World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson



Prayer lies at the core of worship in most religions. We have already given some representative prayers in the Invocation, pp. 53-56, which opens this anthology. The passages here discuss the efficacy of prayer and give guidance on how to pray. There are general exhortations to prayer, with the promises that God indeed hears and heeds prayers and that prayer restrains one from evil. Other texts give instruction on how to pray. Prayer should be done constantly, sometimes with vigils far into the night. Prayer should be honest; it is quiet and sincere conversation in one's own words and from the heart. Prayer should be accompanied by deeds; the prayer of the hypocrite is without effect. Among the best prayers are those for the welfare of others ahead of oneself.

Your Lord says, "Call on Me; I will answer your prayer."

Islam. Qur'an 40.60

The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

Judaism and Christianity. Psalm 145.18

When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed Close to them. I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me. Islam. Qur'an 2.186

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.

Judaism and Christianity. Psalm 55.22

If the poorest of mankind come here once for worship, I will surely grant their heart's desire.

Shinto. Oracle of Itsukushima in Aki

Prayer restrains one from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of God is the greatest thing in life, without doubt.

Islam. Qur'an 29.45

Beings possessed by carnal passions, anger, or infatuation have but to revere and remember the Bodhisattva Kuan Shih Yin and they will be set free from their passions.

Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 25

Psalm 145.18: Cf. Psalm 57.15, p. 114. Qur'an 2.186: God is the one who is 'Close' to man. Close is one of the ninety-nine Beautiful Names God given in the Qur'an. Cf. Qur'an 50.16, p. 114. Qur'an 29.45: Cf. Qur'an 70.19-22, p.384; Berakot 5a, p. 926. Lotus Sutra 25: On the merits of worshipping the Bodhisattva Kuan Yin (Skt. Avalokitesvara), see Lotus Sutra 25, pp. 566f., and Gandavyuha Sutra 39, p. 369n.

Establish regular prayers at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of the night: for those things that are good remove those that are evil. This is a word of remembrance to those who remember.

Islam. Qur'an 11.114

O Shariputra, having perceived this cause and effect, I with reverence say thus, "Every son and every daughter of a family ought with their whole mind to make fervent prayer for [rebirth in] the Pure Land of Buddha Amitayus."

Buddhism. Smaller Sukhavativyuha Sutra 10

Lord of creation! no one other than thee pervades all these that have come into being. May that be ours for which our prayers rise, may we be masters of many treasures!

Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.121.10

Wang-sun Chia asked about the saying,

Better pay court to the stove Than pay court to the shrine.

Confucius said, "It is not true. He who has put himself in the wrong with Heaven has no means of expiation left."

Confucianism. Analects 3.13

You must always pray unto the Father in my name; and whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing you shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you. Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 18.19-21

O believers, when you stand up to pray wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads, and your feet up to the ankles. If you are defiled, purify yourselves; but if you are sick or on a journey, or if any of you comes from the privy, or have touched women, and you can find no water, then have recourse to wholesome dust and wipe your faces and hands with it. God does not desire to make any impediment for you; but He desires to purify you, and that He may complete His blessing upon you; haply you will be thankful.

Islam. Qur'an 5.6

Qur'an 11.114: For more on the Salat, or five obligatory prayers, see the Hadith of Muslim, p. 835n. Cf. Qur'an 26.218-20, p. 752; 40.55, p. 743; 70.19-22, p. 385. 3 Nephi 18.19-21: Cf. John 14.13-14, p. 835, Matthew 7.7-11, p. 686.

Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit.

Christianity. James 5.13-18

Pray constantly.

Christianity. 1 Thessalonians 5.17

Rabbi Johanan said, "Would that man could pray all day, for a prayer never loses its value."

Judaism. Jerusalem Talmud, Berakot 1.1

The fire of hell has been forbidden to these two eyes: the eye that remained sleepless through watching in the ways of God, and the eye that wept with spirit trembling at the fear of God.

Islam. Hadith of Darimi

O you wrapped up in your raiment! Keep vigil the night long, save a little-- A half thereof, or abate a little thereof Or add [a little] thereto and chant the Qur'an in measure, For We shall charge you with a word of weight. Lo! The vigil of the night is when impression is more keen and speech more certain. Lo! You have by day a chain of business. So remember the name of thy Lord and devote thyself with complete devotion.

Islam. Qur'an 73.1-8

Call on your Lord with humility and in private.

Islam. Qur'an 7.55

When we pray alone to God, shedding tears, we will not feel lonely; God is surely with us.

Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 2-15-67

Worship me through meditation in the sanctuary of the heart.

Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5

Qur'an 73.1-8: Cf. Qur'an 11.93, p. 740. Muhammad kept frequent prayer vigils through the night. Qur'an 7.55: Cf. Qur'an 23.1-5, p. 911. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5: Here we begin several passages on prayers of the heart. When meditation is directed towards God conceived as a Person--here the Lord Krishna--it is in fact indistinguishable from prayer.

There is a polish for everything that becomes rusty, and the polish for the heart is the remembrance of God.

Islam. Hadith of Tirmidhi

"To serve the Lord your God with all your heart" [Deuteronomy 11.13]. What is a service with the heart? It is prayer.

Judaism. Midrash, Sifre Deuteronomy 41

Of all the prayers of the heart, the best prayer is the prayer to the Master to be given the grace of properly praising the Lord.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Maru Ashtpadi, M.5, p. 1018

Set me free, I entreat thee from my heart; If I do not pray to thee with my heart, Thou hearest me not. If I pray to thee with my heart, Thou knowest it and art gracious unto me.

African Traditional Religions. Boran Prayer (Kenya)

People are granted birth into this world by the kami. Accordingly, the mind of a person is something which communes with the will of the kami, and one must thus avoid doing anything which would impair that mind. To be visited with the blessings of the kami, one must first direct one's mind wholeheartedly to prayer; to be granted the protection of the kami, one must make a foundation of honesty. In this way, the person's pristine, undefiled mind will be awakened to the original, profound way.

Shinto. Records of the Enshrinement of the Two Imperial Deities at Ise

Always let a man test himself: if he can direct his heart, let him pray; if he cannot, let him not pray.

Judaism. Talmud, Berakot 30b

Prayer should not be recited as if a man were reading a document.

Judaism. Jerusalem Talmud, Berakot 4.3

For the Great Spirit is everywhere; he hears whatever is in our minds and hearts, and it is not necessary to speak to him in a loud voice.

Native American Religion. Black Elk, Sioux Tradition

Sifre Deuteronomy, 41: Cf. Deuteronomy 6.5, p. 723; Berakot 17a, p. 720. Records of the Enshrinement of the Two Imperial Deities at Ise: cf. Oracle of the Kami Temmangu, p. 728; Divine Injunctions, p. 721; Michi-no-Shiori, p. 721. Berakot 30b: Cf. Berakot 5.1, p. 839.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Christianity. Matthew 6.5-8

We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does his will, God listens to him.

Christianity. Bible, John 9.31

Prayers to the Deity accompanied by monetary gifts secured by injustice are sure not to be granted. Pray in all righteousness and the Deity will be pleased to listen to your supplication. Foolish is he who, in impatient eagerness and without following the path of righteousness, hopes to obtain divine protection.

Shinto. Shinto-Uden-Futsujosho

He who prays for his fellowman, while he himself has the same need, will be answered first.

Judaism. Talmud, Baba Kamma 92a

The pure whom you have found worthy for their righteousness and their good mind, Fulfil their desire, O Wise Lord, let them attain it! I know that words of prayer which serve a good end Are successful before you.

Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 28.10

What is the most important and necessary thing for us in our daily life? It is the life of prayer. Through prayer we should know the invisible enemy and distinguish the invisible enemy from ourselves. Don't pray for yourself. This is my teaching.

Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 1-1-68

John 9.31: Cf. Matthew 7.21, p. 811. Sun Myung Moon, 1-1-68: The 'invisible enemy' is Satan, who is constantly seeking to influence our thoughts, confusing us to the point where we think that his ideas are our own. Cf. Qur'an 114, pg.56; 1 Peter 5.8, p. 443.

Sitting cross-legged, They should wish that all beings Have firm and strong roots of goodness And attain the state of immovability.

Cultivating concentration, They should wish that all beings Conquer their minds by concentration Ultimately, with no remainder.

When practicing contemplation, They should wish that all beings See truth as it is And be forever free of opposition and contention.

Buddhism. Garland Sutra 11


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