Christian prayer

Christian prayer is an important activity in Christianity, and there are several different forms used for this practice.[1]

A prie-dieu, which is used for private Christian prayer, situated in the room of a historic house.
Many devout Christians have a home altar at which they (and their family members) pray and read Christian devotional literature, sometimes while kneeling at prie-dieu.

Christian prayers are diverse: they can be completely spontaneous, or read entirely from a text, such as from a breviary, which contains the canonical hours that are said at fixed prayer times. While praying, certain gestures usually accompany the prayers, including folding one's hands, bowing one's head, kneeling (often in the kneeler of a pew in corporate worship or in the kneeler of a prie-dieu in private worship), and prostration.

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.[2] The injunction for Christians to pray the Lord's prayer thrice daily was given in Didache 8, 2 f.,[3][4] 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.[3][4][5] The early Christians thus came to recite the Lord's Prayer thrice a day at 9 am, 12 pm, and 3 pm, supplanting the former Amidah predominant in the Hebrew tradition;[6][7][8] as such, in Christianity, many Lutheran and Anglican churches ring their church bells from belltowers three times a day: in the morning, at noon and in the evening summoning the Christian faithful to recite the Lord’s Prayer.[9][10][11]

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."[12][13][14][15] Oriental Orthodox Christians, such as Copts and Indians, 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 119:164, in which the prophet David prays to God seven times a day.[16][17] Church bells enjoin Christians to pray at these hours.[18] Before praying, they wash their hands and face in order to be clean before and present their best to God; shoes are removed in order to acknowledge that one is offering prayer before a holy God.[19][20] In these Christian denominations, and in many others as well, it is customary for women to wear a Christian headcovering when praying.[21][22] Many Christians have historically hung a Christian cross on the eastern wall of their houses to indicate the eastward direction of prayer during these seven prayer times.[23][12][24]

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, especially on the Lord's Day on which many Christian assemble collectively. These prayers can be formal written prayers, such as the liturgies contained in the Lutheran Service Book and Book of Common Prayer, as well as informal ejaculatory prayers or extemporaneous prayers, such as those offered in Methodist camp meetings. Private prayer occurs with the individual praying either silently or aloud within the home setting; the use of a daily devotional and prayer book in the private prayer life of a Christian is common. In Western Christianity, the prie-dieu has been historically used for the purpose of private prayer and many Christian homes possess home altars in the area where these are placed.[25][26] In Eastern Christianity, believers often keep icon corners at which they pray, which are on the eastern wall of the house.[27] Among Old Ritualists, a prayer rug known as a Podruchnik is used to keep one's face and hands clean during prostrations, as these parts of the body are used to make the sign of the cross.[28] Spontaneous prayer in Christianity, often done in private settings, follows the basic form of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication, abbreviated as A.C.T.S.[29]


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