What Are the Different Ways People Offer Prayers to God?

People of different religions offer prayers in different physical postures and different voices, including singing, chanting, speaking in a normal tone or praying silently. Some people say formal prayers that have been passed down for millennia, while others say impromptu, informal prayers in their mind. People pray out loud in communal settings such as temples or churches, while others pray to God silently and alone in their home or while going about their daily business.

In some religions, adherents put their bodies into prayer by swaying, dancing, whirling, kneeling or bowing. For example, Buddhists say formal prayers while bending over and touching the earth, Muslims often pray while prostrate, and Christians say some prayers while kneeling in church or at home. Sufi Dervishes whirl as a form of prayer and some Native Americans consider dancing prayerful. Many religions set some of their prayers to music.

People pray to petition God or other spirits or saints for help for themselves or others, to tell God they love and praise him or her, to seek forgiveness of sins and to carry out rites such as weddings, funerals or baptisms. Some prayers are strictly formal rituals in themselves in which a prayer leader calls out a prayer and the congregation responds with a standard phrase or invocation. Prayers can be said over meals, to start the day or end it or to inaugurate a new endeavor or dedicate it to God.