How much do you know about prayer in different religions?



9 Questions

What is prayer?

What are the different types of prayer according to Friedrich Heiler's systematic Typology of Prayer?

What are some of the body postures that may be assumed during prayer?

What is the most common prayer in Christianity?

What is the Kabbalistic approach to prayer in Judaism?

What is the Ardās prayer in Sikhism?

What is the ultimate goal of prayer according to the text?

What is the Baháʼí Faith?

What is the concept of conducting prayer experiments?


Prayer: An Overview

  • Prayer is a form of communication that seeks to activate a rapport with a deity or object of worship through deliberate communication.

  • Prayer can take various forms, including supplication, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise, and may be part of a set liturgy or performed alone or in groups.

  • Friedrich Heiler's systematic Typology of Prayer lists six types of prayer: primitive, ritual, Greek cultural, philosophical, mystical, and prophetic.

  • Prayer may be done privately and individually or corporately in the presence of fellow believers.

  • A variety of body postures may be assumed during prayer, including standing, sitting, kneeling, prostrate on the floor, eyes opened or 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 and may be said, chanted, or sung.

  • Some outward acts that sometimes accompany prayer are anointing with oil, ringing a bell, burning incense or paper, lighting a candle or candles, facing a specific direction, and making the sign of the cross.

  • 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.

  • Reliable records are available for the polytheistic religions of the Iron Age, most notably Ancient Greek religion, which strongly influenced Roman religion.

  • There are different approaches to prayer, including direct petitions, educational, rationalist, and experiential approaches.

  • The ultimate goal of prayer may be to help train a person to focus on divinity through philosophy and intellectual contemplation or to enable the person praying to gain a direct experience of the recipient of the prayer.An Overview of Prayer in Different Religious Traditions

  • The practice of prayer is common in many religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism.

  • In Christianity, prayer can be spontaneous or read from a text, and the most common prayer is the Lord's Prayer. Christians also pray to saints and angels for intercession.

  • Judaism has a set order of daily prayers and uses ritualistic prayers throughout the day, such as washing before eating bread and doing grace after meals.

  • In Islam, five daily obligatory prayers are considered one of the pillars of the religion, and Muslims perform the prayer while facing the Kaaba in Mecca.

  • Hinduism has a diverse range of prayer practices, including chanting of mantras, puja (worship) of deities, and meditation.

  • The act of prayer in the Hebrew Bible is mostly through spontaneous, individual, unorganized forms of petitioning and thanking, with standardized prayer being non-existent.

  • The Kabbalistic approach to prayer in Judaism uses kavanot, directions of intent, to specify the path the prayer ascends in the dialog with God.

  • Pentecostal congregations in Christianity practice speaking in tongues during prayer, which some believe to be a real foreign language, while others suggest it is a learned behavior.

  • Christian Science teaches that prayer is a spiritualization of thought or an understanding of God and of the nature of the underlying spiritual creation.

  • The rationalist approach to prayer in Judaism is to help train a person to focus on divinity through philosophy and intellectual contemplation.

  • Some religions, such as Taoism and Buddhism, have a focus on meditation as a form of prayer.

  • The experience of God within Christian mysticism has been contrasted with the concept of experiential religion or mystical experience.

  • Prayer is a means of interacting with God and can be used to change a situation for the better, according to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.Prayer in Different Religions

  • Islam has five daily prayers divided into three separate parts of the day, with supporting evidence from Hadith. Shia Islam also allows praying at five times.

  • Mandaeism has a set prayer called brakha that is recited three times per day, and prostration is not practiced.

  • Baháʼí Faith has many general and specific prayers for unity, detachment, spiritual upliftment, and healing, and three obligatory prayers composed by Bahá'u'lláh that must be recited each day. Baháʼís also read and meditate on the scriptures every morning and evening.

  • Christianity has a more theologic and rational approach to prayer, with Baptists practicing social representation and Islam preserving the tradition of baptizing in the form of ablution and ritual Ghusl for purification purposes.

  • Buddhism and Hinduism use repetitive prayer and mantras for invocations of deities, and Pure Land Buddhism emphasizes the recitation of prayer-like mantras for rebirth into a Sambhogakāya land after bodily dissolution. The Buddha emphasized the primacy of individual practice and experience.

  • Hinduism has incorporated many kinds of prayer, from fire-based rituals to philosophical musings, and typically Hindus pray with their hands joined in pranam.

  • Sikhism has the Ardās prayer, which is done before or after undertaking any significant task, after reciting the daily Banis or completion of a religious program. The prayer is a plea to God to support and help the devotee.

  • Zoroastrians believe that fire represents God's light or wisdom, and worship practices have evolved from ancient times to the present day.

  • Wiccans see prayers as a form of communication with the God and Goddess, and Raëlism rites and practices vary from initiation ceremonies to sensual meditation. Eckankar uses singing the word "HU" as a form of prayer.

  • Practitioners of theurgy and Western esotericism use pre-sanctioned prayers and names of God, and prayers "from the heart" to ascend spiritually. Thelema includes various forms of ritual magick, performance of Liber Resh vel Helios, and yoga.Prayer is often used as a means of faith healing, and there is a vast scientific literature on the efficacy of prayer. However, the results are contradictory, with some studies showing a positive effect and others showing no effect or a negative effect. Some studies have also indicated increased medical complications in groups receiving prayer over those without. Those who use faith healing may delay seeking potentially curative conventional medical care, which is particularly problematic when parents use faith healing techniques on children. The concept of conducting prayer experiments reflects a misunderstanding of the purpose of prayer. One scientific movement attempts to track the physical effects of prayer through neuroscience. According to this movement, 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. Another paradigm of research returns to the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (1979-2007) which has provided an explanatory model for mind-matter interactions. 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. In 2002, 43% of Americans prayed for their own health, 24% prayed for others' health, and 10% participated in a prayer group for their own health.


Test your knowledge about the practice of prayer in different religions with our quiz. From the daily prayers of Islam to the diverse prayer practices of Hinduism, this quiz covers a wide range of religious traditions. Discover the different approaches to prayer, the types of prayers, and the variety of postures and actions that accompany prayer. Plus, learn about the scientific literature on the efficacy of prayer and its potential impact on health. See how much you really know about this ancient practice of communication with the divine.

Ready to take the quiz?

Start Quiz