reparation to the Virgin Mary...

which do not involve a petition for a living or deceased beneficiary, but aim to repair the sins of others, e.g. for the repair of the sin of blasphemy
Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ
Roman Catholic tradition includes specific prayers and devotions as Acts of Reparation for insults and blasphemies against Jesus Christ and the Holy Name of Jesus. These include the sufferings during the Passion of Jesus...

 performed by others.

Pentecostalism


In Pentecostal
Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism is a diverse and complex movement within Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, has an eschatological focus, and is an experiential religion. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek...

 congregations, prayer is often done by speaking in a foreign tongue, a practice now known as glossolalia
Glossolalia
Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables, often as part of religious practice. The significance of glossolalia has varied with time and place, with some considering it a part of a sacred language...

. Practitioners of Pentecostal glossolalia may claim that the languages they speak in prayer are real foreign languages, and that the ability to speak those languages spontaneously is a gift of the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

; however, many people outside the movement have offered alternative views. George Barton Cutten
George Barton Cutten
George Barton Cutten was a Canadian-born psychologist, moral philosopher, historian and university administrator. He was president of Acadia University from 1910 to 1922 and Colgate University from 1922 to 1942.-Career:...

 suggested that glossolalia was a sign of mental illness. Felicitas Goodman
Felicitas Goodman
Felicitas D. Goodman was a Hungarian-born linguist and anthropologist.She was a highly regarded expert in linguistics and anthropology and researched and explored ritual body postures for many years. She studied the phenomenon of "speaking in tongues" in Pentecostal congregations in Mexico...

 suggested that tongue speakers were under a form of hypnosis. Others suggest that it is a learned behaviour. Some of these views have allegedly been refuted.

Christian Science



Christian Science
Christian Science
Christian Science is a system of thought and practice derived from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy and the Bible. It is practiced by members of The First Church of Christ, Scientist as well as some others who are nonmembers. Its central texts are the Bible and the Christian Science textbook,...

 teaches that prayer is a spiritualization of thought or an understanding of God and of the nature of the underlying spiritual creation. Adherents believe that this can result in healing, by bringing spiritual reality (the "Kingdom of Heaven
Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The term "Kingdom of God" is found in all four canonical gospels and in the Pauline epistles...

" in Biblical terms) into clearer focus in the human scene. The world as it appears to the senses is regarded as a distorted version of the world of spiritual ideas. Prayer can heal the distortion. Christian Scientists believe that prayer does not change the spiritual creation but gives a clearer view of it, and the result appears in the human scene as healing: the human picture adjusts to coincide more nearly with the divine reality. Christian Scientists do not practice intercessory prayer as it is commonly understood, and they generally avoid combining prayer with medical treatment in the belief that the two practices tend to work against each other. (However, the choice of healing method is regarded as a matter for the individual, and the Christian Science Church exerts no pressure on members to avoid medical treatment if they wish to avail of it as an alternative to Christian Science healing.) Prayer works through love
Love
Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. Love is central to many religions, as in the Christian phrase, "God is love" or Agape in the Canonical gospels...

: the recognition of God's creation as spiritual, intact, and inherently lovable.

Prevalence of prayer for health


Some modalities of alternative medicine
Alternative medicine
Alternative medicine is any healing practice, "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine." It is based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than on scientific evidence....

 employ prayer. A survey released in May 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health
National Institutes of Health
The National Institutes of Health are an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and are the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and health-related research. Its science and engineering counterpart is the National Science Foundation...

 in the United States, found that in 2002, 43% of Americans pray for their own health, 24% pray for others' health, and 10% participate in a prayer group for their own health.

Islam



Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s pray a ritualistic prayer called salah or salat in Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

, facing the Kaaba
Kaaba
The Kaaba is a cuboid-shaped building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the most sacred site in Islam. The Qur'an states that the Kaaba was constructed by Abraham, or Ibraheem, in Arabic, and his son Ishmael, or Ismaeel, as said in Arabic, after he had settled in Arabia. The building has a mosque...

 in Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

, five times a day. The command to pray is in the Quran in several chapters. The prophet Muhammed showed each Muslim the true method of offering prayers thus the same method is observed till date. There is the "call for prayer" (adhan
Adhan
The adhān is the Islamic call to prayer, recited by the muezzin at prescribed times of the day. The root of the word is meaning "to permit"; another derivative of this word is , meaning "ear"....

or azaan), where the muezzin
Muezzin
A muezzin , or muzim, is the chosen person at a mosque who leads the call to prayer at Friday services and the five daily times for prayer from one of the mosque's minarets; in most modern mosques, electronic amplification aids the muezzin in his task.The professional muezzin is chosen for his...

calls for all the followers to stand together for the prayer. The prayer consists of standing, by mentioning -àllàh o -àqbàr (God is great) followed by recitation of the first chapter of the Quran. After the person bends and praises god, then prostrates and again praises god. The prayer ends with the following words "peace and blessings be upon you". During the prayer a Muslim cannot talk or do anything else besides praying. Once the prayer is complete one can offer voluntary prayers or supplicate -àllàh for his needs. There are also many standard dua
Dua
In the terminology of Islam, Duʿāʾ Plural: Dow'āt literally meaning invocation, is an act of supplication. The term is derived from an Arabic word meaning to 'call out' or to 'summon', and Muslims regard this as a profound act of worship. This is when Muslim people from all over connect with God...

s or supplications, also in Arabic, to be recited at various times, e.g. for one's parents, after salah, before eating. Muslims may also say dua in their own words and languages for any issue they wish to communicate with God in the hope that God will answer their prayers. Certain Shia fiqhs pray 3 times a day.

Bahá'í



Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh , born ' , was the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. He claimed to be the prophetic fulfilment of Bábism, a 19th-century outgrowth of Shí‘ism, but in a broader sense claimed to be a messenger from God referring to the fulfilment of the eschatological expectations of Islam, Christianity, and...

, the Báb
Báb
Siyyid `Alí Muḥammad Shírází was the founder of Bábism, and one of three central figures of the Bahá'í Faith. He was a merchant from Shíráz, Persia, who at the age of twenty-four claimed to be the promised Qá'im . After his declaration he took the title of Báb meaning "Gate"...

, and `Abdu'l-Bahá
`Abdu'l-Bahá
‘Abdu’l-Bahá , born ‘Abbás Effendí, was the eldest son of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. In 1892, `Abdu'l-Bahá was appointed in his father's will to be his successor and head of the Bahá'í Faith. `Abdu'l-Bahá was born in Tehran to an aristocratic family of the realm...

 have revealed many prayers for general use, and some for specific occasions, including for unity, detachment, spiritual upliftment, and healing among others. Bahá'í
Bahá'í Faith
The Bahá'í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded by Bahá'u'lláh in 19th-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. There are an estimated five to six million Bahá'ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories....

s are also required to recite each day one of three obligatory prayers
Obligatory Bahá'í prayers
Obligatory Bahá'í prayers are prayers which are to be said daily by Bahá'ís according to a fixed form decreed by Bahá'u'lláh. Prayers in the Bahá'í Faith are reverent words which are addressed to God, and refers to two distinct concepts: obligatory prayer and devotional prayer . The act of prayer...

 revealed by Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh , born ' , was the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. He claimed to be the prophetic fulfilment of Bábism, a 19th-century outgrowth of Shí‘ism, but in a broader sense claimed to be a messenger from God referring to the fulfilment of the eschatological expectations of Islam, Christianity, and...

. The believers have been enjoined to face in the direction of the Qiblih
Qiblih
In the Bahá'í Faith the Qiblih is the location that Bahá'ís should face when saying their daily obligatory prayers, and is fixed at the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, near `Akká, in present day Israel; approximately at ....

 when reciting their Obligatory Prayer. The longest obligatory prayer may be recited at any time during the day; another, of medium length, is recited once in the morning, once at midday, and once in the evening; and the shortest can be recited anytime between noon and sunset. Bahá'ís also read from and meditate on the scriptures every morning and evening.

Eastern religions


In contrast with Western religion
Western religion
The term Western religion refers to religions that originated within Western culture, and are thus which historically, culturally, and theologically distinct from the Eastern religions...

, Eastern religion
Eastern religion
This article is about far east and Indian religions. For other eastern religions see: Eastern_world#Eastern_cultureEastern religions refers to religions originating in the Eastern world —India, China, Japan and Southeast Asia —and thus having dissimilarities with Western religions...

 for the most part discards worship
Worship
Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship.Evelyn Underhill defines worship thus: "The absolute...

 and places devotional emphasis on the practice of meditation
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

 alongside scriptural study. Consequently, prayer is seen as a form of meditation or an adjunct practice to meditation.

Buddhism



In certain Buddhist sects, prayer accompanies meditation
Buddhist meditation
Buddhist meditation refers to the meditative practices associated with the religion and philosophy of Buddhism.Core meditation techniques have been preserved in ancient Buddhist texts and have proliferated and diversified through teacher-student transmissions. Buddhists pursue meditation as part of...

. Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 for the most part sees prayer as a secondary, supportive practice to meditation and scriptural study
Dharma (Buddhism)
Dhamma or Dharma in Buddhism can have the following meanings:* The state of Nature as it is * The Laws of Nature considered collectively....

. Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

 claimed that human beings possess the capacity and potential to become liberated, or enlightened
Enlightenment (spiritual)
Enlightenment in a secular context often means the "full comprehension of a situation", but in spiritual terms the word alludes to a spiritual revelation or deep insight into the meaning and purpose of all things, communication with or understanding of the mind of God, profound spiritual...

, through contemplation
Contemplation
The word contemplation comes from the Latin word contemplatio. Its root is also that of the Latin word templum, a piece of ground consecrated for the taking of auspices, or a building for worship, derived either from Proto-Indo-European base *tem- "to cut", and so a "place reserved or cut out" or...

 (Sanskrit: bhāvana
Bhavana
Bhāvanā literally means "development" or "cultivating" or "producing" in the sense of "calling into existence." It is an important concept in Buddhist praxis...

and dhyāna
Dhyāna in Buddhism
Dhyāna in Sanskrit or jhāna in Pāli can refer to either meditation or meditative states. Equivalent terms are "Chán" in modern Chinese, "Zen" in Japanese, "Seon" in Korean, "Thien" in Vietnamese, and "Samten" in Tibetan....

), leading to insight
Vipassana
Vipassanā or vipaśyanā in the Buddhist tradition means insight into the true nature of reality. A regular practitioner of Vipassana is known as a Vipassi . Vipassana is one of the world's most ancient techniques of meditation, the inception of which is attributed to Gautama Buddha...

. Prayer is seen mainly as a powerful psycho-physical practice that can enhance meditation.

In the earliest Buddhist tradition, the Theravada
Theravada
Theravada ; literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching", is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India...

, and in the later Mahayana
Mahayana
Mahāyāna is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice...

 tradition of Zen
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

 (or Chán
Chan
-People:* Chan Marshall, American musician better known as Cat Power* Chan , Chinese surname; Mandarin transcription of the same name is Chen ** Agnes Chan , Hong Kong singer, also famous in Japan...

), prayer plays only an ancillary role. It is largely a ritual expression of wishes for success in the practice and in helping all beings.

The skillful means
Upaya
Upaya is a term in Mahayana Buddhism which is derived from the root upa√i and refers to a means that goes or brings one up to some goal, often the goal of Enlightenment. The term is often used with kaushalya ; upaya-kaushalya means roughly "skill in means"...

 (Sanskrit: upāya) of the transfer of merit (Sanskrit: pariṇāmanā
Parinamana
Pariṇāmanā is a Sanskrit term which may be rendered in English as "merit transference" though in common parlance it is rendered as "dedication". The Pariṇāmanā or 'dedication' is a standard part of Buddhist spiritual discipline or practice where the practitioner's accumulation of merit Pariṇāmanā...

) is an evocation
Evocation
Evocation is the act of calling or summoning a spirit, demon, god or other supernatural agent, in the Western mystery tradition. Comparable practices exist in many religions and magical traditions.-Evocation in the Western mystery tradition:...

 and prayer. Moreover, indeterminate buddhas are available for intercession as they reside in awoken-fields (Sanskrit: buddha-kshetra).

The nirmānakāya
Trikaya
The Trikāya doctrine is an important Mahayana Buddhist teaching on both the nature of reality and the nature of a Buddha. By the 4th century CE the Trikāya Doctrine had assumed the form that we now know...

of an awoken-field is what is generally known and understood as a mandala
Mandala
Maṇḍala is a Sanskrit word that means "circle". In the Buddhist and Hindu religious traditions their sacred art often takes a mandala form. The basic form of most Hindu and Buddhist mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point...

. The opening and closing of the ring (Sanskrit: maṇḍala) is an active prayer. An active prayer is a mindful activity, an activity in which mindfulness is not just cultivated but is. A common prayer is "May the merit of my practice, adorn Buddhas' Pure Lands, requite the fourfold kindness from above, and relieve the suffering of the three life-journeys below. Universally wishing sentient beings, Friends, foes, and karmic creditors, all to activate the bodhi mind, and all to be reborn in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss." (願以此功德 莊嚴佛淨土 上報四重恩 下濟三途苦 普願諸眾生 冤親諸債主 悉發菩提心 同生極樂國)

The Generation Stage
Generation stage
In Tantric Buddhism, the generation stage is the first phase of meditative Buddhist sādhana associated with the 'Father Tantra' class of anuttara-yoga-tantras of the Sarmapa or associated with what is known as Mahayoga Tantras by the Nyingmapa...

 (Sanskrit: utpatti-krama) of Vajrayana involves prayer elements.

The Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism is the body of Buddhist religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet and certain regions of the Himalayas, including northern Nepal, Bhutan, and India . It is the state religion of Bhutan...

 tradition emphasizes an instructive and devotional relationship to a guru; this may involve devotional practices known as guru yoga which are congruent with prayer. It also appears that Tibetan Buddhism posits the existence of various deities, but the peak view of the tradition is that the deities or yidam
Yidam
In Vajrayana Buddhism, an Ishta-deva or Ishta-devata is a fully enlightened being who is the focus of personal meditation, during a retreat or for life. The term is often translated into English as tutelary deity, meditation deity, or meditational deity...

 are no more existent or real than the continuity (Sanskrit: santana; refer mindstream
Mindstream
Mindstream in Buddhist philosophy is the moment-to-moment "continuum" of awareness. There are a number of terms in the Buddhist literature that may well be rendered "mindstream"...

) of the practitioner, environment and activity. But how practitioners engage yidam or tutelary deities will depend upon the level or more appropriately yana
Yana (Buddhism)
Yāna refers to a mode or method of spiritual practice in Buddhism, and in particular to divisions of various schools of Buddhism according to their type of practice.-Nomenclature, etymology and orthography:...

at which they are practicing. At one level, one may pray to a deity for protection or assistance, taking a more subordinate role. At another level, one may invoke the deity, on a more equal footing. And at a higher level one may deliberately cultivate the idea that one has become the deity, whilst remaining aware that its ultimate nature is śūnyatā. The views of the more esoteric yana are impenetrable for those without direct experience and empowerment.

Pure Land Buddhism
Pure Land Buddhism
Pure Land Buddhism , also referred to as Amidism in English, is a broad branch of Mahāyāna Buddhism and currently one of the most popular traditions of Buddhism in East Asia. Pure Land is a branch of Buddhism focused on Amitābha Buddha...

 emphasizes the recitation by devotees of prayer-like mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

s, a practice often called Nembutsu. On one level it is said that reciting these mantras can ensure rebirth into a Sambhogakāya
Sambhogakaya
The Sambhogakāya is the second mode or aspect of the Trikaya. Sambhogakaya has also been translated as the "deity dimension", "body of bliss" or "astral body". Sambhogakaya refers to the luminous form of clear light the Buddhist practitioner attains upon the reaching the highest dimensions of...

land (Sanskrit: buddha-kshetra) after bodily dissolution, a sheer ball spontaneously co-emergent to a buddha's enlightened intention. According to Shinran
Shinran
was a Japanese Buddhist monk, who was born in Hino at the turbulent close of the Heian Period and lived during the Kamakura Period...

, the founder of the Pure Land Buddhism
Pure Land Buddhism
Pure Land Buddhism , also referred to as Amidism in English, is a broad branch of Mahāyāna Buddhism and currently one of the most popular traditions of Buddhism in East Asia. Pure Land is a branch of Buddhism focused on Amitābha Buddha...

 tradition that is most prevalent in the US, "for the long haul nothing is as efficacious as the Nembutsu." On another, the practice is a form of meditation aimed at achieving realization.

But beyond all these practices the Buddha emphasized the primacy of individual practice and experience. He said that supplication to gods or deities was not necessary. Nevertheless, today many lay people in East Asian countries pray to the Buddha in ways that resemble Western prayer—asking for intervention and offering devotion.

Hinduism



Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 has incorporated many kinds of prayer (Sanskrit: prārthanā), from fire-based rituals
Yajna
In Hinduism, yajna is a ritual of sacrifice derived from the practice of Vedic times. It is performed to please the gods or to attain certain wishes...

 to philosophical musings. While chanting involves 'by dictum' recitation of timeless verses or verses with timings and notations, dhyanam involves deep meditation (however short or long) on the preferred deity/God. Again the object to which prayers are offered could be a persons referred as devtas, trinity or incarnation of either devtas or trinity or simply plain formless meditation as practiced by the ancient sages. All of these are directed to fulfilling personal needs or deep spiritual enlightenment. Ritual invocation
Invocation
An invocation may take the form of:*Supplication or prayer.*A form of possession.*Command or conjuration.*Self-identification with certain spirits....

 was part and parcel of the Vedic religion
Historical Vedic religion
The religion of the Vedic period is a historical predecessor of Hinduism. Its liturgy is reflected in the mantra portion of the four Vedas, which are compiled in Sanskrit. The religious practices centered on a clergy administering rites...

 and as such permeated their sacred texts. Indeed, the highest sacred texts of the Hindus, the Vedas
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

, are a large collection of mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

s and prayer rituals. Classical Hinduism came to focus on extolling a single supreme force, Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

, that is made manifest in several lower forms as the familiar gods of the Hindu pantheon. Hindus in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 have numerous devotional movements. Hindus may pray to the highest absolute God Brahman, or more commonly to Its three manifestations namely creator god called Brahma, preserver god called Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 and destroyer god (so that the creation cycle can start afresh) Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

, and at the next level to Vishnu's avatars (earthly appearances) Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

 and Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 or to many other male or female deities. Typically, Hindus pray with their hands (the palms) joined together in pranam. The hand gesture is similar to the popular Indian greeting namaste
Namaste
Namaste is a common spoken valediction or salutation originating from the Indian subcontinent. It is a customary greeting when individuals meet, and a valediction upon their parting. A non-contact form of salutation is traditionally preferred in India and Namaste is the most common form of such a...

.

Jainism


Although Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

 believes that no spirit or divine being can assist them on their path, these figures do hold some influence on believers, and on special occasions, Jains will pray for right knowledge to the twenty-four Tirthankaras or sometimes to deities such as Ganesha
Ganesha
Ganesha , also spelled Ganesa or Ganesh, also known as Ganapati , Vinayaka , and Pillaiyar , is one of the deities best-known and most widely worshipped in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India and Nepal. Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliations...

 or protectors such as the Yaksha
Yaksha
Yaksha is the name of a broad class of nature-spirits, usually benevolent, who are caretakers of the natural treasures hidden in the earth and tree roots. They appear in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist mythology. The feminine form of the word is ' or Yakshini .In Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist mythology,...

s and Yakshini
Yakshini
Yakshinis are mythical beings of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain mythology.-Description:A yakshini is the female counterpart of the male yaksha, and they both attend on Kubera , the Hindu god of wealth who rules in the mythical Himalayan kingdom of Alaka. They both look after treasure hidden in the...

s.

Shinto


The practices involved in Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

 prayer are heavily influenced by Buddhism; Japanese Buddhism has also been strongly influenced by Shinto in turn. The most common and basic form of devotion involves throwing a coin, or several, into a collection box, ringing a bell, clapping one's hands, and contemplating one's wish or prayer silently. The bell and hand clapping are meant to wake up or attract the attention of the kami
Kami
is the Japanese word for the spirits, natural forces, or essence in the Shinto faith. Although the word is sometimes translated as "god" or "deity", some Shinto scholars argue that such a translation can cause a misunderstanding of the term...

of the shrine, so that one's prayer may be heard.

Shinto prayers quite frequently consist of wishes or favors asked of the kami, rather than lengthy praises or devotions. Unlike in certain other faiths, it is not considered irregular or inappropriate to ask favors of the kami in this way, and indeed many shrines are associated with particular favors, such as success on exams.

In addition, one may write one's wish on a small wooden tablet, called an ema
Ema (Shinto)
are small wooden plaques on which Shinto worshippers write their prayers or wishes. The ema are then left hanging up at the shrine, where the kami receive them. They bear various pictures, often of animals or other Shinto imagery, and many have the word gan'i , meaning "wish", written along the side...

, and leave it hanging at the shrine, where the kami can read it. If the wish is granted, one may return to the shrine to leave another ema as an act of thanksgiving.

Sikhism



The Ardās
Ardas
The Ardās is a Sikh prayer that is done before performing or after undertaking any significant task; after reciting the daily Banis ; or completion of a service like the Paath , kirtan program or any other religious program. In Sikhism, these prayers are also said before and after eating...

 (Punjabi: ਅਰਦਾਸ) is a Sikh
Sikh
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism. It primarily originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. The term "Sikh" has its origin in Sanskrit term शिष्य , meaning "disciple, student" or शिक्ष , meaning "instruction"...

 prayer that is done before performing or after undertaking any significant task; after reciting the daily Banis (prayers); or completion of a service like the Paath
Paath
Paath or Path, from the Sanskrit patha which means reading or recitation, is, in the religious context, reading or recitation of the holy texts. In Sikhism, it implies daily repetition of scriptural texts from the Guru Granth Sahib.-Background:...

 (scripture reading/recitation), kirtan
Kirtan
Kirtan or Kirtana is call-and-response chanting or "responsory" performed in India's devotional traditions. A person performing kirtan is known as a kirtankar. Kirtan practice involves chanting hymns or mantras to the accompaniment of instruments such as the harmonium, tablas, the two-headed...

 (hymn-singing) program or any other religious program. In Sikhism, these prayers are also said before and after eating. The prayer is a plea to God to support and help the devotee with whatever he or she is about to undertake or has done.

The Ardas is usually always done standing up with folded hands. The beginning of the Ardas is strictly set by the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh
Guru Gobind Singh
Guru Gobind Singh is the tenth and last Sikh guru in a sacred lineage of ten Sikh gurus. Born in Patna, Bihar in India, he was also a warrior, poet and philosopher. He succeeded his father Guru Tegh Bahadur as the leader of Sikhs at a young age of nine...

. When it comes to conclusion of this prayer, the devotee uses word like "Waheguru
Waheguru
Waheguru is a term most often used in Sikhism to refer to God, the Supreme Being or the creator of all. It means "The Good/Best Teacher" in the Punjabi language. Wahi means "good" and "Guru" is a term denoting "teacher"....

 please bless me in the task that I am about to undertake" when starting a new task or "Akal Purakh
Akal Purakh
Akal Purakh is a Sikh name used for God.Literally it means "a timeless being whom never dies." The first word Akal, literally timeless, immortal, non-temporal, is a term integral to Sikh tradition and philosophy. It is extensively used in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth hymns by Guru...

, having completed the hymn-singing, we ask for your continued blessings so that we can continue with your memory and remember you at all times", etc. The word "Ardās" is derived from Persian word 'Arazdashat', meaning a request, supplication, prayer, petition or an address to a superior authority.

Ardās is a unique prayer based on the fact that it is one of the few well-known prayers in the Sikh religion that was not written in its entirety by the Gurus. The Ardās cannot be found within the pages of the Guru Granth Sahib
Guru Granth Sahib
Sri Guru Granth Sahib , or Adi Granth, is the religious text of Sikhism. It is the final and eternal guru of the Sikhs. It is a voluminous text of 1430 angs, compiled and composed during the period of Sikh gurus, from 1469 to 1708...

 because it is a continually changing devotional text that has evolved over time in order for it to encompass the feats, accomplishments, and feelings of all generations of Sikhs within its lines. Taking the various derivation of the word Ardās into account, the basic purpose of this prayer is an appeal to Waheguru for his protection and care, as well as being a plea for the welfare and prosperity of all mankind, and a means for the Sikhs to thank Waheguru for all that he has done.

Taoism


Prayer in Taoism is less common than Fulu
Fulu
Fulu is a term for Daoist practitioners in the past who could draw and write supernatural talismans, Fu , Shenfu which they believed functioned as summons or instructions to deities, spirits, or as tools of exorcism, as medicinal potions for ailments...

, which is the drawing and writing of supernatural talismans.

Animism



Although prayer in its literal sense is not used in animism
Animism
Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

, communication with the spirit world is vital to the animist way of life. This is usually accomplished through a shaman who, through a trance, gains access to the spirit world and then shows the spirits' thoughts to the people. Other ways to receive messages from the spirits include using astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

 or contemplating fortune tellers and healers. The native religions in some parts of North, East and South Asia, America
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

, Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, and Oceania
Oceania
Oceania is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Conceptions of what constitutes Oceania range from the coral atolls and volcanic islands of the South Pacific to the entire insular region between Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago...

 are often animistic.

America



The Aztec religion was not strictly animist. It had an ever increasing pantheon of deities, and the shamans performed ritual prayer to these deities in their respective temples. These shamans made petitions to the proper deities in exchange for a sacrifice offering: food, flowers, effigies, and animals, usually quail. But the larger the thing required from the God the larger the sacrifice had to be, and for the most important rites one would offer one's own blood; by cutting his ears, arms, tongue, thighs, chest or genitals, and often a human life; either warrior, slave, or even self-sacrifice.

The Pueblo Indians are known to have used prayer stick
Prayer stick
A prayer stick is a stick-shaped object used for prayer.For example, the rituals of the Pueblo contain many prayers; thus the Zuñi have prayers for food, health, and rain. Prayer-sticks, that is sticks with feathers attached as supplicatory offerings to the "spirits", were largely used by the Pueblo...

s, that is, sticks with feathers attached as supplicatory offerings. The Hopi
Hopi
The Hopi are a federally recognized tribe of indigenous Native American people, who primarily live on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi area according to the 2000 census has a population of 6,946 people. Their Hopi language is one of the 30 of the Uto-Aztecan language...

 Indians used prayer sticks as well, but they attached to it a small bag of sacred meat.

Australia



In Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, prayers to the "Great Wit" are performed by the "clever wapmen" and "clever women", or kadji. These Aboriginal
Australian Aborigines
Australian Aborigines , also called Aboriginal Australians, from the latin ab originem , are people who are indigenous to most of the Australian continentthat is, to mainland Australia and the island of Tasmania...

 shamans use maban
Maban
Maban or Mabain is a material that is held to be magical in Australian Aboriginal mythology. It is the material from which the shamans and elders of indigenous Australia supposedly derive their magical powers.-References:...

 or mabain, the material that is believed to give them their purported magical powers.

Neopaganism



Adherents to forms of modern Neopaganism
Neopaganism
Neopaganism is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of modern religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe...

 pray to various gods. The most commonly worshiped and prayed to gods are those of Pre-Christian Europe, such as Celtic
Celtic mythology
Celtic mythology is the mythology of Celtic polytheism, apparently the religion of the Iron Age Celts. Like other Iron Age Europeans, the early Celts maintained a polytheistic mythology and religious structure...

, Norse
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

, or Graeco-Roman
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 gods. Prayer can vary from sect to sect, and with some (such as Wicca) prayer may also be associated with ritual magick.

Theurgy and Western Esotericism



Practitioners of theurgy
Theurgy
Theurgy describes the practice of rituals, sometimes seen as magical in nature, performed with the intention of invoking the action or evoking the presence of one or more gods, especially with the goal of uniting with the divine, achieving henosis, and perfecting oneself.- Definitions :*Proclus...

 and western esotericism may practice a form of ritual which utilizes both pre-sanctioned prayers and names of God, and prayers "from the heart" that, when combined, allows the participant to ascend spiritually, and in some instances, induce a trance in which God or other spiritual beings may be realized. Very similar to hermetic qabala, and orthodox qabala
Qabala
Qabala is a rayon of Azerbaijan. Its administrative center is the historic town of Qəbələ, which in ancient times was known as the capital of Caucasian Albania....

, it is believed that prayer can influence both the physical and non-physical worlds. The use of ritualistic signs and names are believed to be archetypes in which the subconscious may take form as the Inner God, or another spiritual being, and the "prayer from the heart" to be that spiritual force speaking through the participant.

Meher Baba


The Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba
Meher Baba
Meher Baba , , born Merwan Sheriar Irani, was an Indian mystic and spiritual master who declared publicly in 1954 that he was the Avatar of the age....

 emphasized both the beauty of prayer as praise and the power of prayer as petition:

"The ideal prayer to the Lord is nothing more than spontaneous praise of His being. You praise Him, not in the spirit of bargain but in the spirit of self-forgetful appreciation of what He really is. You praise Him because He is praiseworthy. Your praise is a
spontaneous appreciative response to his true being, as infinite light, infinite power and infinite bliss."

"Through repeated sincere prayers it is possible to effect an exit from the otherwise inexorable working out of the law of karma.
The forgiveness asked from God evokes from Him His inscrutable grace, which alone can give new direction to the inexorable karmic determination."

Approaches to prayer



Direct petitions to God


From Biblical times to today, the most common form of prayer is to directly appeal to God to grant one's requests. This in many ways is the simplest form of prayer. Some have termed this the social approach to prayer. In this view, a person directly enters into God's rest, and asks for their needs to be fulfilled. God listens to the prayer, and may so or not choose to answer in the way one asks of him. This is the primary approach to prayer found in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, most of the Church writings, and in rabbinic literature such as the Talmud.

Educational approach


In this view, prayer is not a conversation. Rather, it is meant to inculcate certain attitudes in the one who prays, but not to influence. Among Jews, this has been the approach of Rabbenu Bachya, Rabbi Yehuda Halevi
Yehuda Halevi
Judah Halevi was a Spanish Jewish physician, poet and philosopher. He was born in Spain, either in Toledo or Tudela, in 1075 or 1086, and died shortly after arriving in Palestine in 1141...

, Joseph Albo
Joseph Albo
Joseph Albo was a Jewish philosopher and rabbi who lived in Spain during the fifteenth century, known chiefly as the author of Sefer ha-Ikkarim , the classic work on the fundamentals of Judaism.-Early life:Albo's birthplace is generally assumed to be Monreal, a town in Aragon...

, Samson Raphael Hirsch
Samson Raphael Hirsch
Samson Raphael Hirsch was a German rabbi best known as the intellectual founder of the Torah im Derech Eretz school of contemporary Orthodox Judaism...

, and Joseph B. Soloveitchik. This view is expressed by Rabbi Nosson Scherman
Nosson Scherman
Nosson Scherman born 1935, Newark, New Jersey) is an American Haredi rabbi best known as the general editor of ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications.-Biography:...

 in the overview to the Artscroll
ArtScroll
ArtScroll is an imprint of translations, books and commentaries from an Orthodox Jewish perspective published by Mesorah Publications, Ltd., a publishing company based in Brooklyn, New York...

 Siddur
Siddur
A siddur is a Jewish prayer book, containing a set order of daily prayers. This article discusses how some of these prayers evolved, and how the siddur, as it is known today has developed...

 (p. XIII).

Among Christian theologians, E.M. Bounds
Edward McKendree Bounds
Edward McKendree Bounds was a clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal Church South and author of eleven books, nine of which focused on the subject of prayer.-Early life:...

 stated the educational purpose of prayer in every chapter of his book, The Necessity of Prayer. Prayer books such as the Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

 are both a result of this approach and an exhortation to keep it.

Rationalist approach



In this view, the ultimate goal of prayer is to help train a person to focus on divinity through philosophy and intellectual contemplation. This approach was taken by the Jewish scholar and philosopher Maimonides
Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

 and the other medieval rationalists; it became popular in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic intellectual circles, but never became the most popular understanding of prayer among the laity in any of these faiths. In all three of these faiths today, a significant minority of people still hold to this approach.

Experiential approach



In this approach, the purpose of prayer is to enable the person praying to gain a direct experience of the recipient of the prayer (or as close to direct as a specific theology permits). This approach is very significant in Christianity and widespread in Judaism (although less popular theologically). In Eastern Orthodoxy, this approach is known as hesychasm
Hesychasm
Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

. It is also widespread in Sufi Islam, and in some forms of mysticism
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

. It has some similarities with the rationalist approach, since it can also involve contemplation
Contemplation
The word contemplation comes from the Latin word contemplatio. Its root is also that of the Latin word templum, a piece of ground consecrated for the taking of auspices, or a building for worship, derived either from Proto-Indo-European base *tem- "to cut", and so a "place reserved or cut out" or...

, although the contemplation is not generally viewed as being as rational or intellectual.

Transformative approach



In this approach, prayer enables an existential transformation in the person praying. The act of praying elicits a new kind of understanding which wasn't apparent before praying. The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

 wrote that "the function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays."

Prayer groups


A prayer group is a group of people that meet to pray together. These groups, formed mostly within Christian congregations but occasionally among Muslim groups as well, gather outside of the congregation's regular worship service to pray for perceived needs, sometimes within the congregation, sometimes within their religious group at large. However, these groups often pray also for the world around them, including people who do not share their beliefs.

Many prayer group meetings are held according to a regular schedule, usually once a week. However, extraordinary events, such as the September 11 attacks or major disasters spawned a number of improvised prayer group meetings. Prayer groups do not need to meet in person, and there are a vast array of single-purpose prayer groups in the world.

Prayer healing



Prayer is often used as a means of faith healing
Faith healing
Faith healing is healing through spiritual means. The healing of a person is brought about by religious faith through prayer and/or rituals that, according to adherents, stimulate a divine presence and power toward correcting disease and disability. Belief in divine intervention in illness or...

 in an attempt to use religious or spiritual
Spirituality
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

 means to prevent illness, cure disease
Disease
A disease is an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism. It is often construed to be a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by external factors, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune...

, or improve health. Some attempt to heal by prayer, mental practices, spiritual insights, or other techniques, claiming they can summon divine or supernatural intervention on behalf of the ill. Others advocate that ill people may achieve healing through prayer performed by themselves. According to the varied beliefs of those who practice it, faith healing may be said to afford gradual relief from pain or sickness or to bring about a sudden "miracle cure", and it may be used in place of, or in tandem with, conventional medical techniques for alleviating or curing diseases. Faith healing has been criticized on the grounds that those who use it may delay seeking potentially curative conventional medical care. This is particularly problematic when parents use faith healing techniques on children.

Efficacy of prayer healing


In 1872, Francis Galton
Francis Galton
Sir Francis Galton /ˈfrɑːnsɪs ˈgɔːltn̩/ FRS , cousin of Douglas Strutt Galton, half-cousin of Charles Darwin, was an English Victorian polymath: anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, psychometrician, and statistician...

 conducted a famous statistical
Statistics
Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments....

 experiment to determine whether prayer had a physical effect on the external environment. Galton hypothesized that if prayer was effective, members of the British Royal family would live longer, given that thousands prayed for their wellbeing every Sunday. He therefore compared longevity in the British Royal family with that of the general population, and found no difference. While the experiment was probably intended to satirize, and suffered from a number of confounders, it set the precedent for a number of different studies, the results of which are contradictory.

Two studies claimed that patients who are being prayed for recover more quickly or more frequently although critics have claimed that the methodology of such studies are flawed, and the perceived effect disappears when controls are tightened. One such study, with a double-blind
Double-blind
A blind or blinded experiment is a scientific experiment where some of the people involved are prevented from knowing certain information that might lead to conscious or subconscious bias on their part, invalidating the results....

 design and about 500 subjects per group, was published in 1988; it suggested that intercessory prayer by born again Christians had a statistically significant positive effect on a coronary care unit population. Critics contend that there were severe methodological problems with this study. Another such study was reported by Harris et al. Critics also claim that the 1988 study was not fully double-blinded, and that in the Harris study, patients actually had a longer hospital stay in the prayer group, if one discounts the patients in both groups who left before prayers began, although the Harris study did demonstrate the prayed for patients on average received lower course scores (indicating better recovery).

One of the largest randomized, blind clinical trials was a remote retroactive intercessory prayer study conducted in Israel by Leibovici. This study used 3393 patient records from 1990–96, and blindly assigned some of these to an intercessory prayer group. The prayer group had shorter hospital stays and duration of fever.

Several studies of prayer effectiveness have yielded null results. A 2001 double-blind study of the Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical practice and medical research group specializing in treating difficult patients . Patients are referred to Mayo Clinic from across the U.S. and the world, and it is known for innovative and effective treatments. Mayo Clinic is known for being at the top of...

 found no significant difference in the recovery rates between people who were (unbeknownst to them) assigned to a group that prayed for them and those who were not. Similarly, the MANTRA study conducted by Duke University found no differences in outcome of cardiac procedures as a result of prayer. In another similar study published in the American Heart Journal in 2006, Christian intercessory prayer when reading a scripted prayer was found to have no effect on the recovery of heart surgery patients; however, the study found patients who had knowledge of receiving prayer had slightly higher instances of complications than those who did not know if they were being prayed for or those who did not receive prayer. Another 2006 study suggested that prayer actually had a significant negative effect on the recovery of cardiac bypass patients, resulting in more frequent deaths and slower recovery time for those patient who received prayers.

Many believe that prayer can aid in recovery, not due to divine influence but due to psychological and physical benefits. It has also been suggested that if a person knows that he or she is being prayed for it can be uplifting and increase morale, thus aiding recovery. (See Subject-expectancy effect
Subject-expectancy effect
The subject-expectancy effect, is a form of reactivity that occurs in scientific experiments or medical treatments when a research subject or patient expects a given result and therefore unconsciously affects the outcome, or reports the expected result...

.) Many studies have suggested that prayer can reduce physical stress, regardless of the god or gods a person prays to, and this may be true for many worldly reasons. According to a study by Centra State Hospital, "the psychological benefits of prayer may help reduce stress and anxiety, promote a more positive outlook, and strengthen the will to live." Other practices such as yoga
Yoga
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on Supersoul...

, t'ai chi, and meditation
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

 may also have a positive impact on physical and psychological health.

Others feel that the concept of conducting prayer experiments reflects a misunderstanding of the purpose of prayer. The previously mentioned American Heart Journal study published in the American Heart Journal indicated that some of the intercessors who took part in it complained about the scripted nature of the prayers that were imposed to them, saying that this is not the way they usually conduct prayer:

One scientific movement attempts to track the physical effects of prayer through neuroscience
Neuroscience
Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. Traditionally, neuroscience has been seen as a branch of biology. However, it is currently an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics,...

. Leaders in this movement include Andrew Newberg
Andrew B. Newberg
Andrew Newberg, M.D. is an American Neuroscientist who is the Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Medical College, an Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies and an Associate Professor of Radiology at the University of...

, an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. In Newberg's brain scans, monks, priests, nuns and gurus alike have exceptionally focused attention and compassion sites. This is a result of the frontal lobe of the brain’s engagement (Newberg, 2009). Newburg believes that anybody can connect to the supernatural with practice. Those without religious affiliations benefit from the connection to the metaphysical as well. Newberg also states that further evidence towards humans' need for metaphysical relationships is that as science had increased spirituality has not decreased. Newburg believes that at the end of the eighteenth century, when the scientific method began to consume the human mind, religion could have vanished. However, two hundred years later, the perception of spirituality, in many instances, appears to be gaining in strength (2009). Newberg's research also provides the connection between prayer and meditation and health. By understanding how the brain works during religious experiences and practices Newberg's research shows that the brain changes during these practices allowing an understanding of how religion affects psychological and physical health (2009). For example, brain activity during meditation
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

 indicates that people who frequently practice prayer or meditation experience lower blood-pressure, lower heart rates, decreased anxiety, and decreased depression.

See also

  • 24-7 Prayer Movement
  • Affirmative prayer
    Affirmative prayer
    Affirmative prayer is a form of prayer or a metaphysical technique that is focused on a positive outcome rather than a negative situation. For example, a person who is experiencing some form of illness would focus the prayer on the desired state of perfect health and affirm this desired intention...

  • Affirmations (New Age)
    Affirmations (New Age)
    Affirmations in New Age and New Thought terminology refers primarily to the practice of positive thinking—fostering a belief that "a positive mental attitude supported by affirmations will achieve success in anything." More specifically an affirmation is a carefully formatted statement that should...

  • Daily Prayer for Peace
    Daily Prayer for Peace
    The Daily Prayer for Peace is a spiritual discipline unique to the Community of Christ and practiced at the Independence Temple in the church's headquarters campus in Independence, Missouri. It falls within the most common category of Christian prayer known as supplication.Each day of the year at 1...

  • Glossolalia
    Glossolalia
    Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables, often as part of religious practice. The significance of glossolalia has varied with time and place, with some considering it a part of a sacred language...

     ("speaking in tongues")
  • Hesychasm
    Hesychasm
    Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

  • Ho'oponopono
    Ho'oponopono
    Hooponopono is an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Similar forgiveness practices were performed on islands throughout the South Pacific, including Samoa, Tahiti and New Zealand. Traditionally hooponopono is practiced by healing priests or kahuna lapaau among family...

  • Intercession
    Intercession
    Intercession is the act of interceding between two parties. In both Christian and Islamic religious usage, it is a prayer to God on behalf of others....

  • Interior Life
    Interior life (Catholic theology)
    Interior life is a life which seeks God in everything, a life of prayer and the practice of living in the presence of God. It connotes intimate, friendly conversation with Him, and a determined focus on internal prayer versus external actions, while these latter are transformed into means of...

  • Jewish services
    Jewish services
    Jewish prayer are the prayer recitations that form part of the observance of Judaism. These prayers, often with instructions and commentary, are found in the siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book....

     and List of Jewish prayers and blessings
  • List of prayers
  • Mani stone
    Mani stone
    Mani stones are stone plates, rocks and/or pebbles, inscribed with the six syllabled mantra of Avalokiteshvara , as a form of prayer in Tibetan Buddhism. The term Mani stone may also be used in a loose sense to refer to stones on which any mantra or devotional designs are inscribed...

  • Mantra
    Mantra
    A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

  • Meditation
    Meditation
    Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

  • Moment of silence
    Moment of silence
    A moment of silence is the expression for a period of silent contemplation, prayer, reflection, or meditation. Similar to flying a flag at half-mast, a moment of silence is often a gesture of respect, particularly in mourning for those who have recently died or as part of a commemoration ceremony...

  • Mystic prayer
  • National Day of Prayer (US)
    National Day of Prayer
    The National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May, designated by the United States Congress, when people are asked "to turn to God in prayer and meditation". Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day...

  • Orant
    Orant
    Orant is a type of gesture during prayer in which the hands are raised, set apart, and the palms face outward. It was once common in early Christianity, and can frequently be seen in early Christian art...

  • Prayer beads
    Prayer beads
    Prayer beads are used by members of various religious traditions such as Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, Anglicanism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Bahá'í Faith to count the repetitions of prayers, chants or devotions, such as the rosary of Virgin Mary in Christianity and dhikr ...

  • Prayer in LDS theology and practice
    Prayer in LDS theology and practice
    Prayer is one of the central teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as "Mormons," as taught throughout the holy scriptures and by LDS leaders and teachers in General Conferences of the LDS Church, in gospel doctrine and youth classes, in sacrament meetings, and in...

  • Prayer in school
  • Prayer wheel
    Prayer wheel
    A prayer wheel is a cylindrical "wheel" on a spindle made from metal, wood, stone, leather or coarse cotton. Traditionally, the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is written in Sanskrit on the outside of the wheel. Also sometimes depicted are Dakinis, Protectors and very often the 8 auspicious symbols...

  • Prie-dieu
    Prie-dieu
    A prie-dieu is a type of prayer desk primarily intended for private devotional use, but also often found in churches of the European continent. It is a small ornamental wooden desk furnished with a sloping shelf for books, and a cushioned pad on which to kneel. Sometimes, instead of the sloping...

  • Supplication
    Supplication
    Supplication is the most common form of prayer, wherein a person asks God to provide something, either for the person or who is doing the praying or for someone else on whose behalf a prayer. This because of a supplication is being made, also known as intercession.The concept of supplication is...

  • Tibetan prayer flag
    Tibetan prayer flag
    A prayer flag is a colorful panel of rectangular cloth, often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas. They are used to bless the surrounding countryside and for other purposes. Prayer flags are believed to have originated with Bon, which predated Buddhism in Tibet. In...

  • Trance
    Trance
    Trance denotes a variety of processes, ecstasy, techniques, modalities and states of mind, awareness and consciousness. Trance states may occur involuntarily and unbidden.The term trance may be associated with meditation, magic, flow, and prayer...


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