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Prayer is an
invocation An invocation (from the Latin verbs, Latin verb ''invocare'' "to call on, invoke, to give") may take the form of: *Supplication, prayer or Spell (paranormal), spell. *A form of Spirit possession, possession. *wikt:command, Command or Conjurat ...

invocation
or act that seeks to activate a
rapport Rapport () is a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned are "in sync" with each other, understand each other's feelings or ideas, and communicate smoothly. The word stems from the French verb which means liter ...
with an object of worship through deliberate
communication Communication (from la, communicare, meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is usually defined as the transmission of information. The term may also refer to the message communicated through such transmissions or the field of inquir ...

communication
. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of
supplication Supplication (also known as petitioning) is a form of prayer, wherein one party humbly or earnestly asks another party to provide something, either for the party who is doing the supplicating (e.g., "Please spare my life.") or on behalf of someon ...

supplication
or
intercession Intercession or intercessory prayer is the act of praying to a deity on behalf of others, or Intercession of saints, asking a saint in heaven to pray on behalf of oneself or for others. The Apostle Paul's exhortation to Saint Timothy, Timothy sp ...
directed towards a
deity A deity or god is a supernatural being who is considered divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as a god In monotheistic thought, God is usually viewed as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of ...

deity
or a deified
ancestor An ancestor, also known as a forefather, fore-elder or a forebear, is a parent or (Recursion, recursively) the parent of an antecedent (i.e., a grandparent, great-grandparent, great-great-grandparent and so forth). ''Ancestor'' is "any person ...
. More generally, prayer can also have the purpose of
thanksgiving Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Liberia, and unofficially in countries like Brazil and Philippines. It is also observed in the Netherlander town of Leiden and ...

thanksgiving
or
praise Praise as a form of social interaction expresses recognition, reassurance or admiration. Praise is expressed verbally as well as by body language (facial expression and gestures). Verbal praise consists of a positive evaluations of another's att ...
, and in
comparative religion Comparative religion is the branch of the study of religions with the systematic comparison of the doctrines and practices, themes and impacts (including migration) of the world's religions. In general the comparative study of religion yield ...
is closely associated with more abstract forms of
meditation Meditation is a practice in which an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm ...

meditation
and with
charms or spells
charms or spells
. Prayer can take a variety of forms: it can be part of a set
liturgy Liturgy is the customary public ritual of worship performed by a religious group. ''Liturgy'' can also be used to refer specifically to public worship by Christian, Christians. As a religious phenomenon, liturgy represents a community, communal r ...
or
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized, b ...

ritual
, and it can be performed alone or in groups. Prayer may take the form of a
hymn A hymn is a type of song, and partially synonymous with devotional song, specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification. The word ''hymn'' ...

hymn
,
incantation An incantation, a spell, a charm, an enchantment or a bewitchery, is a magical formula intended to trigger a magic (supernatural), magical effect on a person or objects. The formula can be spoken, sung or chanted. An incantation can also be per ...

incantation
, formal
creed A creed, also known as a confession of faith, a symbol, or a statement of faith, is a statement of the shared belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition is truth, true. In epist ...
al statement, or a spontaneous utterance in the praying person. The act of prayer is attested in written sources as early as 5000 years ago. Today, most major
religion Religion is usually defined as a social- cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or religious organization, organizations, that generally relates hu ...

religion
s involve prayer in one way or another; some ritualize the act, requiring a strict sequence of actions or placing a restriction on who is permitted to pray, while others teach that prayer may be practised 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 prayer The efficacy of prayer has been studied since at least 1872, generally through experiments to determine whether prayer or Intercession, intercessory prayer has a Scientific evidence, measurable effect on the health of the person for whom prayer is ...
in
faith healing Faith healing is the practice of prayer and gestures (such as laying on of hands) that are believed by some to elicit divine intervention in spiritual and physical healing, especially the Christian practice. Believers assert that the healin ...
has been evaluated in numerous studies, with contradictory results.


Etymology

The English term ''prayer'' is from . The
Vulgate The Vulgate (; also called (Bible in common tongue), ) is a late-4th-century Bible translations into Latin, Latin translation of the Bible. The Vulgate is largely the work of Jerome who, in 382, had been commissioned by Pope Damasus&nbs ...
Latin is , which translates Greek προσευχή in turn the
Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals, LXX), is the earliest extant Greek language, Greek translation of books from the Hebrew Bible. It includes several ...
translation of
Biblical Hebrew Biblical Hebrew (, or , ), also called Classical Hebrew, is an wikt:archaic, archaic form of the Hebrew language, a language in the Canaanite languages, Canaanite branch of Semitic languages spoken by the Israelites in the area known as the ...
''tĕphillah''.


Act 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 regard dancing as a form of prayer. Some
Sufis Sufism ( ar, ''aṣ-ṣūfiyya''), also known as Tasawwuf ( ''at-taṣawwuf''), is a mysticism, mystic body of religious practice, found mainly within Sunni Islam but also within Shia Islam, which is characterized by a focus on Islamic spiri ...

Sufis
whirl. Hindus chant mantras. Jewish prayer may involve swaying back and forth and bowing.
Muslim Muslims ( ar, المسلمون, , ) are people who adhere to Islam Islam (; ar, ۘالِإسلَام, , ) is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion centred primarily around the Quran, a religious text considered by Muslims to be the ...

Muslim
prayer involves bowing, kneeling and
prostration Prostration is the gesture of placing one's body in a reverentially or submissively prone position. Typically prostration is distinguished from the lesser acts of bowing or kneeling by involving a part of the body above the knee, especially t ...
. Quakers keep silent. Some pray according to standardized rituals and liturgies, while others prefer extemporaneous prayers. Still others combine the two. Friedrich Heiler 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. Some forms of prayer require a prior ritualistic form of cleansing or purification such as in
ghusl ( ar, غسل ', ) is an Arabic term to the full-body ritual purification mandatory before the performance of various rituals and prayers, for any adult Muslim after sexual intercourse/ejaculation or completion of the menstrual cycle. The washin ...
and
wudhu Wuḍūʾ ( ar, الوضوء ' ) is the Islam Islam (; ar, ۘالِإسلَام, , ) is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion centred primarily around the Quran, a religious text considered by Muslims to be the direct word of God in I ...
. 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; See, for example, facing a specific direction (i.e. towards
Mecca Mecca (; officially Makkah al-Mukarramah, commonly shortened to Makkah ()) is a city and administrative center of the Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia, and the Holiest sites in Islam, holiest city in Islam. It is inland from Jeddah on the Red ...

Mecca
or the East); making the
sign of the cross Making the sign of the cross ( la, signum crucis), or blessing oneself or crossing oneself, is a ritual blessing made by members of some branches of Christianity. This blessing is made by the tracing of an upright cross or + across the body with ...
. One less noticeable act related to prayer is
fasting Fasting is the abstention from eating and sometimes drinking. From a purely physiology, physiological context, "fasting" may refer to the metabolism, metabolic status of a person who has not eaten overnight (see "Breakfast"), or to the metabolic ...

fasting
. 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.


Origins and early history

Anthropologically, the concept of prayer is closely related to that of and
supplication Supplication (also known as petitioning) is a form of prayer, wherein one party humbly or earnestly asks another party to provide something, either for the party who is doing the supplicating (e.g., "Please spare my life.") or on behalf of someon ...

supplication
. The traditional posture of prayer in medieval Europe is kneeling or supine with clasped hands, in antiquity more typically with raised hands. The early Christian prayer posture was standing, looking up to heaven, with outspread arms and bare head. This is the pre-Christian, pagan prayer posture (except for the bare head, which was prescribed for males in Corinthians 11:4, in Roman paganism, the head had to be covered in prayer). Certain Cretan and Cypriote figures of the Late Bronze Age, with arms raised, have been interpreted as worshippers. Their posture is similar to the "flight" posture, a crouching posture with raised hands, observed in schizophrenic patients and related to the universal "hands up" gesture of surrender. The kneeling posture with clasped hands appears to have been introduced only with the beginning high medieval period, presumably adopted from a gesture of feudal homage. Although prayer in its literal sense is not used in
animism Animism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around prese ...

animism
, communication with the spirit world is vital to the animist way of life. This is usually accomplished through a
shaman Shamanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner (shaman) interacting with what they believe to be a Spirit world (Spiritualism), spirit world through Altered state of consciousness, altered states of consciousness, such as tranc ...

shaman
who, through a
trance Trance is a state of semi-consciousness in which a person is not self-aware and is either altogether unresponsive to external stimuli (but nevertheless capable of pursuing and realizing an aim) or is selectively responsive in following the dir ...

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 is a range of Divination, divinatory practices, recognized as pseudoscientific since the 18th century, that claim to discern information about human affairs and terrestrial events by studying the apparent positions of Celestial o ...
or contemplating and healers. Some of the oldest extant literature, such as the Kesh temple hymn (c. 26th century BC) are liturgy addressed to deities and thus technically "prayer". The Egyptian
Pyramid Texts The Pyramid Texts are the oldest ancient Egyptian funerary texts, dating to the late Old Kingdom of Egypt, Old Kingdom. They are the earliest known corpus of ancient Egyptian religious texts. Written in Old Egyptian, the pyramid texts were carved ...
of about the same period similarly contain spells or incantations addressed to the gods. In the loosest sense, in the form of
magical thinking Magical thinking, or superstitious thinking, is the belief that unrelated events are causally connected despite the absence of any plausible causal link between them, particularly as a result of supernatural effects. Examples include the idea that ...
combined with
animism Animism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around prese ...

animism
, prayer has been argued as representing a human cultural universal, which would have been present since the emergence of
behavioral modernity Behavioral modernity is a suite of behavioral and cognition, cognitive traits that distinguishes current ''Homo sapiens'' from other anatomically modern humans, Hominini, hominins, and primates. Most scholars agree that modern human behavior ca ...
, by
anthropologists An anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present societies. Social anthropology, cultural anthropology and philosophical anthropology study the norms ...
such as Sir
Edward Burnett Tylor Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (2 October 18322 January 1917) was an English anthropologist, and professor of anthropology. Tylor's ideas typify 19th-century unilineal evolution, cultural evolutionism. In his works ''Primitive Culture'' (1871) an ...

Edward Burnett Tylor
and Sir
James George Frazer Sir James George Frazer (; 1 January 1854 – 7 May 1941) was a Scottish social anthropologist and folklorist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that p ...
. Reliable records are available for the
polytheistic Polytheism is the belief in multiple deity, deities, which are usually assembled into a pantheon (religion), pantheon of Gender of God, gods and goddesses, along with their own religious sects and rituals. Polytheism is a type of theism. Within ...
religions of the
Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humanity. It was preceded by the Stone Age (Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic) and the Bronze Age (Chalcolithic). The concept has been mostly appl ...
, most notably
Ancient Greek religion Religious practices in ancient Greece encompassed a collection of beliefs, Ritual, rituals, and Greek mythology, mythology, in the form of both popular public religion and Cult (religious practice), cult practices. The application of the modern ...
(which strongly influenced
Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome consisted of varying imperial and provincial religious practices, which were followed both by the people of Rome as well as those who were brought under its rule. The Romans thought of themselves as highly religious, ...
). These religious traditions were direct developments of the earlier Bronze Age religions. Ceremonial prayer was highly formulaic and
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized, b ...

ritual
ized. In ancient polytheism,
ancestor worship The veneration of the dead, including one's ancestors, is based on love and respect for the deceased. In some cultures, it is related to beliefs that the dead have a afterlife, continued existence, and may possess the ability to influence the fo ...
is indistinguishable from theistic worship (see also
Euhemerism Euhemerism () is an approach to the interpretation of mythology in which mythological accounts are presumed to have originated from real historical events or personages. Euhemerism supposes that historical accounts become myths as they are exagge ...
). Vestiges of ancestor worship persist, to a greater or lesser extent, in modern religious traditions throughout the world, most notably in Japanese
Shinto Shinto () is a religion from Japan. Classified as an East Asian religions, East Asian religion by Religious studies, scholars of religion, its practitioners often regard it as Japan's indigenous religion and as a nature religion. Scholars somet ...

Shinto
and in
Chinese folk religion Chinese folk religion, also known as Chinese popular religion comprehends a range of traditional religious practices of Han Chinese, including the Chinese diaspora. Vivienne Wee described it as "an empty bowl, which can variously be filled ...
. The practices involved in
Shinto Shinto () is a religion from Japan. Classified as an East Asian religions, East Asian religion by Religious studies, scholars of religion, its practitioners often regard it as Japan's indigenous religion and as a nature religion. Scholars somet ...

Shinto
prayer are heavily influenced by Buddhism;
Japanese Buddhism Buddhism has been practiced in Japan since about the 6th century CE. Japanese Buddhism () created many new Schools of Buddhism, Buddhist schools, and some schools are original to Japan and some are derived from Chinese Buddhism, Chinese Buddhis ...
has also been strongly influenced by Shinto in turn. Shinto prayers quite frequently consist of wishes or favors asked of the ''
kami are the Deity, deities, Divinity, divinities, spirits, phenomena or "holy powers", that are venerated in the Shinto religion. They can be elements of the landscape, forces of nature, or beings and the qualities that these beings express; they c ...
'', rather than lengthy praises or devotions. The practice of
votive offering A votive offering or votive deposit is one or more objects displayed or deposited, without the intention of recovery or use, in a sacred place for religious purposes. Such items are a feature of modern and ancient societies and are generally ...
is also universal, and is attested at least since the Bronze Age. In Shinto, this takes the form of a small wooden tablet, called an '' ema''. Prayers in Etruscan were used in the Roman world by
augur An augur was a priest and official in the classical Roman world. His main role was the practice of augury, the interpretation of the will of the gods A deity or god is a supernatural being who is considered divinity, divine or sacred. T ...

augur
s and other
oracle An oracle is a person or agency considered to provide wise and insightful counsel or prophetic predictions, most notably including precognition of the future, inspired by deities. As such, it is a form of divination. Description The wor ...

oracle
s long after Etruscan became a dead language. The
Carmen Arvale The ''Carmen Arvale'' is the preserved chant of the Arval priests or ''Fratres Arvales'' of ancient Rome In modern historiography, ancient Rome refers to Roman civilisation from the founding of the city of Rome in the 8th century BC to ...
and the
Carmen Saliare The ''Carmen Saliare'' is a fragment of Old Latin, archaic Latin, which played a part in the rituals performed by the Salii (Salian priests, a.k.a. "leaping priests") of Ancient Rome. There are 35 extant fragments of the ''Carmen Saliare'', whic ...
are two specimens of partially preserved prayers that seem to have been unintelligible to their scribes, and whose language is full of
archaism In language, an archaism (from the grc, ἀρχαϊκός, ''archaïkós'', 'old-fashioned, antiquated', ultimately , ''archaîos'', 'from the beginning, ancient') is a word, a sense of a word, or a style of speech or writing that belongs to a hi ...
s and difficult passages. Roman prayers and
sacrifice Sacrifice is the offering of material possessions or the lives of animals or humans to a deity as an act of propitiation or worship. Evidence of ritual animal sacrifice has been seen at least since ancient Hebrews and Greeks, and possibly exis ...

sacrifice
s were often envisioned as
legal Law is a set of rules that are created and are law enforcement, enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. ...
bargains between deity and worshipper. The Roman principle was expressed as ''
do ut des The vocabulary of ancient Roman religion was highly specialized. Its study affords important information about the religion, traditions and beliefs of the ancient Romans. This legacy is conspicuous in European cultural history in its influence on ...
'': "I give, so that you may give."
Cato the Elder Marcus Porcius Cato (; 234–149 BC), also known as Cato the Censor ( la, Censorius), the Elder and the Wise, was a Roman soldier, senator A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Legislative chamber, chamber of a ...
's treatise on
agriculture Agriculture or farming is the practice of cultivating Plant, plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of Sedentism, sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of Domestication, domesticated species created food ...

agriculture
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. Celtic, Germanic and Slavic religions are recorded much later, and much more fragmentarily, than the religions of classical antiquity. They nevertheless show substantial parallels to the better-attested religions of the Iron Age. In the case of Germanic religion, the practice of prayer is reliably attested, but no actual liturgy is recorded from the early (Roman era) period. An Old Norse prayer is on record in the form of a dramatization in
skaldic poetry A skald, or skáld (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian, is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken b ...
. This prayer is recorded in stanzas2 and3 of the poem ''
Sigrdrífumál (also known as ) is the conventional title given to a section of the ''Poetic Edda'' text in . It follows without interruption, and it relates the meeting of Sigurðr with the valkyrie Brynhildr, here identified as ("driver to victory"). Its ...
'', compiled in the 13th century ''
Poetic Edda The ''Poetic Edda'' is the modern name for an untitled collection of Old Norse anonymous narrative poetry, narrative poems, which is distinct from the ''Prose Edda'' written by Snorri Sturluson. Several versions exist, all primarily of text from ...
'' from earlier traditional sources, where the
valkyrie In Norse mythology, a valkyrie ("chooser of the slain") is one of a host of female figures who guide souls of the dead to the god Odin's hall Valhalla. There, the deceased warriors become (Old Norse "single (or once) fighters"Orchard (1997:36) ...

valkyrie
Sigrdrífa prays to the gods and the
earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. While large list of largest lakes and seas in the Solar System, volumes of water can be found throughout the Solar System, only water distributi ...
after being woken by the hero
Sigurd Sigurd ( non, Sigurðr ) or Siegfried (Middle High German: ''Sîvrit'') is a legendary hero of Germanic heroic legend, who killed a dragon and was later murdered. It is possible he was inspired by one or more figures from the Frankish Meroving ...

Sigurd
. A prayer to
Odin Odin (; from non, Óðinn, ) is a widely revered Æsir, god in Germanic paganism. Norse mythology, the source of most surviving information about him, associates him with wisdom, healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, war, battle, v ...

Odin
is mentioned in chapter2 of the ''
Völsunga saga The ''Völsunga saga'' (often referred to in English as the ''Volsunga Saga'' or ''Saga of the Völsungs'') is a legendary saga, a late 13th century in poetry, 13th-century poetic rendition in Old Norse of the origin and decline of the Völsung c ...
'' where King Rerir prays for a child. In stanza9 of the poem '' Oddrúnargrátr'', a prayer is made to "kind wights, Frigg and
Freyja In Norse paganism, Freyja (Old Norse "(the) Lady") is a goddess associated with love, beauty, fertility, sex, war, gold, and seiðr (magic for seeing and influencing the future). Freyja is the owner of the necklace Brísingamen, rides a chario ...
, and many gods In chapter 21 of '' Jómsvíkinga saga'', wishing to turn the tide of the Battle of Hjörungavágr,
Haakon Sigurdsson Haakon Sigurdsson ( non, Hákon Sigurðarson , no, Håkon Sigurdsson; 937–995), known as Haakon Jarl (Old Norse: ''Hákon jarl''), was the ''de facto ''De facto'' ( ; , "in fact") describes practices that exist in reality, whether or n ...
eventually finds his prayers answered by the goddesses
Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr and Irpa Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr (''Thorgerdr Holgabrudr'') and Irpa are divine figures in Norse mythology. They appear together in Jómsvíkinga saga, Njáls saga, and Þorleifr jarlsskáld, Þorleifs þáttr jarlsskálds. Irpa's name does not appear out ...
.Hollander, Lee (trans.) (1955). ''The saga of the Jómsvíkings'', p. 100.
University of Texas Press The University of Texas Press (or UT Press) is a university press that is part of the University of Texas at Austin. Established in 1950, the Press publishes scholarly books and journals in several areas, including Latin American studies, Texan ...
Folk religion In religious studies and folkloristics, folk religion, popular religion, traditional religion or vernacular religion comprises various forms and expressions of religion that are distinct from the official doctrines and practices of organized reli ...
in the medieval period produced
syncretism Syncretism () is the practice of combining different beliefs and various school of thought, schools of thought. Syncretism involves the merging or religious assimilation, assimilation of several originally discrete traditions, especially in t ...
s between pre-Christian and Christian traditions. An example is the 11th-century
Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a Cultural identity, cultural group who inhabited England in the Early Middle Ages. They traced their origins to settlers who came to Britain from mainland Europe in the 5th century. However, the ethnogenesis of the Anglo- ...
charm '' Æcerbot'' for the fertility of crops and land, or the medical '' Wið færstice''. The 8th-century Wessobrunn Prayer has been proposed as a Christianized pagan prayer and compared to the pagan ''
Völuspá ''Vǫluspá'' (also ''Völuspá'', ''Vǫlospá'' or ''Vǫluspǫ́''; Old Norse: 'Prophecy of the völva, a seeress'; First Grammatical Treatise, reconstructed Old Norse: ) is the best known poem of the ''Poetic Edda''. It tells the story of the ...
''Lambdin, Laura C and Robert T. (2000). ''Encyclopedia of Medieval Literature'', p. 227. Greenwood Publishing Group and the
Merseburg Incantations The Merseburg charms or Merseburg incantations (german: die Merseburger Zaubersprüche) are two Middle Ages, medieval magic spells, charms or incantations, written in Old High German. They are the only known examples of Germanic paganism, Germanic ...
, the latter recorded in the 9th or 10th century but of much older traditional origins.Wells, C.J." (1985). ''German, a Linguistic History to 1945: A Linguistic History to 1945'', p. 51.
Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of the University of Oxford. It is the largest university press in the world, and its printing history dates back to the 1480s. Having been officially granted the legal right to print books ...

Oxford University Press
In
Australian Aboriginal mythology Australian Aboriginal religion and mythology is the sacred spirituality represented in the stories performed by Aboriginal Australians Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples of the Mainland Australia, Australian mai ...
, prayers to the "Great Wit" are performed by the "clever men" and "clever women", or ''kadji''. These Aboriginal shamans use maban or mabain, the material that is believed to give them their purported magical powers. The Puebloan peoples, Pueblo Indians are known to have used prayer sticks, that is, sticks with feathers attached as supplicatory offerings. The Hopi Indians used prayer sticks as well, but they attached to it a small bag of sacred meal.


Approaches to prayer


Direct petitions

There are different forms of prayer. One of them is to directly appeal to a deity to grant one's requests. Some have termed this as the social approach to prayer. Atheist arguments against prayer are mostly directed against Supplication, petitionary prayer in particular. Daniel Dennett argued that petitionary prayer might have the undesirable psychological effect of relieving a person of the need to take active measures. This potential drawback manifests in extreme forms in such cases as Christian Scientists who rely on prayers instead of seeking medical treatment for family members for easily curable conditions which later result in death. Christopher Hitchens (2012) argued that praying to a god which is omnipotent and all-knowing would be presumptuous. For example, he interprets Ambrose Bierce's definition of prayer by stating that "the man who prays is the one who thinks that god has arranged matters all wrong, but who also thinks that he can instruct god how to put them right."


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, Joseph Albo, Samson Raphael Hirsch, and Joseph B. Soloveitchik. This view is expressed by Rabbi Nosson Scherman in the overview to the Artscroll Siddur (p. XIII). Among Christian theologians, Edward McKendree Bounds, E.M. Bounds 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 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 (
meditation Meditation is a practice in which an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm ...

meditation
). This approach was taken by the Jewish scholar and philosopher Maimonides 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. It is also widespread in Sufi Islam, and in some forms of mysticism. It has some similarities with the rationalist approach, since it can also involve contemplation, although the contemplation is not generally viewed as being as rational or intellectual. Christian and Roman Catholic traditions also include an experiential approach to prayer within the practice of ''lectio divina''. Historically a Benedictine practice, ''lectio divina'' involves the following steps: a short scripture passage is read aloud; the passage is meditated upon using the mind to place the listener within a relationship or dialogue with the text; recitation of a prayer; and concludes with Lectio Divina#Contemplatio: contemplate, contemplation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes prayer and meditation as follows:
Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.
The experience of God within Apophatic theology, Christian mysticism has been contrasted with the concept of experiential religion or Religious experience, mystical experience because of a long history or authors living and writing about experience with the divine in a manner that identifies God as unknowable and ineffable, the language of such ideas could be characterized paradoxically as "experiential", as well as without the phenomena of experience. The notion of "religious experience" can be traced back to William James, who used a term called "religious experience" in his book, ''The Varieties of Religious Experience''. The origins of the use of this term can be dated further back. In the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, several historical figures put forth very influential views that religion and its beliefs can be grounded in experience itself. While Immanuel Kant, Kant held that Moral obligation, moral experience justified religious beliefs, John Wesley in addition to stressing individual moral exertion thought that the religious experiences in the Methodist movement (paralleling the Romantic Movement) were foundational to religious commitment as a way of life. Wayne Proudfoot traces the roots of the notion of "religious experience" to the German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), who argued that religion is based on a feeling of the infinite. The notion of "religious experience" was used by Schleiermacher and Albrecht Ritschl, Albert Ritschl to defend religion against the growing scientific and secular critique, and defend the view that human (moral and religious) experience justifies religious beliefs. Such religious empiricism would be later seen as highly problematic and was – during the period in-between world wars – famously rejected by Karl Barth. In the 20th century, religious as well as moral experience as justification for religious beliefs still holds sway. Some influential modern scholars holding this Liberal Christianity, liberal theological view are Charles E. Raven, Charles Raven and the Oxford physicist/theologian Charles Coulson. The notion of "religious experience" was adopted by many scholars of religion, of whom William James was the most influential. The notion of "experience" has been criticised. Robert Sharf points out that "experience" is a typical Western term, which has found its way into Asian religiosity via western influences. The notion of "experience" introduces a false notion of duality between "experiencer" and "experienced", whereas the essence of kensho is the realisation of the "non-duality" of observer and observed. "Pure experience" does not exist; all experience is mediated by intellectual and cognitive activity. The specific teachings and practices of a specific tradition may even determine what "experience" someone has, which means that this "experience" is not the ''proof'' of the teaching, but a ''result'' of the teaching. A pure consciousness without concepts, reached by "cleaning the doors of perception", would be an overwhelming chaos of sensory input without coherence.


Abrahamic religions


Hebrew Bible

In the Hebrew Bible prayer is an evolving means of interacting with God, most frequently through a spontaneous, individual, unorganized form of petitioning and/or thanking. Standardized prayer such as is done today is non-existent, although beginning in Deuteronomy, the Bible lays the groundwork for organized prayer, including basic liturgical guidelines, and by the Bible's later books, prayer has evolved to a more standardized form, although still radically different from the Tefillah, form practiced by modern Jews. Individual prayer is described by the Tanakh two ways. The first of these is when prayer is described as occurring, and a result is achieved, but no further information regarding a person's prayer is given. In these instances, such as with Isaac, Moses, Samuel, and Job (Biblical figure), Job, the act of praying is a method of changing a situation for the better. The second way in which prayer is depicted is through fully fleshed out episodes of prayer, where a person's prayer is related in full. Many famous biblical personalities have such a prayer, including every major character from Hannah (Bible), Hannah to Hezekiah.


New Testament

In the New Testament prayer is presented as a positive command. The People of God are challenged to include Christian prayer in their everyday life, even in the busy struggles of marriage as it brings people closer to God in Christianity, God. Jesus encouraged his Disciple (Christianity), disciples to pray in secret in their private rooms, using the Lord's Prayer, as a humble response to the prayer of the Pharisees, whose practices in prayer were regarded as impious by the New Testament writers. Throughout the New Testament, prayer is shown to be God's appointed method by which we obtain what He has to bestow. Further, the Book of James says that the lack of blessings in life results from a failure to pray. Jesus healed through prayer and expected his followers to do so also. The apostle Paul wrote to the churches of Thessalonica to "Pray continually."


Judaism

Observant Jews pray three times a day, Shacharit, Mincha, and Ma'ariv with lengthier prayers on special days, such as the Shabbat and Jewish holidays including Musaf and the reading of the Torah. The siddur 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'' (intention) and ''keva'' (the ritualistic, structured elements). The most important Jewish prayers are the Shema Yisrael ("Hear O Israel") and the Amidah ("the standing prayer"). Communal prayer is preferred over solitary prayer, and a quorum of ten adult males (a ''minyan'') is considered by Orthodox Judaism 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

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 Maimonides 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

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, Samson Raphael Hirsch, and Joseph Dov Soloveitchik. This view is expressed by Rabbi Nosson Scherman in the overview to the Artscroll Siddur (p. XIII); note that Scherman goes on to also affirm the Kabbalistic view (see below).


Kabbalistic approach

Kabbalah uses a series of ''Kavanah, 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 (German pietists of the Middle-Ages), the Isaac Luria, Arizal's Kabbalist tradition, Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Ramchal, most of Hasidic Judaism, Hassidism, the Vilna Gaon, and Jacob Emden.


Christianity

Christian prayers are quite varied. They can be completely spontaneous, or read entirely from a text, like the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The most common prayer among Christians is the Lord's Prayer, which according to the gospel accounts (e.g. s:Bible (American Standard)/Matthew#6:9, Matthew 6:9–13) is how Jesus taught his Disciple (Christianity), disciples to pray.''Examining Religions: Christianity Foundation Edition'' by Anne Geldart 1999 p. 108 The Lord's Prayer is a model for prayers of adoration, confession and petition in Christianity. In the second century ''Apostolic Tradition'', Hippolytus of Rome, Hippolytus instructed Christians to pray at fixed prayer times, seven fixed prayer times: "on rising, at the lighting of the evening lamp, at bedtime, at midnight" and "the third, sixth and ninth hours of the day, being hours associated with Christ's Passion." Breviary, Breviaries such as the Shehimo and Agpeya are used by Oriental Orthodox Christians to pray these canonical hours, seven canonical hours while facing in the direction of prayer, eastward direction of prayer. In medieval England, prayers (particularly the ''Lord's Prayer, paternoster'') were frequently used as a measure of time in medical and culinary recipe books. Christians generally pray to God. Some Christians, such as Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox, and Methodists pray for the dead; Roman Catholics, will also ask the righteous in heaven and "in Christ," such as the Virgin Mary or other saints to intercede by praying on their behalf (intercession of saints). Formulaic closures in many Christian denominations, such as Lutheranism and Catholicism 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 Christians to end prayers with "In Jesus' name, Amen" or more commonly, with the
sign of the cross Making the sign of the cross ( la, signum crucis), or blessing oneself or crossing oneself, is a ritual blessing made by members of some branches of Christianity. This blessing is made by the tracing of an upright cross or + across the body with ...
while saying the Trinitarian formula. The most commonly used closure of prayer in Christianity is "Amen" (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 the Roman Catholic Church, probably the most common is the Rosary; In the Eastern Church (the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, Eastern rites of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church), the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer is also often repeated as part of the Christian meditation, meditative hesychasm practice in Eastern Christianity. Roman Catholic tradition includes specific prayers and devotions as acts of reparation which do not involve a petition for a living or deceased beneficiary, but aim to repair the sins of others, e.g. for the Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ, repair of the sin of blasphemy performed by others. Other forms of prayer among Catholics would be meditative prayer, contemplative prayer and infused prayer discussed at length by Catholic Saints St. John of the Cross and Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Theresa of Jesus.


Pentecostalism

In Pentecostalism, Pentecostal congregations, prayer is often accompanied by speaking in an unknown tongue, a practice now known as glossolalia. 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. Some people outside of the movement, however, have offered dissenting views. George Barton Cutten suggested that glossolalia was a sign of mental illness. Felicitas Goodman 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 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 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. Prayer works through love: the recognition of God's creation as spiritual, intact, and inherently lovable.


Islam

The Arabic language, Arabic word for prayer is ''salah''. In Islam, five daily obligatory prayers are considered one of the pillars of the religion. The command of ritual prayer repeatedly occurs in the Quran. The person performs the prayer while they are facing the Kaaba in
Mecca Mecca (; officially Makkah al-Mukarramah, commonly shortened to Makkah ()) is a city and administrative center of the Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia, and the Holiest sites in Islam, holiest city in Islam. It is inland from Jeddah on the Red ...

Mecca
. There is the "call for prayer" (''Adhan, the adhan''), where the ''muezzin'' calls for all the followers to stand together for the prayer. The prayer consists of actions such as glorifying and praising God (such as mentioning 'Allāhu Akbar' (God is Great)) while standing, recitation of chapters of the Quran (such as the opening chapter of the book (''Al-Fatiha'')), Ruku, bowing down then praising God, prostration, prostrating (''sujud'') then again praising God. It ends with the words: "Peace be with you and God's mercy." During the prayer, a Muslim cannot talk or do anything else besides pray. Once the prayer is complete, one can offer personal prayers or supplications to God for their needs, known as ''dua''. There are many standard invocations in Arabic to be recited at various times (''e.g.'' after the prayer) and for various occasions (''e.g.'' for one's parents) with manners and etiquette such as 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 Shi'a sects pray the five daily prayers divided into three separate parts of the day, providing several Hadith as supporting evidence; although according to Shia Islam, it is also permissible to pray at five times.


Mandaeism

Daily prayer in Mandaeism called ''brakha'' consists of a set prayers that are recited three times per day. Mandaeans stand facing north while reciting daily prayers. Unlike in Islam and Coptic Orthodox Christianity,
prostration Prostration is the gesture of placing one's body in a reverentially or submissively prone position. Typically prostration is distinguished from the lesser acts of bowing or kneeling by involving a part of the body above the knee, especially t ...
is not practiced. Mandaean priests recite rahma (Mandaeism), rahma prayersLidzbarski, Mark. 1920. ''Mandäische Liturgien''. Abhandlungen der Königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, phil.-hist. Klasse, NF 17.1. Berlin. three times every day, while laypeople also recite the ''Rushma'' (signing prayer) and ''Asiet Malkia'' ("Healing of Kings") daily. The three prayer times in Mandaeism are:Drower, Ethel Stefana. 1937. ''The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran''. Oxford At The Clarendon Press. *dawn (sunrise) *noontime (the "seventh hour") *evening (sunset)


Baháʼí Faith

Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb, and `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote many prayers for general use, and some for specific occasions, including for unity, detachment, spiritual upliftment, and healing among others. Followers of the Baháʼí Faith are also required to recite each day one of three Obligatory Baháʼí prayers, obligatory prayers composed by Bahá'u'lláh. The believers have been enjoined to face in the direction of the Qiblih 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. Baháʼís also read from and meditate on the scriptures every morning and evening.


Eastern religions

In both Buddhism and Hinduism, the repetition of mantras is closely related to the practice of repetitive prayer in Western religion (rosary, Jesus prayer). Many of the most widespread Hindu and Buddhist mantras are in origin invocations of deities, e.g. Gayatri Mantra dedicated to Savitr, Pavamana Mantra to Soma (drink), Soma Pavamana, and many of the Buddhist Dhāraṇī originate as recitations of lists of names or attributes of deities. Most of the shorter Buddhist mantras originate as the invocation of the name of a specific deity or ''bodhisattva'', such as ''Om mani padme hum'' being in origin the invocation of a ''bodhisattva'' called ''Maṇipadma''. However, from an early time these mantras were interpreted in the context of mystical sound symbolism. The most extreme example of this is the om syllable, which as early as in the Aitareya Brahmana was claimed as equivalent to the entire Vedas (collection of ritual hymns).


Buddhism

In the earliest Buddhist tradition, the Theravada, and in the later Mahayana tradition of Zen (or Chán), 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 Upāya, skillful means (Sanskrit: ''upāya'') of the transfer of merit (Sanskrit: ''pariṇāmanā'') is an evocation and prayer. Moreover, indeterminate buddhas are available for intercession as they reside in awoken-fields (Sanskrit: ''buddha-kshetra''). The ''Trikaya, nirmānakāya'' of an awoken-field is what is generally known and understood as a mandala. 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 (Buddhism), 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 Karma in Buddhism, 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 (Sanskrit: ''utpatti-krama'') of Vajrayana involves prayer elements. The Tibetan Buddhism 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'' are no more existent or real than the continuity (Sanskrit: ''santana''; refer mindstream) of the practitioner, environment and activity. But how practitioners engage ''yidam'' or tutelary deities will depend upon the level or more appropriately ''yana (Buddhism), yana'' 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 emphasizes the recitation by devotees of prayer-like mantras, a practice often called ''Nembutsu''."The Flowering of Faith: Buddhism's Pure Land Tradition" (pp. 185–98) in On one level it is said that reciting these mantras can ensure rebirth into a ''Sambhogakāya'' land (Sanskrit: ''buddha-kshetra'') after bodily dissolution, a sheer ball spontaneously co-emergent to a buddha's enlightened intention. According to Shinran, the founder of the Pure Land Buddhism 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 has incorporated many kinds of prayer (Sanskrit: ''prārthanā''), from fire-based yajna, rituals to philosophical musings. While chanting involves 'by dictum' recitation of timeless verses or verses with timings and notations, ''Dhyāna in Hinduism, 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. These prayers can be directed to fulfilling personal needs or deep spiritual enlightenment, and also for the benefit of others. Ritual
invocation An invocation (from the Latin verbs, Latin verb ''invocare'' "to call on, invoke, to give") may take the form of: *Supplication, prayer or Spell (paranormal), spell. *A form of Spirit possession, possession. *wikt:command, Command or Conjurat ...

invocation
was part and parcel of the Historical Vedic religion, Vedic religion and as such permeated their sacred texts. Indeed, the highest sacred texts of the Hindus, the Vedas, are a large collection of mantras and prayer rituals. Classical Hinduism came to focus on extolling a single supreme force, Brahman, that is made manifest in several lower forms as the familiar gods of the Hindu pantheon. Hindus in India have numerous devotional movements. Hindus may pray to the highest absolute God Brahman, or more commonly to its three manifestations, a creator god called Brahma (god), Brahma, a preserver god called Vishnu and a destroyer god (so that the creation cycle can start afresh) Shiva, and at the next level to Vishnu's avatars (earthly appearances) Rama and Krishna or to many other male or female deities. Typically, Hindus pray with their hands (the palms) joined in ''pranam''. The hand gesture is similar to the popular Indian greeting ''namaste''.


Sikhism

The ''Ardās'' (Punjabi: ਅਰਦਾਸ) is a Sikh 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'' (scripture reading/recitation), ''kirtan'' (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. When it comes to conclusion of this prayer, the devotee uses words like "Waheguru please bless me in the task that I am about to undertake" when starting a new task or "Akal Purakh, 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 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.


Iranian religions


Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism, Zoroastrians are not Fire worship, fire-worshippers, as some Westerners wrongly believe. Zoroastrians believe that the elements are pure and that fire represents Ahura Mazda, God's light or wisdom. Zoroastrian worship practices have evolved from ancient times to the present day.Over time, Zoroastrians developed the concept of worshipping in temples, sometimes called fire temples.


New religious movements

Wiccan prayers can include meditation, rituals and incantations. Wiccans see prayers as a form of communication with the God and Goddess. Such communication may include prayers for ''esbat'' and ''sabbat'' celebrations, for dinner, for pre-dawn times or for one's own or others' safety, for healing or for the dead. In Raëlism rites and practises vary from initiation ceremonies to sensual meditation. An initiation ceremony usually involves a Raelian putting water on the forehead of a new member. Such ceremonies take place on certain special days on the Raelian calendar. Sensual meditation techniques include breathing exercises and various forms of erotic meditation. In Eckankar, one of the basic forms of prayer includes singing the word "HU" (pronounced as "hue"), a holy name of God. ECKists may do this with eyes closed or open, aloud or silently. Practitioners may experience the divine ECK or Holy Spirit. Practitioners of Theurgy#Esoteric Christianity, theurgy and Western esotericism may practice a form of ritual which uses both pre-sanctioned prayers and names of God, and prayers "from the heart" that, when combined, allow the participant to ascend spiritually, and in some instances, induce a trance in which God or other spiritual beings may be realized. Very much as in Hermetic Qabalah and orthodox Kabbalah, 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. In Thelema (which includes both theist as well as atheist practitioners) adherents share a number of practices that are forms of individual prayer, including basic yoga; (asana and pranayama); various forms of ritual magick (Aleister Crowley), magick; rituals of one's own devising (often based upon a syncretism of religions, or Western Esotericism, such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and Star Ruby); and performance of Liber Resh vel Helios (aka Liber 200), which consists of four daily adorations to the sun (often consisting of four hand/body positions and recitation of a memorized song, normally spoken, addressing different godforms identified with the sun). While no dogma within Thelema expresses the purpose behind any individual aspirant who chooses to perform "Resh", note that the practice of "Resh" is not a simple petition toward the sun, nor a form of "worshiping" the celestial body that we call the Sun, but instead uses the positioning of that source of light, which enables life on our planet, as well as using mythological images of that solar force, so that the individual can perform the prayer, possibly furthering a self-identification with the sun, so "that repeated application of the Liber Resh adorations expands the consciousness of the individual by compelling him to take a different perspective, by inducing him to 'look at things from the point of view of the Sun' [...]".


Prayer healing

Prayer is often used as a means of
faith healing Faith healing is the practice of prayer and gestures (such as laying on of hands) that are believed by some to elicit divine intervention in spiritual and physical healing, especially the Christian practice. Believers assert that the healin ...
in an attempt to use religious or spirituality, spiritual means to prevent illness, cure disease, or improve health. Scientific studies regarding the use of prayer have mostly concentrated on its effect on the healing of sick or injured people. meta-study, Meta-studies have been performed showing evidence only for no effect or a potentially small effect. For instance, a 2006 meta analysis on 14 studies concluded that there is "no discernable effect" while a 2007 systemic review of studies on intercessory prayer reported inconclusive results, noting that seven of 17 studies had "small, but significant, effect sizes" but the review noted that the most methodologically rigorous studies failed to produce significant findings. Some studies have indicated increased medical complications in groups receiving prayer over those without. * The efficacy of petition in prayer for physical healing to a deity has been evaluated in numerous other studies, with contradictory results. As found in There has been some criticism of the way the studies were conducted.
Online reprint
by Internet Infidels at Infidels.org.
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 conducted a famous statistics, statistical 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 Confounding variable, 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 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 to 1996, 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 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.) 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, T'ai chi ch'uan, t'ai chi, and meditation may also have a positive impact on physical and psychological health. "W" Others feel that the concept of conducting prayer experiments reflects a misunderstanding of the purpose of prayer. The previously mentioned 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. Leaders in this movement include Andrew B. Newberg, Andrew Newberg, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania. In Newberg's brain scans, monks, priests, nuns, Nun#Distinction between a nun and a religious sister, sisters 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 18th 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 indicates that people who frequently practice prayer or meditation experience lower blood-pressure, lower heart rates, decreased anxiety, and decreased depression.


Efficacy of prayer for fertility

One study found that prayer combined with IVF treatment nearly doubled the number of women who were successfully pregnant, and more than doubled the number of successful implantations. But three years later it was revealed that the results of the study were fake.


Prevalence of prayer for health

Some modalities of alternative medicine employ prayer. A survey released in May 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health 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.


See also

* Affirmative prayer * Christian contemplation * Christian devotional literature * Continual prayer * Daily Prayer for Peace * Hoʻoponopono * Interior life (Catholic theology) * List of Jewish prayers and blessings, Jewish prayers and blessings * Jewish prayer * List of prayers * Magical thinking * Mani stone * Moment of silence * National Day of Prayer, National Day of Prayer (US) * Novena * Orans * Prayer beads * Prayer in LDS theology and practice * Prayer in the Catholic Church * Prayer in school * Prayer wheel * Prie-dieu * Rosary * Shuckling * Tibetan prayer flag


Further reading

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Notes


References


External links

* * {{DEFAULTSORT:Prayer Prayer, Religious practices Spirituality Spiritual practice Articles containing video clips