Prayer can be defined as a "reverent petition," the act of asking for something while aiming to connect with God or another object of worship. Prayer on behalf of the ill or dying has played a prominent role throughout history and across cultures.
Prayer is found in many forms. It may be practiced by individuals or organized groups within the framework of an organized religion, or without ascribing to a particular faith or belief system. Prayers can focus on a specific desired outcome, or be undirected without an objective in mind.
Individuals may pray on behalf of themselves, or for others. "Intercessory prayer" refers to prayers said by individuals or groups on behalf of a person who is ill or in need. Intercessors (those praying on behalf of the ill) sometimes have specific objectives in mind when they pray, or can appeal for the general well-being or improvement of a patient's health. Prayers said by intercessors may or may not be known to the ill individual. Intercessory prayers may be performed from a distance or in the presence of patients, and in some cases will involve the laying on of hands.
Most clergy members receive training in pastoral care from their respective institutions. Certified chaplains and pastoral counselors are trained to address the spiritual and emotional needs of physically and mentally ill patients, and their families or loved ones.
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