What Is a Prayer Cloth?

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Prayer cloths are small pieces of fabric used for faith healing in some Christian denominations. Their usage originates in the Bible, particularly Acts 19:11-12, which mentions Paul the Apostle touching scraps of fabric, which were then used to heal the sick.

Some churches that use prayer cloths also cite Matthew 9:20-22 and 14:34-36, which mention people being healed simply by touching the hem of Jesus' robe. There are historical references to Mormons using prayer cloths, but the practice gained widespread popularity through the Pentecostal movement. Some popular ministers send prayer cloths to their followers. In these cases, the minister prays over the cloth to bless it. The practice has spread across denominations, although it still remains more popular in those that place emphasis on faith healing and miracles.

Prayer cloths were popular during the first part of the 20th century, but their popularity waned. However, as of 2015, some ministries are still using them. Part of the decline in popularity may have been due to the exposure of some ministers using them as a moneymaking scheme. These ministers would send prayer cloths to believers but imply that the cloths would not work without a donation to the church. Faith healing as a whole has also declined in popularity as scientific studies cast doubt on its effectiveness, although many devout Christians still believe in it.