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Prayer is a significant practice in Christianity, and there are several forms of prayer.

Christian prayers can be wholly spontaneous or read entirely from a text, depending on the occasion, the denomination, or regional or cultural practices. Depending upon some of the same circumstances, various gestures may be used during prayer, such as folding the hands, bowing the head, kneeling, or prostration.

The best-known prayer in Christianity is the Lord's Prayer. Recounted in Matthew 6:9-13, the Lord's Prayer is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. The 2nd century Didache obliged Christians to pray three times a day, influenced by the Jewish practice of doing so, as recorded in Psalm 55:17 and Daniel 6:10. Thus, the early Christians recited the Lord's Prayer at 9 am, 12 pm, and 3 pm.

In homage to this practice, some Lutheran and Anglican churches ring their church bells three times a day.

In Apostolic Tradition, Hippolytus instructed Christians to pray seven times a day during the house associated with the Passion of Christ. Oriental Orthodox Christians used the Agpeya and Shehimo to pray the canonical hours seven times a day while facing east, a practice that had its roots in Psalm 119:164, in which David prays to God seven times a day.

In some Christian traditions, Christians wash their hands and face before prayer, remove their shoes, and it is sometimes customary for women to wear a head covering while praying. This was more common in the past than today, but the custom still exists in various denominations and traditions.

Basic settings for Christian prayer are corporate and private.

Corporate prayer is that which is shared within the worship setting or other public places. Such prayers may be formal prayers, such as the liturgies published in the Lutheran Service Book, the Book of Common Prayer, or other denominational publications. However, corporate prayers may also be less formal, such as those offered in Methodist or Baptist congregations.

Private prayer involves individuals praying either silently or aloud, at home or in informal settings. In Eastern Christianity, Christians often maintain icon corners in their homes, at which they pray. Spontaneous prayer follows the form of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication.

Several New Testament passages, such as Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, and 1 Corinthians 7:5, speak of the importance of prayer. In the Book of Acts (3:1), prayer is seen at the first moments of the Church.

Prayer and Scripture reading were important elements of early Christianity, and early Christian liturgies emphasize the importance of prayer. The Lord's Prayer was a constant in early Christian meetings. Over time, Christian literature came to include a variety of other written prayers, as well.

Early methods of Christian monastic life began in the 4th century, as the Desert Fathers began seeking God in the deserts, giving rise to a tradition of a Christian life of constant prayer in a monastic setting, which gave rise to meditative practices in the Eastern Church during the Byzantine period.

Silent prayer and Christian meditation found their way into monastic traditions of both Western and Eastern Christianity during the Middle Ages.

In the Western Church, Louis Barbo, wrote a treatise in which he described three types of prayer: vocal prayer, best suited for beginners; meditation, for those who are more advanced; and contemplation as the highest form of prayer, only attainable after the meditation stage.

Christian prayer can be sorted into different categories, varying by denomination and tradition.

Prayer books and other tools, such as prayer beads and chaplets, are used by Christians, and images and various icons are associated with prayers in some denominations. Although there is no one prayerbook containing a set liturgy to be used by all Christians, many denominations have their own local prayerbooks, such as the Agpeya used by Coptic Orthodox Christians of Egypt, the Agenda used in the Lutheran Church, the Book of Common Prayer used by Anglicans, the Services of Daily Prayer used by the Church of England, the Shehimo of the Indian Orthodoxy, the Raccolta and the Breviary used by Catholics. The Book of Psalms contains several prayers.

Topics and online resources highlighting Christian prayer are the focus of this portion of our web guide.


Catholic Prayer

Pentecostal Prayer



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