Christian Prayer

Prayer is an important activity in Christianity, and there are several different forms of Christian prayer.

Christian prayers are diverse: they can be completely spontaneous, or read entirely from a text, like the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The most common prayer among Christians is the “Lord’s Prayer“, which according to the gospel accounts (e.g. Matthew 6:9-13) is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. “The Lord’s Prayer” is a model for prayers of adoration, confession and petition in Christianity.

A broad, three stage characterization of prayer begins with vocal prayer, then moves on to a more structured form in terms of meditation, then reaches the multiple layers of contemplation, or intercession.

There are two basic settings for Christian prayer: corporate (or public) and private. Corporate prayer includes prayer shared within the worship setting or other public places. These prayers can be formal written prayers or informal extemporaneous prayers. Private prayer occurs with the individual praying either silently or aloud within a private setting. Prayer exists within multiple different worship contexts and may be structured differently. These types of contexts may include:

Liturgical: Often seen within the Catholic Church. This is a very orthodox service, according to Catholics. Within a Catholic Mass, which is an example of a liturgical form of worship, there are bible readings and a sermon is read.

Often seen within the Holy Orthodox Church. The Holy Bible is read and a sermon is read.

Non- Liturgical: Often seen within Evangelical church, this prayer is often not scripted and would be more informal in structure. Most of these prayers would be extemporaneous.

Charismatic: Often seen within gospel churches. It is the main form of worship in Pentecostal churches. It usually includes song and dance, and may include other artistic expressions. There may be no apparent structure, but the worshippers will be “led by the Holy Spirit”.

Catholic prayer doing the Lord's Prayer in Mexico

Catholic prayer doing the Lord’s Prayer in Mexico

Background

Further information: Prayer in the New Testament

Prayer in the New Testament is presented as a positive command (Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). The people of God are challenged to include prayer in their everyday life, even in the busy struggles of marriage (1 Corinthians 7:5) as it is thought to bring the faithful closer to God.

Throughout the New Testament, prayer is shown to be God’s appointed method by which the faithful obtain what he has to bestow (Matthew 7:7-11; Matthew 9:24-29; Luke 11:13).

Prayer, according to the Book of Acts, can be seen at the first moments of the church (Acts 3:1). The apostles regarded prayer as an essential part of their lives (Acts 6:4; Romans 1:9; Colossians 1:9). As such, the apostles frequently incorporated verses from Psalms into their writings. Romans 3:10-18 for example is borrowed from Psalm 14:1-3 and other psalms.

Thus, due to this emphasis on prayer in the early church. lengthy passages of the New Testament are prayers or canticles (see also the Book of Odes), such as the Prayer for forgiveness (Mark 11:25-26), the Lord’s Prayer, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), the Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79), Jesus’ prayer to the one true God (John 17), exclamations such as, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3-14), the Believers’ Prayer (Acts 4:23-31), “may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 26:36-44), “Pray that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:39-46), Saint Stephen’s Prayer (Acts 7:59-60), Simon Magus’ Prayer (Acts 8:24), “pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2), and Maranatha (1 Corinthians 16:22).

Types of prayer

Daily prayer

Canonical hours

Main articles: Breviary and Canonical Hours

From the time of the early Church, the practice of seven fixed prayer times have been taught; in Apostolic Tradition, Hippolytus instructed Christians to pray seven times a day “on rising, at the lighting of the evening lamp, at bedtime, at midnight” and “the third, sixth and ninth hours of the day, being hours associated with Christ’s Passion.”

Oriental Orthodox Christians, such as Copts and Indians, as well as members of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church (an Oriental Protestant denomination), use a breviary such as the Agpeya and Shehimo to pray the canonical hours seven times a day at fixed prayer times while facing in the eastward direction, in anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus; this Christian practice has its roots in Psalm 118:164, in which the prophet David is described as praying to God seven times a day. These Christians incorporate prostrations in their prayers, “prostrating three times in the name of the Trinity; at the end of each Psalm … while saying the ‘Alleluia’; and multiple times during the more than forty Kyrie eleisons” as with the Copts and thrice during the Qauma prayer, at the words “Crucified for us, Have mercy on us!”, thrice during the recitation of the Nicene Creed at the words “And was incarnate of the Holy Spirit…”, “And was crucified for us…”, & “And on the third day rose again…”, as well as thrice during the Prayer of the Cherubim while praying the words “Blessed is the glory of the Lord, from His place forever!” as with the Indians. Before praying, Oriental Christians wash their hands, face and feet out of respect for God; shoes are removed in order to acknowledge that one is offering prayer before a holy God. In this Christian denomination, and in many others as well, it is customary for women to wear a Christian headcovering when praying.

In the Lutheran Churches, the canonical hours are contained in breviaries such as The Brotherhood Prayer Book and For All the Saints: A Prayer Book for and by the Church, while in the Roman Catholic Church they are known as the Liturgy of the Hours. The Methodist tradition has emphasized the praying of the canonical hours as an “essential practice” in being a disciple of Jesus.

Lord’s Prayer

The injunction for Christians to pray the Lord’s Prayer thrice daily was given in Didache 8, 2 f., which, in turn, was influenced by the Jewish practice of praying thrice daily found in the Old Testament, specifically in Psalm 55:17, which suggests “evening and morning and at noon”, and Daniel 6:10, in which the prophet Daniel prays thrice a day. The early Christians came to pray the Lord’s Prayer thrice a day at 9 am, 12 pm and 3 pm, supplanting the former Amidah predominant in the Hebrew tradition. As such, in Christianity, many Lutheran and Anglican churches ring their church bells from belltowers three times a day, summoning the Christian faithful to recite the Lord’s Prayer.

Sign of the Cross

The sign of the cross is a short prayer used daily by many Christians, especially those of the Catholic, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Methodist and Anglican traditions apart from its daily use in private prayer, it is widely used in corporate prayer by these Christian denominations. The Small Catechism, a catechism used in the Lutheran Churches, instructs believers “to make the sign of the cross at both the beginning and the end of the day as a beginning to daily prayers.” It specifically instructs Christians: “When you get out of bed, bless yourself with the holy cross and say ‘In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.’”

Mealtime Prayer

Main article: Grace (prayer)
Further information: Fasting § Christianity, and Christian dietary laws

Christians often pray to ask God to thank Him for and bless their food before consuming it at the time of eating meals, such as supper. These prayers vary per Christian denomination, e.g. the common table prayer is used by communicants of the Lutheran Churches and the Moravian Church.

Seasonal prayer

Many denominations use specific prayers geared to the season of the Christian Liturgical Year, such as Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. Some of these prayers are found in the Roman Breviary, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Orthodox Book of Needs, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

In the seasons of Advent and Lent, many Christians add the reading of a daily devotional to their prayer life; items that aid in prayer, such as an Advent wreath or Lenten calendar are unique to those seasons of the Church Year.

Prayer to saints

Main articles: Communion of saints and Intercession of saints

The ancient church, in both Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity, developed a tradition of asking for the intercession of (deceased) saints, and this remains the practice of most Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, as well as some Lutheran and Anglican churches. Most of the Reformed Churches however rejected prayer to the saints, largely on the basis of belief in the sole mediatorship of Christ.

Meditation and contemplative prayer

Main articles: Christian meditation and Christian contemplation

A broad, three stage characterization of prayer begins with vocal prayer, then moves on to a more structured form in terms of meditation, then reaches the multiple layers of contemplation, or intercession.

Christian meditation is a structured attempt to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditārī, which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (such as a bible passage) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God.

Christian meditation aims to heighten the personal relationship based on the love of God that marks Christian communion.

At times there may be no clear-cut boundary between Christian meditation and Christian contemplation, and they overlap. Meditation serves as a foundation on which the contemplative life stands, the practice by which someone begins the state of contemplation. In contemplative prayer, this activity is curtailed, so that contemplation has been described as “a gaze of faith”, “a silent love”.

Meditation and contemplation on the life of Jesus in the New Testament are components of the rosary and are central to spiritual retreats and to the prayer that grows out of these retreats.

Intercessory prayer

This kind of prayer involves the believer taking the role of an intercessor, praying on behalf of another individual, group or community, or even a nation.

Ejaculatory prayer

Ejaculatory prayer is the use of very brief exclamations. Saint Augustine remarked that the Egyptian Christians who withdrew to a solitary life “are said to say frequent prayers, but very brief ones that are tossed off as in a rush, so that a vigilant and keen intention, which is very necessary for one who prays, may not fade away and grow dull over longer periods”.

Examples of such prayers are given in the old Raccolta under the numbers 19, 20, 38, 57, 59, 63, 77, 82, 83, 133, 154, 166, 181.

They are also known as aspirations, invocations or exclamations and include the Jesus Prayer.

Johnson’s Dictionary defined “ejaculation” as “a short prayer darted out occasionally, without solemn retirement”. Such pious ejaculations are part also of the liturgy of the Church of England.

Listening prayer

Listening prayer is a type of Christian prayer. As compared with the traditional Christian prayer, the listening prayer method demands “hearing and discerning God’s voice through prayer and scripture; then obeying the Lord’s direction in personal ministry.”

Traditional Christian prayer requested people to thank God, as well as tell God their own request. When their prayers seemed unanswered, some would feel that God did not hear them or did not respond to them. Listening prayer asks: “Was it that God did not respond to you, or was it that you did not hear from God”? Listening prayer requires those praying to calm their minds down and read the Scripture. During the reading, some sentences may pop into mind, as if in answer to their prayers but listening prayers are also of two types one is normally listening to church father and second is prayer with music nowadays prayer with music is considered as prayer music or prayer song.

Child’s prayer

Christian child’s prayer is typically short, rhyming, or has a memorable tune. It is usually said before bedtime, to give thanks for a meal, or as a nursery rhyme. Many of these prayers are either quotes from the Bible, or set traditional texts.

Liturgical prayers

Elements of the oldest Christian prayers may be found in liturgies such as the Roman Catholic Mass, the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, and the Lutheran Book of Worship.

Prayer books and tools

Prayer books as well as tools such as prayer beads such as chaplets are used by Christians. Images and icons are also associated with prayers in some Christian denominations.

There is no one prayer book containing a set liturgy used by all Christians; however many Christian denominations have their own local prayer books, for example:

  • Book of Common Prayer (the traditional Anglican prayer book, still in use or modified by the constituent churches of the Anglican Communion, and one of the most influential prayer books in the English language)
  • Agenda, name for book for liturgies, especially in Lutheran Church.
  • The Roman Breviary (Traditional Roman Catholic Monastic Hours)
  • The Book of Psalms
  • The Raccolta book of indulgenced prayers for Catholics

See also

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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