PRAYER, a universally acknowledged part of the worship due to God; not merely petition, but, according to the New Testament models and Christian usage, praise, adoration, confession of sin, and thankful acknowledgment of mercies received, which seems almost necessarily to follow from a belief in the existence of a god. We find it both where the object of worship is one Su preme Being and in polytheism.
Forms of prayer for public use grew up in the earliest times, naturally and inevitably: the Lord's Prayer being doubtless regarded as a warrant and a model.
Prayer for the dead, in the Roman Catholic, Greek, and other Oriental churches, is offered with the intention and expectation of obtaining for the souls of the deceased an alleviation of their supposed sufferings after death on ac count of venial sins, or of the penalty of mortal sins, remitted but not fully atoned for during life. The practice of pray ing for the dead is usually associated with the doctrine of purgatory, or with the belief in a progressive intermediate state. It seems certain that some such doctrine existed in most of the ancient religions. Its existence among the Jews is attested by the well-known assurance in II Maccabees, chap. xii., that "it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins." Catholics contend that the
doctrine as well as the practice is equally recognizable in the early Christian Church. They rely on the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke, xvi: 19-31), as establishing the intercommun ion of this earth with the world beyond the grave. The liturgies, too, of all the rites without exception contain prayers for the dead; and the sepulchral inscrip tions from the catacombs, which reach in their range from the 1st to the 5th century, contain frequent prayers in even greater variety. In the services of the medieval and later Church prayers for the dead form a prominent and striking element. The Protestant churches with out exception repudiated the practice. In the burial service of Edward VI.'s "First Common Prayer Book" some prayers for the deceased were retained; but they were expunged from the "Sec ond Book"; and no trace is to be found in that sanctioned under Elizabeth. Still it is not expressly prohibited.
In the United States the sect called "Christian Scientists," founded by Mrs. Mary Baker G. Eddy, believes in the ef ficacy of prayer to heal disease. See CHRISTIAN SCIENCE.