"Prayer is the converse of the soul with God." - Charles Hodge
Christian prayers are quite varied. They can be completely spontaneous, or read entirely from a text, like the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Probably the most common and universal prayer among Christians is the Lord's Prayer, which according to the gospel accounts is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Some Protestant denominations choose not to recite the Lord's Prayer or other rote prayers.
Christians generally pray to God or to the Father. Some Christians (e.g., Catholics, Orthodox) will also ask the righteous in heaven and "in Christ," such as Virgin Mary or other saints to intercede by praying on their behalf (intercession of saints). Formulaic closures 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 Protestants to end prayers with "In Jesus' name, Amen" or "In the name of Christ, Amen" However, the most commonly used closure in Christianity is simply "Amen" (from a Hebrew adverb used as a statement of affirmation or agreement, usually translated as so be it).
There is also the form of prayer called hesychast which is a repetitious type of prayer for the purpose of meditation. In the Western or Latin Rite of Catholic Church, probably the most common is the Rosary; In the Eastern Church (the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church), the Jesus Prayer.
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 repair of the sin of blasphemy performed by others.
In Pentecostal congregations, prayer is often done by speaking in a foreign 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; however, many people outside the movement have offered alternative 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 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 (the "Kingdom of Heaven" in Biblical terms) 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. (However, the choice of healing method is regarded as a matter for the individual, and the Christian Science Church exerts no pressure on members to avoid medical treatment if they wish to avail of it as an alternative to Christian Science healing.) Prayer works through love: the recognition of God's creation as spiritual, intact and inherently lovable. The Christian Scientists' aim is "to reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing" (Manual of The Mother Church, p.17) which, they believe, was lost after the early centuries of Christianity. They cite such Bible texts as ; in support of their contention that Christian faith demands demonstration in healing. This is a faith in the omnipotence of God, which according to the Christian Science interpretation of the Bible, logically rules out any other power: . The Christian Science view is that Jesus taught that we should claim good as being present, right here and now, and that this will result in healing: ( ; ). Christian Scientists point to Jesus' teaching that his followers would do "greater works" than he did ( ) and that a person who lived in conformity with his teachings would not be subject even to death: ( )
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.
To God alone
R. C. Sproul explains that "prayer is to be addressed to God alone, either to God as Triune or to the distinct persons of the Godhead. To pray to creatures is idolatry," (Essentials of the Christian Faith, p. 192).
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Relationship with God's sovereignty
"The Scripture teaches both the sovereign foreordination of God and the efficacy of prayer. The two are not inconsistent with one another, for God ordains the means as well as the ends for His divine purposes. Prayer is a means God uses to bring His sovereign will to pass." (Sproul, p. 192).
- Psalm 5:1-3
- John 14:13-14
- Romans 8:26-27
- Philippians 4:6-7
- 1 John 5:14-15
- James 5:16-18
- A Call to Prayer, by John Charles Ryle (ISBN 0972237402)
- Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life By Beginning In Jesus' Name, by Bryan Chapell (ISBN 0801065275)
- A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers, by D. A. Carson (ISBN 0801025699)
- Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today (ISBN 1557254818)
- See John 16:23, 26; John 14:13; John 15:16
- Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12775a.htm
- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed, 1989
- "Christianity - Pentecostalism". Australian Broadcasting Company. http://www.abc.net.au/religion/stories/s820631.htm. Retrieved 12-5-2008.
- George Barton Cutten, Speaking with Tongues Historically and Psychologically Considered, Yale University Press, 1927.
- Goodman, Felicitas D., Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-Cultural Study in Glossolalia. University of Chicago Press, 1972.
- Hine, Virginia H.: 'Pentecostal Glossolalia toward a Functional Interpretation.' Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 8, 2: (1969) 211–226: quote on p211
- Samarin, William J., Tongues of Men and Angels: The Religious Language of Pentecostalism. Macmillan, New York, 1972, quote on p73
- Hine, Virginia H.: 'Pentecostal Glossolalia toward a Functional Interpretation.' Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 8, 2: (1969) 211–226: quote on p213
- Spanos, Nicholas P.; Hewitt, Erin C.: Glossolalia: 'A test of the 'trance' and psychopathology hypotheses.' Journal of Abnormal Psychology: 1979 Aug Vol 88(4) 427-434.
- "Is there no intercessory prayer?". http://www.christianscience.org/QAIsthereintercesprayer.html. Retrieved 2007-10-13.