Prayer is everywhere. It happens in church services, at the dinner table, on the football field and on college campuses during final exams.
Nearly seven-in-10 U.S. Christians (68 percent) pray daily outside of religious services, and an additional 22 percent pray weekly or monthly, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Even 37 percent of the religiously unaffiliated say they pray at least monthly, the survey reported.
This spiritual practice has been associated with a variety of emotional benefits, such as bringing comfort during health crises or resolving relationship conflict, as the Deseret News reported in February.
Some faith groups prescribe specific prayers for certain events or times of the day, while others encourage members to spontaneously strike up conversations with God throughout the day.
To celebrate the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, the Deseret News asked people of faith to share their favorite prayer-related experiences. Here are six of their stories:
Bill Tammeus, faith columnist for the Kansas City Star and author:
Fifty-seven years ago, Tammeus heard a prayer at his eighth grade graduation ceremony that changed his life. It was led by the pastor of the local Congregationalist Unitarian-Universalist congregation.
"The only thing I remember is this part of his prayer: 'Help us remember that divine possibilities are always possibilities.' It has stuck with me all these years and helped to shape my life," he said.
Jordan Trumble, program director for the Episcopal Diocese of West Virgina's summer camp and conference center:
Trumble moved to Los Angeles after college to work at an HIV clinic as part of the Episcopal Service Corps. Her faith often came up in conversations with clients, who were puzzled about how a white, college graduate from rural West Virginia ended up doing HIV tests and counseling in Southern California.
"The teenagers and young adults were a little skeptical of me," she said.
However, Trumble was thankful for at-times awkward conversations about religion when she had to tell one of her clients that they had tested positive for HIV.
"They asked me to pray for them. I'm an Episcopalian. We don't do extemporaneous prayer very often, but I knew this was probably one of the most difficult moments of this person's life," Trumble said. "So I prayed, and I don't remember what I said or really anything about it. But eventually we got up and they gave me a hug and thanked me."
Eric Pridmore, Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Poplarville, Mississippi:
Pridmore will never forget praying over a member of his church scheduled to have brain surgery. Fellow worshippers formed a prayer circle around the man and placed their hands on him.
"It was such a powerful moment for him and also for us all," Pridmore said. "I felt a real solidarity and the power of love in that experience."
Casey Cole, student in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at Catholic University of America and aspiring Franciscan friar:
Cole used to think prayers should be offered in solemn silence, so he went searching for it.
"I once went on a retreat to get away from it all: work, the noise of the city and all the distractions of home. I drove six hours to a monastery out in the country, a quiet place with rolling hills and farmland as far as the eye could see," he said. "There I would be able to finally pray in peace."
But when he got there, Cole realized silence was an impossible goal. Even in what should have been the quietest corner of the monastery, a monk was slamming doors, doing chores and repeatedly clearing his throat.
He altered his approach to interruptions, deciding that they could bring him closer to God, rather than keeping him from true prayer.
"Maybe, instead of getting between us, we were experiencing (distractions) together," Cole said.
William Gaventa, chairman and coordinator of the Collaborative on Faith and Disability:
Gaventa witnessed many unique prayers while serving as a chaplain for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at Newark State School. Members of this community helped him understand faith in new ways.
One young man who came to see him was worried about his height. He told Gaventa that he prayed for God to stretch him out and also to help improve his behavior. Gaventa joined him in a prayer.
The young man "prayed first, in his halting voice: 'Lorda Goda, take away the bad stuff in my heart. Take away the bad stuff in my heart,'" Gaventa said. "Then there was a 15-second pause, followed by the joyful exclamation, 'It's gone! It's gone. Thank you, Lorda Goda, for my prayer.'"
Christopher Jolly Hale, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good:
Hale's most memorable prayer came after Pope Francis was elected on March 13, 2013. The world's top Catholic leader came out on a balcony and asked believers around the world to pray for him.
"For 30 seconds, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims were silently praying in St. Peter's Square at the request of the newly elected Vicar of Christ. It was a stunning move by a man whose ascension to the papacy has shocked an institution that has seen it all," Hale said.
He added, "The silence that Francis called for was pregnant with meaning for me. In that intimate moment, I felt so clearly God's closeness to his human family through Pope Francis."
Hale said his own prayer for the new pope from his office in Washington, D.C.
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