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Rudolf Epp : The morning prayer
Prayers in Taizé

The Prayer (from Old High German Gibet , not derived from praying , but to ask ) a central religious practice referred to many religions . It is a verbal or non-verbal ritual or free approach to transcendent beings ( gods , deities ).

In addition to the process of praying (as communal or personal prayer), prayer is also used in German to denote a pre-formulated, fixed text. Such a prayer can be traced back to a particular originator (e.g. the founder of a religion, a saint, or a religious writer). Some prayers are said on specific occasions in individual or community life. Prayers are handed down and learned in the family or in the religious community. The most famous prayers are Shema Israel in Judaism and the Lord's Prayer in Christianity . The collection of prayer and songs in the Psalms is important for Judaism and Christianity.

General meaning

Prayer differs from other religious practices in its personal and communicative component. It therefore presupposes the idea of ​​a personal God, which is not present in Buddhism or Taoism , for example . It also presupposes that such a god is receptive to such a form of dialogue and cannot be reached through ritual acts, sacrificial practices, etc. alone.

He must be present to the person praying; In the monotheistic religions, such a god is mostly seen as omnipresent , while natural religious concepts often assign certain places to the deities, so that the person praying must first go to the respective place.

If religious scholars and theologians believe in a predestination, then they do not expect that the unchangeable will of the Godhead can be changed through human prayers, but rather they expect a change of the praying person from prayer: the will of God striving for the good cannot be changed, but Through prayer the will of the person is strengthened, his soul is purified and thus a holistic change for the good is brought about.

You can pray in a church service , in a group or alone. Whole church services are understood as prayer, such as the Jewish worship service on Shabbat in the synagogue , the Holy Mass of the Catholic and the divine liturgy of the Orthodox Church , the Christian hourly prayer or the Friday prayer of Muslims. Many religions have set times of prayer.

Prayers can be sung, spoken aloud, or silently formulated to yourself. There are different postures and gestures depending on religion and denomination: stand, kneel , bow down , lower your head, raise your hands or fold them. In connection with prayers, symbols or aids are often used, such as prayer chains , crucifixes or icons.

There are traditional liturgical prayers with fixed word sequences, sometimes in the form of a litany , prayers with templates or spontaneously formulated prayers.



The daily prayer ( . Hebrew תפלה, Tefillah ) in Judaism are for religious Jews - men and women - three prayers: morning Schacharit afternoon Mincha and evening Maariv . When praying, Jews cover their heads with a kippah or other headgear and use tefillin (phylacteries) and tallit (prayer shawl) during morning prayers - the latter is also used on Shabbat and on feast days.

The prayers are prayed according to a basic pattern that varies slightly depending on the day of the week or the day of the festival. The prayer book that contains these prayers is called Siddur . The prayer book for a feast day is called Machsor . Prayers include Tehillim ( Psalms ), the Shema Yisrael (Hear, Israel), Amida or eighteen supplication (Shmone Esre). In orthodox and conservative synagogues everything is prayed in Hebrew , in liberal Judaism some prayers are said in the local language.

Jews praying with the prayer shawl, the tallit

Structure of the Jewish Morning Prayer (Shacharit)

  • Morning praise (ברכת השחר Birkat HaSchachar) - private brachot and study texts that belong in the private sphere, but are traditionally said in the synagogue by everyone for themselves.
  • Psalm verses (פסוקי דזמרא Psuke de Simra) - Psalms and other poetic texts mainly from the Bible in preparation for prayer. On feast days - including the Shabbat - this part of the service is considerably expanded. In liberal congregations it was drastically shortened - as early as the 19th century - and in today's liberal prayer books it mainly consists of songs and meditation texts that are intended to lead to the service.
  • Barchu (ברכו) - Call to prayer: "Let us praise God".
  • Shema and his Brachot (שמע וברכתה) - The Shema consists of three Torah texts that are studied every morning and evening before prayer: Dewarim (Deuteronomy) 6: 4-9; Dewarim (5th book of Moses) 11, 13-21 and Bemidbar (4th book of Moses) 15: 37-41. The study of Torah texts begins and ends with praise, therefore praise is said before and after the Shema. The texts are different in the morning than in the evening.
  • Amida (עמידה), also Schmone Esre (שמנה עשרי) or Tefilla (תפילה). The real prayer in Judaism. With him the commandment of daily sacrifice is fulfilled. It consists of an initial part of three brachot (Avot "ancestors", Gewurot "mode of power" and Kedushat ha-Shem "sanctification of God"), a main part and an end of again three brachot (Avoda "cultic service", Hoda'a "thanks "And Birkat Schalom" Priest's blessing and request for peace ") The main part relates to specific concerns of the day. On weekdays it consists of 13 requests for a Jewish life, on Shabbat it consists of a request for a good day of rest, and on festivals for the respective festival.
  • Order of the Torah reading (קריאת תורה) - On Shabbat morning, as well as in weekday prayer on Monday and Thursday morning, the Torah scroll (Sefer Torah) is excavated from the Torah shrine (Aron), a procession of the scroll through the congregation, the public reading from the scroll and the return of the scroll to the shrine. On Shabbat and on feast days, the Torah reading ends with a passage from the prophets (“ Haftara ” = conclusion). This is followed by prayers for the church, government, state of Israel, etc.
  • Mussaf-Amida (תפילת מוסף) - On feast days - including the Shabbat - an additional Amida is prayed in orthodox and conservative communities in accordance with the additional sacrifice offered in the Torah. In its main part it contains the recitation of the sacrificial instructions for the respective festival. A Mussaf-Amida is not classically common in liberal communities. Recently, however, meditations or alternative formulations have been introduced in their place.
  • Final part - The end of the service is traditionally mainly characterized by the kaddish . In Orthodox communities the service ends with a series of study texts in which a Kaddish of the Mourners (Kaddish Jatom) is said. The Alenu prayer or the daily psalm is one of these study texts. In liberal congregations the many repetitions of the Kaddish have been abolished in order to create a greater focus on the text and the situation for this prayer. Therefore there is only the Alenu and a Kaddish Jatom, which is spoken by all mourners together.

Structure of Jewish afternoon and evening prayers (Mincha and Ma'ariw)

  • Psalm verses - There is also an opening part in the afternoon and evening prayer, but not in a comparable form as in the morning prayer. The Mincha prayer begins with Psalm 145, the evening prayer with Psalm 134. An exception is the evening prayer at the beginning of Shabbat ( Erew Shabbat ), which has its own, executed opening part (Kabbalat Shabbat "reception of Shabbat"). This part was put together in the 16th century by students of the mystic Isaak Luria in Safed . You study six psalms in analogy to the six days of the week. These psalms are Psalm 95–99 and Psalm 29. Before the seventh psalm (Psalm 92 “Song for the Shabbat day”), with which the Shabbat liturgically begins, a hymn is sung to greet the Shabbat ( Lecha Dodi ).

There are other special texts for festive days, for example the Kol Nidre prayer on Yom Kippur .

  • Barchu (ברכו) - Call to prayer: "Let us praise God".
  • Only in evening prayer: Shma and his brachot (שמע וברכתה) - see above. Mincha: Shabbat and fast days: Tor reading. On all other days, ie the normal weekdays, the Amida immediately follows Barchu in an afternoon prayer.
  • Amida (עמידה), also Schmone Esre (שמנה עשרי) or Tefilla (תפילה). - see above.
  • Final part - Alenu, Kaddish, possibly a hymn.


In addition to prayers, religious Jews say praises ( Hebrew ברכות, Brachot ) on many occasions , for example about eating or before exercising a mitzvah (Hebrew מצות, commandments ). These mini-prayers are called “praises” (Brachot) because only the Amida is understood as a “prayer” .

  • One says praises before practicing a mitzvah ( Birkot ha-Mitzvot ברכת המצות), for example before ritual washing of hands, before putting on the tallit, before lighting the Hanukkah candles, etc. This brachot is always said before performing the deed. An exception to this is the lighting of the Shabbat candles: The Shabbat formally begins with the Bracha. However, since on this day for believing Jews u. a. the lighting of fire is prohibited, the usual order is reversed. After the lights have been lit, the eyes are covered with the hands so that the blessing of the Shabbat lights can only be symbolically received after the bracha.
  • One says praises before the enjoyment of things (before tasting, smelling, drinking, seeing) ( Birkot ha-Nehenin ברכות הנהני Beispiel), for example before drinking wine, before drinking other beverages, before eating bread eating vegetables or fruits, smelling spices, etc. The brachot before drinking, tasting and smelling is said before the action. Brachot about seeing is said after having seen a beautiful or significant thing - e. B. a rainbow, a scholar (s), a famous person, a rebuilt synagogue, etc. - discovered.
  • Praise is said to thank God, to praise or to ask for something ( Birkot hoda'ah ברכות הודאה), for example to praise God that he gives strength to the powerless, etc.

Brachot can be said in any language.

The domestic Shabbat , the weekly reminder of the exodus from Egypt and the creation of the world as well as a sign of God's covenant with the people of Israel (gift of God's love) include the lighting of the Shabbat candles and an eulogy about the light as well as the kiddush about one Glass of wine to celebrate the day. Two Shabbat loaves ( Challot : plural of the Hebrew Challah , East Yiddish Challe, West Yiddish, Barches or Berches) are lying on the table. They are used to praise the bread that begins eating on Shabbat. (Every meal begins with bread, the special thing about Shabbat is the challot.) The candles are usually lit before dusk at home, the festive meal with kiddush and Shabbat bread and the actual dinner follow after the service - provided that the service is attended.


From the beginning, prayer to God has been one of the most important expressions of the Christian faith . As a devout Jew, Jesus himself prayed and instructed his disciples to pray; however, he not only referred to God as father like Judaism, but also addressed him as father in prayer.

Biblical basics

The New Testament shows several forms of prayer: psalms , lament, petition, thanksgiving, intercession , adoration . Some of the most commonly used Christian prayers come from the New Testament; B. the Lord's Prayer , which according to old tradition goes back to Jesus himself ( Lk 11,2ff  EU ).

The Gospels show how Jesus wanted to help people in all of their practical needs. But the more he did that, the more they tended to fixate on God's momentary help - Jesus was surrounded by sick people who were seeking healing. This made it difficult for him to get attention to his message beyond the momentary help. Such experiences generally concern asking - if they are heard, they are signs that point to God; but at the same time they promote the tendency of people to expect primarily the fulfillment of their wishes from their relationship with God.

The New Testament gives numerous indications of the place of prayer in man's relationship with God, and there are recommendations on the manner of praying. Important for Christian prayer, also with regard to its answer, is the harmony of the prayer with God's will , faith ( Mk 9.23  EU ). Then apply: “Ask, and it will be given to you” ( Mt 7.7  EU ). If man entrusts himself to God and his rulership , then everything will fall to him that he needs ( Mt 6.33  EU ). So people can turn to God with their concerns over and over again in prayer, mediated by Jesus ( Jn 14.6  EU ), and ask him for everything they need every day. The prayer can then expect that God “will do everything for good with those who love him” ( Rom 8:28  EU ).

According to Paul and John, it is the Holy Spirit who prays when people “do not know how and what to pray” ( Rom . 8: 26-27  EU ). The Holy Spirit enters as a mediator ( Paraclete , “Comforter”) ( Jn 14: 13-14  EU ).

In addition to trusting prayer, the Bible also knows the plaintive and outcry prayer of people in need. According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus himself turned to his father on the cross with the psalm words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22.2, Mk 15.34  EU ). The lamenting songs of the Psalms (such as Psalm 51: "God, be gracious to me after your grace", Ps 51.3  EU ) and the prophets ( Klgl 1, EU  EU ) are part of Christian prayer to this day.

After Christ's Ascension , Christians also prayed to Jesus. The formula known from the Old Testament " invoke the name of YHWH " was now applied to Jesus; the formula "who call on the name of Jesus" was then the designation of the Christians (eg 1 Cor 1,EU , Acts 9,14  EU ).

Prayer in all its forms, with its various effects, promotes people's relationship with God.

Forms of prayer

Grace at the beginning of a meal. Spoken by a senior citizen in a retirement home

Christianity knows many forms of prayer.

  • In worship : In almost all denominations , the Lord's Prayer is part of the worship service, either spoken by the liturgist or spoken together. In addition, depending on the denomination, there are other liturgical prayers , often alternating between individuals and the congregation , free or pre-formulated prayers by the service leader or common free prayer by the congregation.
  • In groups or as an individual prayer: There are fixed forms of prayer, e.g. B. the Trisagion of the Orthodox Church , the Angelus in the Catholic Church , or the Liturgy of the Hours . Every year in March there is an ecumenical world day of prayer , on which the same texts that have been put together by women from a particular country can be prayed everywhere in a service. In January, the German Evangelical Alliance holds a week of prayer and regular non-denominational prayer evenings, which take place in turn in the alliance's congregations.
  • In the family : In many Christian families table prayers are common, as well as night prayers with the children. Joint family devotions are rare today. In some families the Moravian slogans or a Christian (children's) calendar such as B. Read the "Helle Straße", other families pray the Compline of the Liturgy of the Hours or the Rosary together .
  • Children's prayers: prayers usually formulated in rhyme form such as B: "I am small, my heart is clean, if nobody should live in it but Jesus (God) alone." But children often pray prayers that they themselves formulate.
  • Prayers
  • Morning and evening prayers are used to begin and end the day with God. A special form of evening prayer is the alpine blessing or reverence.
  • Bible text prayers : Here, Bible texts, mainly the psalms from the Old Testament or prayers from the letters of the New Testament, are recited in the wording or in your own words as a prayer to God. The most well-known Bible text prayers include the Benedictus , the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis , which are also sung daily in the Divine Office.
  • Prayer songs were sung as early as Biblical times and are passed down in the Psalms . Praises are songs addressed to God that extol Him, His qualities, and his deeds.
  • Thematic prayers: There are also numerous prayer groups, including those that pray for specific causes, such as prayers for peace.
  • Mail prayer: prayers sent by e-mail, which are often used for reflection in the middle of everyday life or for a short break in between.
  • 24-hour prayer: Mainly in the context of the charismatic movement as part of the watchman's call , but also in the Moravian Brethren . Various prayers come together to form a group, so that every hour of the day, people pray “in shifts”.
  • Eternal adoration ( eternal prayer ) before the sacrament of the altar, which is exposed in the monstrance , is an old tradition of the Catholic Church. It is practiced by contemplative religious communities and parishes. Many dioceses have distributed Eternal Prayer to the parishes of the diocese over a year.
  • Personal prayer of the individual: Here, the spectrum ranges from the Lord's Prayer before going to sleep, a daily quiet time , praying the Liturgy of the Hours (whole or individual hearing ) or the rosary to completely free prayer.
  • Contemplative prayer: a meditative , searching prayer. According to the Catholic understanding, it also means remembering what good God has done in the life of the person praying, “to adopt an attitude of concentration, of inner silence, in order to reflect and understand the secrets of our faith and what God works in us to take us in ”. An example is praying the rosary. This also happens together, for example within the framework of the "Rosary Atonement Crusade" community.
  • Contemplative prayer: a meditative, silent prayer. The focus is on a certain word (e.g. a passage from the Bible) and repeated inside. This type of prayer has found widespread use in the Eastern Churches and is particularly cultivated here in the form of the Jesus prayer .

Prayer posture

The early Christians prayed in the oranten position
Ernst Oppler's At Prayer , painting from 1900
Danger signs on a prayer path in Jever

Prayer is not tied to specific words, attitudes, or places. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus criticizes a publicly exhibited, verbose prayer as hypocritical.

In the church people mostly pray standing (expression of respect) or kneeling (expression of worship). Typical of Christian prayer in the early church is the free, self-confident standing before God with open arms, raised hands and eyes ( oranten position ). The stretching of the arms in prayer comes from the pre-Christian Mediterranean and Orient, it goes back to the posture of beggars. In the Catholic Church, the celebrant assumes the position of the ornament when he says the official prayers (daily prayer, gift prayer, closing prayer); in some congregations the celebrants also do this when praying the Our Father . This prayer position is more commonly practiced by Christians of the Charismatic Movement or the Pentecostal Movement .

In later times, folding the hands became common in the West. This gesture is intended to make it clear that the prayer is only concentrating on God and is not preoccupied with other things, as well as the "binding" of the deity that is present. The open palms placed next to one another correspond to the attitude in paying homage to the feudal lord in the medieval feudal system ; this form has been practiced since the 11th century. The prayer with crossed fingers did not appear until the Reformation. There are also rarer, older forms, such as crossing your hands in front of your chest.

Catholic Christians often begin and end personal prayer with the sign of the cross and the words “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” taken from the baptismal formula . Orthodox Christians also cross themselves, with the position of the fingers playing an essential role (see sign of the cross ). The sign of the cross is hardly widespread in Protestantism , although Martin Luther recommended it in the Small Catechism .

Christians also like to light a candle for personal prayer as a sign of concentration or hope. The custom of lighting a candle in front of a cross or a miraculous image in a church is intended to symbolize prayer for another person or for a personal cause.

Christian prayer for the sick

The Christian faith emphasizes that man is not separated from the love of God even in (incurable) illness. A prayer for the sick takes place in very different frameworks:

  • in personal prayer for yourself or as an intercession for your neighbor, especially for family members and close friends
  • in pastoral care (e.g. through support in hospital pastoral care , through the anointing of the sick )
  • by the elders of the own congregation to confession (confession) and oil unction ( Jak 5.14 to 15  LUT ), particularly widespread in evangelical communities
  • in so-called healing services (not always, but often charismatic ) with preachers in whom the gift (the charisma) of healing is accepted
  • in offers from non-denominational groups that are specifically dedicated to the topic of health / healing

Intercessions are often specifically made in the hope of influencing the recovery of the sick. Medical research, however, has never been able to establish an empirical correlation between praying for intercessions and recovering from illness. Prayer can have a placebo effect for the person who is praying and in this way contribute to recovery. However, the majority of scientific studies on the subject have not found any health benefits of prayer.

Prayer in denominations

To this day, prayer has a central place in the practice of all Christian denominations .

Everyone knows the Our Father and the Psalms as well as personally formulated prayers and hymns in the form of prayer. The Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican churches have a rich tradition of pre-formulated prayers for liturgical and personal use (see liturgical prayers ), in Pietism and in the free church area, prayers are mostly freely formulated.

All Christian denominations turn directly to God in prayer and assume that God hears prayers. Christians turn to the Triune God in prayer , pray to God the Father, to Jesus Christ and some directly to the Holy Spirit , although in most denominations, apart from firmly formulated liturgical prayers, it is left to the individual to whom he or she addresses turns in prayer. In the Catholic and Orthodox Church, prayers can also be given to Mary (e.g. the Ave Maria , which takes up Mary's address by the angel Lk 1.28  EU , or Mary's hymn of praise, the so-called Magnificat Lk 1.46-55  EU ) and addressed to saints, these prayers being a request for intercession with the Triune God.

Christians believe that God answers prayer, although there are very different perspectives on the type and frequency of prayer answers.

Likewise, many Christians believe that God can speak to the person praying through the Holy Spirit in prayer. It can be prophecy , enlightenment and personal inspiration, but also everyday things, such as God z. B. Draws attention to a Bible verse that fits the situation or gives a general feeling of comfort. Practically all denominations in which prophecy or enlightenment are recognized as a gift of the spirit have certain safety rules to keep the imagination within limits, e.g. B. Judgment by experienced Christians or church leaders, judgment by the community on the basis of the Bible, judgment by church teaching, but above all judgment by the will of God: Love your neighbor as yourself ( Matthew 22 : 34-40  LUT ). What is incompatible with love ( agape ) cannot be God's will.

Prayer in sport

It can be observed that some athletes include religious rituals such as the sign of the cross in the pre- competition ritual of competitive sport when they enter the competition venue . With the Fellowship of Christian Athletes , this has been given a fixed organizational form in the USA. Danish scientists have empirically found that by praying in anticipation of competitive stress and pain, believers are more confident and experience significantly less pain than non-believers.


Muslims differentiate between du'a (supplication) and ritual prayer . In supplication, God is called upon for help. The ritual prayer, on the other hand, belongs to the Five Pillars of Islam and is prayed five times a day. It is recited in Arabic . The compulsory prayer is of central importance in Islam. According to tradition, the Prophet Mohammed received the instruction to pray from God personally during his ascension to heaven . Through prayer, Muslims are encouraged to pause in their daily routine and remember God. Before each ritual prayer, a ritual ablution is performed ( wudu ' ). The central component of every compulsory prayer is the recitation of the first sura of the Koran, the sura Al-Fātiha . The details of prayer differ in the individual Islamic law schools .


In the Baha'i religion , prayer plays an important role. Three ritual compulsory prayers of different lengths and forms are available to the believer daily: the long compulsory prayer (to be prayed once in 24 hours), the middle compulsory prayer (to be prayed in the morning, at noon and in the evening) and the short compulsory prayer (at noon). The Baha'i has a duty to pray one of these compulsory prayers every day. The times in the morning (from sunrise to noon), noon (between noon and sunset) and in the evening (between sunset and two hours later) must be observed. These prayers are said or sung by the believer alone and in seclusion. The only compulsory prayer that is recited in community is the funeral prayer . In addition, the prayers of the Bab , Baha'u'llah and Abdul-Baha, which have been handed down literally for different occasions and situations, serve as models.

Abdul-Baha says of prayer: “It is the language of the spirit that speaks to God. When we turn to God in prayer, freed from all external things, it is as if we heard the voice of God in our hearts. Without speaking, we connect, we talk to God and we hear the answer ... We all, when we come to a truly spiritual state, can hear the voice of God. "

An example of a Baha'i prayer written by Abdul-Baha:

O you good sir! You created all of humanity from the same tribe. You determined that they all belong to the same family. In your holy presence are all your servants, all humanity finds protection in your sanctuary. All are gathered around your table of gifts; all are enlightened by the light of your providence.
O God! You are kind to everyone, you care for everyone, you protect everyone, you give life to everyone. You have endowed each with gifts and abilities, and all are immersed in the sea of ​​your mercy.
O you good sir! Unite everyone. Allow the religions to be harmonized and unite the peoples so that they may regard one another as one family and the whole earth as one home. Oh that they lived together in perfect harmony!
O God! Raise the banner of the oneness of humanity.
O God! Establish the greatest peace.
Forge your hearts together, oh God.
O you good father, God! Delight our hearts with the scent of your love. Brighten our eyes with the light of your guidance.
Refresh our ears with the melody of Your Word and protect us all in the feast of Your Providence.
You are the mighty and the powerful, you are the forgiver and you are the one who overlooks the shortcomings of all humanity.


In the early days of Hinduism, the Vedic period (1200 BC), hymns were addressed to the gods, which were often associated with requests and had a thoroughly utilitarian character. The recitation of mantras (literally: means of thinking) was also an important means of religious immersion from the earliest times.

Today, as with believers of all religions, daily prayer is also common among Hindus. Prayer takes place in almost all Hindu directions, but especially in Bhakti Yoga , personal devotion to God and thus communication with him is important.
A popular form of worship is worshiping God in a picture or emblem. On the other hand, very many Hindus also completely reject worship in images - such as the followers of the Arya Samaj or the Lingayats, a Shivaite movement founded in the twelfth century .

Hindu prayer practice

While praying in the Ganges

There are no general rules for prayer and no fixed prayer times that apply to all Hindus, but rather family traditions that are lived very differently. That is why the practice of prayer varies greatly from person to person:

  • The daily circle of light ceremony, the arati , which is performed in the houses of the believers or in the small and large temples , is widely used . Mostly at the beginning and at the end of the day, a butter lamp is waved in front of the image or emblem of the divine and a small bell is rung. An integral part of this ceremony is prayer, spoken, whispered, recited or sung in your mind.
  • Many Hindus pray when they leave their homes or at the start of an activity. They often only say a short prayer, saying, for example, “Ganesha, I adore you!” Or “Om Kali!” Particularly on certain days of the week, the individual forms of the divine are worshiped, on Thursdays, for example, some housewives pray to Lakshmi , the goddess of happiness and well-being. For many, Shiva is the focus on Monday .
  • On public holidays you can call a priest into the house to perform prayers or services ( pujas ) for everyone. In the same way, one can also pray traditional, specific prayers for this day during a devotion, alone or together with others.
  • Instead of praying at grace, it is often customary to put the food, usually only a small portion of it, on the altar, offer it with prayers and then eat this so blessed meal.
  • The devoutly sung prayer, bhajan , is very common, which is sung alone or in community, often accompanied by an instrument.
  • Another popular form of prayer is the repeated invocation of God's name, often with the help of a prayer chain with one hundred and eight balls, the number of times the name is mostly quoted. This Japa is used for immersion and can be the transition to meditation.

There is no prescribed posture for prayer, but it must always be an attitude of respect. That's why you always take off your shoes beforehand, at least wash your hands if possible, and choose a seat that is lower than the altar. Mostly you sit cross-legged on the floor with your legs crossed or you stand in front of the portrait. In front of the house altar or in the temple, the kneeling bow is also common, with the forehead touching the floor.

The prayer position also includes the hands clasped in front of the chest, whereby these are often brought briefly to the forehead as a gesture of respect before and after the beginning of the prayer; or one prays with hands clasped in front of the forehead, which expresses particular fervor. Ultimately, however, no external form is mandatory, only the inner attitude.

Sources and examples of Hindu prayers

Sources of many prayers are the Vedas , the Puranas and, last but not least, the examples of great Bhaktas, the worshipers of God. Even from those people who define the divine as ultimately absolutely formless, non-personal Brahman , fervent prayers have come down to us, for example from the great philosopher Shankara :

I pray to the Lord, the highest being, the one first seed of the universe, the desireless formless person who can be recognized by the syllable Om, through whom the universe came into being, who sustains it and in which it disappears again. (Vedasarasivastava)

The most famous prayer is the Gayatri mantra , a Vedic hymn, which invokes the divine in the form of solar power, Surya , for spiritual light. Many Hindus speak or chant it daily, the use of which is not restricted to brahmins, as is often claimed, but all of them pray.

The Mrityunjaya mantra worships Shiva:

We worship the three-eyed man who smells and nourishes all beings.
As a ripe cucumber is loosened from its bond (on the stem), may it free us from death into immortality.

The aim of the prayers and invocations are the various, often, but not always, anthropomorphic forms of the ultimately formless Supreme.

Contrary to popular belief, Hinduism is not polytheistic . All schools teach the formless One, albeit in different philosophies. The most common philosophies see the different gods and goddesses as different forms of the Supreme One, which is ultimately formless.

A very popular prayer that millions of Hindus chant every day, especially for the daily circle of light ceremony, the arati, is the Jay Jagadish Hare . This text clearly shows that the knowledge of unity is also contained in the prayers of ordinary believers. A section:

Glory to you, O Lord of the World! Glory be to the Eternal Lord! ...
You are my mother, you are my father. Where else can I find refuge, O Lord?
There is no other besides you, nobody else besides you .
Who can I hope for if not you! Glory to you, O Lord of the World! ...
Take greed and all evil from me, O Lord!
Increase the devotion and love for you and let me serve the saints!
Glory to you, O Lord of the World!


Almost all schools of Buddhism understand a transcendent, ultimate reality as not personal, so that praying to it has no meaning. Even so, many Buddhists in Japan , China and Tibet pray to Bodhisattvas , supernatural, enlightened beings who forego the last step into nirvana to help others. It is precisely everyday worries that are so often entrusted to one of the many Bodhisattvas who are very close to ultimate reality. This is particularly pronounced in Amitabha Buddhism , but also in Tibet.

The Theravada -Buddhismus Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia knows no Bodhisattvas as a helper. Instead, believers turn to gods for worldly concerns who are imagined to be powerful but in need of enlightenment themselves. In Thailand these are Hindu gods like Brahma , who z. B. is worshiped in the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok. In Myanmar , members of the Burmese majority in particular turn to the 37 Nats , who can help but also harm. Most of the nats are the ghosts of nobles who were violently killed. In Sri Lanka, yakshas are worshiped, nature spirits that can impart fertility.


Shintoists pray in front of an altar at home or in the Shinto shrine . Shintoism knows innumerable gods who are by no means perfect, but who can help people with their power. We pray for the concerns of this world; the question of the afterlife does not play a major role in Shintoism and is adopted by Buddhism in Japan. Prerequisite for prayer is purity, for which one washes one's hands and face before prayer. A priest can be present, but does not have to be. Prayers can be simple and short or long rituals with fixed, partly ancient Japanese prayers, offerings of food and sake as well as dancing by young women ( miko ) employed by the shrines .

Pacific Religions

A special form of prayer is used in Hoʻoponopono , a psycho-spiritual procedure used by the Hawaiians to "resolve" undesirable, predominantly interpersonal circumstances. Traditionally, the procedure, in which everyone involved in a problem was present (in the spirit also the ancestors ), was led by a kahuna (healing priest, similar to a shaman ). The higher beings called on to help were mostly nature spirits , but also a family spirit , called 'aumakua.

"Hoʻoponopono" (= doing right again) is used to correct incorrect behavior. Through discussion (up to confession ), mutual repentance and forgiveness, the aim is to contribute to the resolution of the conflict (including absolution ) in a conciliatory, peaceful manner , extending to the practiced love of the enemy . Modern forms can be done alone, with those involved in a given problem on some sort of list. The prayers and breathing rounds carried out can also be referred to as spiritual cleansing, as they take place through the involvement of the “Divine Creator” in the sense of a (mutual) intercessory prayer . The mantras that can be found today, which are referred to as "Ho'oponopono", are neither Hawaiian nor do they belong to Ho'oponopono.

See also


  • Matthias Arnold, Philipp Thull (ed.): Theology and spirituality of prayer. Manual prayer. Herder Verlag, Freiburg 2016.
  • Hermann Braun: Talking to God? An Essay on Prayer , WuD 26 (2001), 307–321.
  • Arndt Büssing, Thomas Ostermann, Michaela Glöckler, Peter F. Matthiessen: Spirituality, illness and healing - meaning and forms of expression of spirituality in medicine. Verlag für Akademische Schriften, Frankfurt 2006, ISBN 978-3-88864-421-4 .
  • Donald A. Carson : Learn to Pray. Spiritual renewal through prayer. 3L 2012.
  • Wilfried Eisele (Ed.): Ask God? Theological approaches to supplication. Herder Verlag, Freiburg im Breisgau 2013, ISBN 978-3-45102-256-2 (Quaestiones disputatae 256)
  • Irmgard Hampp: incantation - blessing - prayer. Studies on magic from the field of folk medicine. Stuttgart 1961 (= publications of the State Office for Monument Preservation Stuttgart , C, 1).
  • Stefan Heid: Posture of prayer and easting in early Christian times . In: Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana 82 (2006) 347-404.
  • Friedrich Heiler : The prayer. An investigation into the history of religion and the psychology of religion . Ernst Reinhardt Verlag, Munich, Basel 1969.
  • Adolf Holl : Om and Amen. A Universal Cultural History of Prayer . Gütersloher Verlagshaus, Gütersloh 2006, ISBN 3579069276 .
  • Wilhelm Horn: Prayer and prayer parody in the comedies of Aristophanes. Hans Carl, Nuremberg 1970.
  • Gerhard Lohfink : Prayer gives you home. Theology and Practice of Christian Prayer . Herder Verlag, Freiburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-451-33052-0 .
  • Karl Rahner : On the need and the blessing of prayer (Herder library, volume 28), Freiburg im Breisgau, Basel, Vienna 1968; Printed in: Karl Rahner: Complete Works, Vol. 7: The praying Christ. Spiritual Scriptures and Studies on the Practice of Faith. Herder Verlag, Freiburg im Breisgau 2013, ISBN 978-3-451-23707-2 , pp. 39–116.
  • Carl Heinz Ratschow , Rainer Albertz , Lawrence A. Hoffman, Klaus Berger and others: Prayer I. Religious history II. Old Testament III. Judaism IV. New Testament V. Old Church VI. Middle Ages VII. Prayer in German-language Protestant worship VIII. Dogmatic problems of contemporary prayer theology IX. Practically theological . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie 12 (1984), pp. 31-103.
  • Monika Renz: Borderline experience of God: Spiritual experiences in suffering and illness. 3rd edition Herder, Freiburg i.Br. 2006, ISBN 3-451-05341-1 .
  • Hansjörg Schmid, Andreas Renz, Jutta Sperber (eds.): "In the name of God ..." Theology and practice of prayer in Christianity and Islam , Verlag Friedrich Pustet, Regensburg 2006, ISBN 978-3-7917-1994-8 ( Theological Forum Christianity - Islam ).
  • Philip Yancey : Pray. SCM Brockhaus, Wuppertal 2007. ISBN 978-3417267167 (Original title: Prayer: Does it Make any difference? )

Literature Judaism

Web links

Wikisource: Prayer  - Sources and Full Texts
Wiktionary: Prayer  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Prayer  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Single receipts

  1. ^ Friedrich Kluge , Alfred Götze : Etymological dictionary of the German language . 20th edition, ed. by Walther Mitzka . De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1967; Reprint (“21st unchanged edition”) ibid 1975, ISBN 3-11-005709-3 , p. 237.
  2. Walter Kasper : Jesus the Christ. Mainz 1974, p. 80.94.
  3. ^ Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer : Basis preach. Basics of the Christian faith in sermons, plus a didactic homiletics for advanced students. Verlag für Theologie und Religionswissenschaft, Nuremberg 2010, pp. 157–164: "Gott im Zwiespalt".
  4. Further evidence from biblical texts from Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer : Jesus Christ - God's Son . 3rd edition, Leun 2012, pp. 31-39. ISBN 3-88936-140-4
  5. a b Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican website. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  6. ^ General audience, August 17, 2011, Benedict XVI. . Vatican website. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  7. It was founded in 1947 by the Franciscan Fr. Petrus Pavlicek, originally under the name "Eternal Rosary Communion".
  10. Mt 6.5-8  EU
  11. bind entry . In: Hanns Bächtold-Stäubli (Hrsg.): Concise dictionary of German superstition . Volume 1. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / Leipzig 1927, here: Sp. 1328.
  12. RC Byrd: Positive therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer in a coronary care unit population ; in: South Med J. 81/7 (1988), pp. 826-829; PMID 3393937 .
  13. MW Krucoff et al. a .: Integrative noetic therapies as adjuncts to percutaneous intervention during unstable coronary syndromes: Monitoring and Actualization of Noetic Training (MANTRA) feasibility pilot ; in: Am Heart J . 142/5 (2001), pp. 760-769; PMID 11685160 .
  14. MW Krucoff et al. a .: Music, imagery, touch, and prayer as adjuncts to interventional cardiac care: the Monitoring and Actualization of Noetic Trainings (MANTRA) II randomized study ; in: The Lancet 366/9481 (2005), pp. 211-217; PMID 16023511 .
  15. KS Masters, GI Spielmans: Prayer and health: review, meta-analysis, and research agenda ; in: J Behav Med. 30 (2007), pp. 329-338. PMID 17487575 .
    K. S. Masters et al. a .: Are there demonstrable effects of distant intercessory prayer? A meta-analytic review ; in: Ann Behav Med 32 (2006), pp. 21-26; PMID 16827626 .
  16. H. Benson et al. a .: Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: a multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer ; in: Am Heart J 151, pp. 934-942; PMID 16569567 .
  17. ^ Fellowship of Christian Athletes: God's Game Plan Relentless 2013. Kansas City, KS 2013
  18. Elmholdt Jegindø, Else-Marie; Vase, Lene et al .: Expectations contribute to reduced pain levels during prayer in highly religious participants. In: Journal of Behavioral Medicine 36 (2013), 4, 413-426; Arnd Krüger : Stress, in: competitive sport (magazine) 42 (2012) 5, pp. 31–33;
  19. ^ Letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, published in Bahá'í-News, September 1951, p.1
  20. ^ Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p.36
  21. Michael Micklei: The Coronation of Consciousness - a divine handout through the Ho'oponopono according to Morrnah Simeona , Micklei Media and Pacifica Seminars, 2011, ISBN 978-3-942611-10-7