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Prayer is an invocation seeking rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication.

In one sense, prayer might be a petition to a deity or object of worship. In another, it could be an act of supplication or intercession directed to a deity or revered ancestor. Prayers often have the purpose of thanksgiving or praise, and can be closely associated with more abstract forms of meditation.

There are several forms of prayer, including benedictions, litanies, ceremonial prayers, petitions, free prayers, hymns, doxologies, and other forms.

Doxologies are expressions of praise or glory directed toward a deity, often found in religious rituals, hymns, or liturgical texts. These prayers acknowledge the greatness, majesty, and attributes of the divine. Doxologies often follow a specific formula or fixed phrase, are typically concise, and have other common elements, such as phrases like "Glory be to God," "Praise be to the Father," or "Blessed be the Lord." In Judaism, the Kaddish includes a doxology: "May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity." Doxologies are often used in liturgical settings, such as worship services or sacraments.

Litanies are a form of prayer used in Christian worship and in some forms of Jewish worship. They consist of a series of petitions, often led by a priest or deacon, to which the congregation responds with fixed phrases. In Christianity, litanies emerged during the 4th century and were later incorporated into the Mass. These petitions may be requests for divine aid, intercession, or expressions of praise and adoration. Generally, they focus on specific themes, such as invoking the intercession of saints or seeking God's mercy. Litanies are a common part of Catholic liturgy, particularly during special occasions.

Ceremonial prayers are specific forms of prayer used in rituals or special occasions. They often follow a structured pattern and are designed to invoke divine blessings, express gratitude, or set the tone for a significant event. An example of a ceremonial prayer that might be recited before a Christian service is the following: "Dear God, we bow our heads to open this meeting. Bless our time together, grant wisdom to our speakers, and help us grasp what you want us to understand. In Jesus' name, Amen." In many Christian families, "saying grace' also involves a form of ceremonial prayer.

A petition to a deity is a form of prayer, sometimes known as supplication, in which an individual seeks special favors from a deity. Examples might include prayer for healing or for a desired outcome. Even non-religious people might find themselves spontaneously petitioning God for help when their car is sliding out of control on ice.

These might also include elements of a free prayer, which is a spontaneous, unscripted prayer offered by an individual. Unlike formal prayers that follow specific liturgical or structured formats, free prayers allow people to express their thoughts, feelings, or requests directly to God in their own words. Such prayers are often personal, heartfelt, and unique to the individual's situation. Many people consider free prayers to be the only form of actual or meaningful prayer.

While often not considered prayers, a hymn is a form of religious song or poem typically sung in a worship or devotional context. While not all songs sung in religious settings are hymns, many hymns do serve as prayers. Hymns generally contain rich theological truths, reflecting on the attributes of the deity, salvation, or moral living. Hymns are sung collectively during church services, emphasizing communal praise and worship. Hymns often serve as prayers, but not all religious songs can be defined as hymns.

Doxologies are short hymns of praise to God, often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns. In Christian settings, a doxology typically expresses praise for and acknowledgment of the Holy Trinity and often forms the final stanza or a hymn.

While highly emphasized, prayer is not strictly a Christian practice. Prayer is central to Judaism, as Jews pray individually and in community settings. The Siddur contains fixed prayers for various occasions, and the Western Wall is a significant place for Jewish prayer. In Islam, Salah (prayer) is a structured communal practice. Muslims perform five daily prayers facing Mecca, and the Adhan (call to prayer) announces the time for communal prayer. The Baháʼí faith involves the use of prayers for general use, as well as for special occasions. Hinduism also has a rich tradition of prayer. Devotees offer puja (prayers) to deities in temples or at home altars. Mantras and hymns are recited during rituals. Bhakti (devotional) practices involve deep prayerful devotion to specific gods and goddesses. Prayer plays an ancillary role in various forms of Buddhism, and the Ardās is a Sikh prayer. Prayer is also included in Wicca, Thelema, and Eckankar.


Baháʼí Prayer

Buddhist Prayer

Christian Prayer

Hindu Prayer

Islamic Prayer

Jewish Prayer



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