Prayer [Extra Quality]
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Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards a deity or a deified ancestor. More generally, prayer can also have the purpose of thanksgiving or praise, and in comparative religion is closely associated with more abstract forms of meditation and with charms or spells.
The act of prayer is attested in written sources as early as 5000 years ago. Today, most major religions involve prayer in one way or another; some ritualize the act, requiring a strict sequence of actions or placing a restriction on who is permitted to pray, while others teach that prayer may be practised spontaneously by anyone at any time.
Scientific studies regarding the use of prayer have mostly concentrated on its effect on the healing of sick or injured people. The efficacy of prayer in faith healing has been evaluated in numerous studies, with contradictory results.
Various spiritual traditions offer a wide variety of devotional acts. There are morning and evening prayers, graces said over meals, and reverent physical gestures. Some Christians bow their heads and fold their hands. Some Native Americans regard dancing as a form of prayer. Some Sufis whirl. Hindus chant mantras. Jewish prayer may involve swaying back and forth and bowing. Muslim prayer involves bowing, kneeling and prostration. Quakers keep silent. Some pray according to standardized rituals and liturgies, while others prefer extemporaneous prayers. Still others combine the two.
Friedrich Heiler is often cited in Christian circles for his systematic Typology of Prayer which lists six types of prayer: primitive, ritual, Greek cultural, philosophical, mystical, and prophetic. Some forms of prayer require a prior ritualistic form of cleansing or purification such as in ghusl and wudhu.
Prayer may be done privately and individually, or it may be done corporately in the presence of fellow believers. Prayer can be incorporated into a daily "thought life", in which one is in constant communication with a god. Some people pray throughout all that is happening during the day and seek guidance as the day progresses. This is actually regarded as a requirement in several Christian denominations, although enforcement is not possible nor desirable. There can be many different answers to prayer, just as there are many ways to interpret an answer to a question, if there in fact comes an answer. Some may experience audible, physical, or mental epiphanies. If indeed an answer comes, the time and place it comes is considered random.Some outward acts that sometimes accompany prayer are: anointing with oil; ringing a bell; burning incense or paper; lighting a candle or candles; See, for example, facing a specific direction (i.e. towards Mecca or the East); making the sign of the cross. One less noticeable act related to prayer is fasting.
A variety of body postures may be assumed, often with specific meaning (mainly respect or adoration) associated with them: standing; sitting; kneeling; prostrate on the floor; eyes opened; eyes 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. They may be said, chanted, or sung. They may be with musical accompaniment or not. There may be a time of outward silence while prayers are offered mentally. Often, there are prayers to fit specific occasions, such as the blessing of a meal, the birth or death of a loved one, other significant events in the life of a believer, or days of the year that have special religious significance. Details corresponding to specific traditions are outlined below.
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. The early Christian prayer posture was standing, looking up to heaven, with outspread arms and bare head. This is the pre-Christian, pagan prayer posture (except for the bare head, which was prescribed for males in Corinthians 11:4, in Roman paganism, the head had to be covered in prayer). Certain Cretan and Cypriote figures of the Late Bronze Age, with arms raised, have been interpreted as worshippers. Their posture is similar to the "flight" posture, a crouching posture with raised hands, observed in schizophrenic patients and related to the universal "hands up" gesture of surrender. The kneeling posture with clasped hands appears to have been introduced only with the beginning high medieval period, presumably adopted from a gesture of feudal homage.
Although prayer in its literal sense is not used in animism, communication with the spirit world is vital to the animist way of life. This is usually accomplished through a shaman who, through a trance, gains access to the spirit world and then shows the spirits' thoughts to the people. Other ways to receive messages from the spirits include using astrology or contemplating fortune tellers and healers.
Some of the oldest extant literature, such as the Kesh temple hymn (c. 26th century BC) are liturgy addressed to deities and thus technically "prayer". The Egyptian Pyramid Texts of about the same period similarly contain spells or incantations addressed to the gods. In the loosest sense, in the form of magical thinking combined with animism, prayer has been argued as representing a human cultural universal, which would have been present since the emergence of behavioral modernity, by anthropologists such as Sir Edward Burnett Tylor and Sir James George Frazer.
Reliable records are available for the polytheistic religions of the Iron Age, most notably Ancient Greek religion (which strongly influenced Roman religion). These religious traditions were direct developments of the earlier Bronze Age religions.Ceremonial prayer was highly formulaic and ritualized.
In ancient polytheism, ancestor worship is indistinguishable from theistic worship (see also Euhemerism).Vestiges of ancestor worship persist, to a greater or lesser extent, in modern religious traditions throughout the world, most notably in Japanese Shinto and in Chinese folk religion. The practices involved in Shinto prayer are heavily influenced by Buddhism; Japanese Buddhism has also been strongly influenced by Shinto in turn. Shinto prayers quite frequently consist of wishes or favors asked of the kami, rather than lengthy praises or devotions. The practice of votive offering is also universal, and is attested at least since the Bronze Age. In Shinto, this takes the form of a small wooden tablet, called an ema.
Prayers in Etruscan were used in the Roman world by augurs and other oracles long after Etruscan became a dead language. The Carmen Arvale and the Carmen Saliare are two specimens of partially preserved prayers that seem to have been unintelligible to their scribes, and whose language is full of archaisms and difficult passages.
Roman prayers and sacrifices were often envisioned as legal bargains between deity and worshipper. The Roman principle was expressed as do ut des: "I give, so that you may give." Cato the Elder's treatise on agriculture contains many examples of preserved traditional prayers; in one, a farmer addresses the unknown deity of a possibly sacred grove, and sacrifices a pig in order to placate the god or goddess of the place and beseech his or her permission to cut down some trees from the grove.
Celtic, Germanic and Slavic religions are recorded much later, and much more fragmentarily, than the religions of classical antiquity. They nevertheless show substantial parallels to the better-attested religions of the Iron Age. In the case of Germanic religion, the practice of prayer is reliably attested, but no actual liturgy is recorded from the early (Roman era) period. An Old Norse prayer is on record in the form of a dramatization in skaldic poetry. This prayer is recorded in stanzas 2 and 3 of the poem Sigrdrífumál, compiled in the 13th century Poetic Edda from earlier traditional sources, where the valkyrie Sigrdrífa prays to the gods and the earth after being woken by the hero Sigurd.A prayer to Odin is mentioned in chapter 2 of the Völsunga saga where King Rerir prays for a child. In stanza 9 of the poem Oddrúnargrátr, a prayer is made to "kind wights, Frigg and Freyja, and many gods In chapter 21 of Jómsvíkinga saga, wishing to turn the tide of the Battle of Hjörungavágr, Haakon Sigurdsson eventually finds his prayers answered by the goddesses Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr and Irpa.Folk religion in the medieval period produced syncretisms between pre-Christian and Christian traditions. An example is the 11th-century Anglo-Saxon charm Æcerbot for the fertility of crops and land, or the medical Wið færstice. The 8th-century Wessobrunn Prayer has been proposed as a Christianized pagan prayer and compared to the pagan Völuspá and the Merseburg Incantations, the latter recorded in the 9th or 10th century but of much older traditional origins.
In Australian Aboriginal mythology, prayers to the "Great Wit" are performed by the "clever men" and "clever women", or kadji. These Aboriginal shamans use maban or mabain, the material that is believed to give them their purported magical powers. The Pueblo Indians are known to have used prayer sticks, that is, sticks with feathers attached as supplicatory offerings. The Hopi Indians used prayer sticks as well, but they attached to it a small bag of sacred meal. 041b061a72