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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. One less noticeable act related to prayer is 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. Anthropologically, the concept of prayer is closely related to that of surrender and 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 , 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 , 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 or contemplating fortune tellers and healers. Some of the oldest extant literature, such as the Sumerian temple hymns of Enheduanna c.
The Egyptian Pyramid Texts of about the same period similarly contain spells or incantations addressed to the gods. In the loosest sense, in the form of magical thinking combined with animism , prayer has been argued as representing a human cultural universal , which would have been present since the emergence of behavioral modernity , by anthropologists such as Sir Edward Burnett Tylor and Sir James George Frazer. Reliable records are available for the polytheistic religions of the Iron Age , most notably Ancient Greek religion which strongly influenced Roman religion. These religious traditions were direct developments of the earlier Bronze Age religions.
Ceremonial prayer was highly formulaic and ritualized. In ancient polytheism, ancestor worship is indistinguishable from theistic worship see also Euhemerism. Vestiges of ancestor worship persist, to a greater or lesser extent, in modern religious traditions throughout the world, most notably in Japanese Shinto and in Chinese folk religion. The practices involved in Shinto prayer are heavily influenced by Buddhism; Japanese Buddhism has also been strongly influenced by Shinto in turn. Shinto prayers quite frequently consist of wishes or favors asked of the kami , rather than lengthy praises or devotions.
The practice of votive offering 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 augurs and other oracles long after Etruscan became a dead language. The Carmen Arvale and the Carmen Saliare are two specimens of partially preserved prayers that seem to have been unintelligible to their scribes, and whose language is full of archaisms and difficult passages. Roman prayers and sacrifices were often envisioned as legal bargains between deity and worshipper.
The Roman principle was expressed as do ut des : "I give, so that you may give. Celtic , Germanic and Slavic religions are recorded much later, and much more fragmentarily, than the religions of classical antiquity.
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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.
In Australian Aboriginal mythology , 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 Hopi Indians used prayer sticks as well, but they attached to it a small bag of sacred meal. The most common form of prayer is to directly appeal to a deity to grant one's requests. Atheist arguments against prayer are mostly directed against 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 argued that praying to a god which is omnipotent and all-knowing would be presumptuous.
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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. 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 Christian theologians, E. 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. In this view, the ultimate goal of prayer is to help train a person to focus on divinity through philosophy and intellectual contemplation meditation. This approach was taken by the Jewish scholar and philosopher Maimonides  and the other medieval rationalists.
In all three of these faiths today, a significant minority of people still hold to this 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.
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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 in which scripture is read aloud; actively meditated upon using the intellect but not analysis possibly using the mind to place the listener within a relationship or dialogue with the text that was read; a prayer spoken; and finally concludes with contemplation , a more passive experiential approach than the previous meditation, which is characterized by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as an experience of consciously being attentive, and having a silent love toward God, which the individual experiences without demanding to receive an 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. 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 Kant held that 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 — , who argued that religion is based on a feeling of the infinite.
The notion of "religious experience" was used by Schleiermacher and 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. 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. 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 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 ,  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 to Hezekiah. In the New Testament prayer is presented as a positive command Colossians ; 1 Thessalonians The People of God are challenged to include Christian prayer in their everyday life, even in the busy struggles of marriage 1 Corinthians as it brings people closer to God.
Jesus encouraged his 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 Matthew Throughout the New Testament , prayer is shown to be God's appointed method by which we obtain what He has to bestow Matthew —11 ; Matthew —29 ; Luke Further, the Book of James says that the lack of blessings in life results from a failure to pray James Jesus healed through prayer and expected his followers to do so also Mark —18 ; Matthew 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. Communal prayer is preferred over solitary prayer, and a quorum of 10 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.
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. He notes that the word "prayer" is a derivative of the Latin "precari", which means "to beg". Kabbalah 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. 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. Matthew —13 is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Christians generally pray to God or to the Father.
Some Christians e. The Jesus Prayer is also often repeated as part of the 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. 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 St. Theresa of Jesus. In Pentecostal congregations, prayer is often accompanied by speaking in an unknown tongue, a practice now known as glossolalia.
George Barton Cutten suggested that glossolalia was a sign of mental illness. 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.
Prayer works through love : the recognition of God's creation as spiritual, intact, and inherently lovable. The Arabic word for prayer is salah. In Islam, there are five daily obligatory prayers that are considered as one of the pillars of the religion. The command to ritual prayer occurs repeatedly in the Quran. The prayer is performed by the person while they are facing the Kaaba in Mecca. There is the "call for prayer" adhan , where the muezzin calls for all the followers to stand together for the prayer. 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 that are known as dua. There are many standard invocations in Arabic to be recited at various times e. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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It is largely a ritual expression of wishes for success in the practice and in helping all beings. Moreover, indeterminate buddhas are available for intercession as they reside in awoken-fields Sanskrit: buddha-kshetra. An active prayer is a mindful activity, an activity in which mindfulness is not just cultivated but is. 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. 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 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 was part and parcel of the 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 [ dubious — discuss ].
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 , 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 together in pranam. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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 of theurgy 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, 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.
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 is often used as a means of faith healing in an attempt to use religious or spiritual means to prevent illness, cure disease , or improve health.
Meta-studies have been performed showing evidence only for no effect or a potentially small effect. For instance, a meta analysis on 14 studies concluded that there is "no discernable effect" while a systemic review of studies on intercessory prayer reported inconclusive results, noting that 7 of 17 studies had "small, but significant, effect sizes" but the review noted that the most methodologically rigorous studies failed to produce significant findings.
The efficacy of petition in prayer for physical healing to a deity has been evaluated in numerous other studies, with contradictory results. 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. Faith healing has been criticized on the grounds that those who use it may delay seeking potentially curative conventional medical care.