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How People Pray around the World


People of faith around the world pray differently. They say prayers at different times of the day and use different words and even different actions. Some pray alone in quiet, some pray out loud in groups, and some say memorized prayers. Yet no matter how they go about it, people who pray show their devotion to God and establish a relationship with Him through their prayers.

Jewish Prayer

Jewish people generally pray three times a day. They say Shacharit (morning prayer), Mincha (afternoon prayer), and Ma’ariv (evening prayer), as well as longer prayers on special days like Jewish holidays. They use a prayer book, called the siddur, which holds the set order of daily prayers.

Jewish prayers have two aspects: kavanah, which means intention, and keva, which includes the ritualistic and organized elements of the prayer.

Judaism prefers communal prayers over solitary prayers, and in Orthodox Judaism, 10 adult males must be present to say a communal prayer. Jewish people also say various ritualistic prayers throughout the day, such as after waking up and before meals.

Some Jewish prayers are said while sitting, but standing is the most common position during Jewish prayers. In certain parts of prayers, Jewish people bow by bending their knees and upper body, and in some Jewish communities, people sway to better engage in conversation with God.

Catholic Prayer

Catholics practice prayer in three ways: vocal, meditative, and contemplative. Vocal prayers are spoken or sung, and meditative and contemplative prayers are considered mental prayers.

Vocal prayers may be formal or informal and are most often said publicly in a group. Traditional vocal prayers that Catholics learn from a young age and memorize include the Sign of the Cross, the Hail Mary, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, the Rosary, and Mass.

Roman Catholics also believe in five forms of prayer: blessing and adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise. Blessing is honoring God for the blessings He has given us, while adoration is acknowledging the greatness of God the Creator. A prayer of petition asks God for help or forgiveness. Intercession is praying as Jesus did; it is praying on behalf of another. Praying to Mary or one of the saints is another form of intercession, where you ask that they intercede between you and God. A prayer of thanksgiving is simply thanking God for all He has done. Praise is giving God glory for all that He is.

Muslim Prayer

Muslims offer five daily prayers: at daybreak, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and evening. These prayers may be said at a person’s home or at a mosque with other Muslims. Muslim men and women pray separately.

Before praying, Muslims cleanse themselves in a ritual called ablution. They also turn toward Mecca to pray. A Muslim prayer includes both words and actions: standing, glorifying and praising Allah, reciting the first chapter and any other desired verses from the Qur’an, bowing down and praising Allah again, standing back up, prostrating and again praising Allah, kneeling, and then standing up and ending with an Arabic phrase that means “Peace and Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon you.”

After this more formal prayer—known as salah—is done, Muslims can say a personal prayer regarding their needs or giving thanks. Other standard prayers are also given in Arabic at different times and for different occasions.

Buddhist Prayer

Buddhists consider prayer to be a supportive practice to meditation. They believe prayer can help them achieve the ultimate goal of enlightenment.

While methods differ among Buddhist groups and traditions, prayer generally involves clearing the mind of distractions, prostrating or sitting with palms together and head bowed, and repeating mantras. Buddhist meditation or prayer often takes place in front of small shrines at home or at temples featuring large statues of the Buddha.

Unlike in most Western religions, Buddhists don’t pray to a single God for direction or help, but meditate and pray in a self-reflective manner to gain enlightenment.

Prayer in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider individual prayer a meaningful conversation with God, so personal prayers are not memorized or repetitive.

In a show of love and respect to God, Church members often pray with a bowed head, folded arms, and closed eyes. Prayers begin by addressing God by name (for example, “Heavenly Father”) and then include thanking Him for blessings, sharing feelings with Him, asking for help for self and others, and then closing in the name of Jesus Christ and saying “amen.”

Church members start each day with a morning prayer, say prayers before eating, and end the day with a prayer to God. However, since prayer is literal communication with God, there is no right or wrong time to pray. We pray whenever we want to thank God, ask for His guidance or blessings, or petition His help or forgiveness.

Members of the Church believe God hears prayer, regardless of how or when a person prays. The prayer may be vocalized out loud or it may be silent and from the heart. Prayer may be performed sitting, standing, or kneeling. When praying individually, Church members often kneel to show reverence and humility before God.

Because God loves all of His children, He hears and answers prayers. And He will hear and answer yours, when you sincerely seek His help.

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