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The Differences Between Prayer and Meditation

Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on February 6, 2023

You might think that there are no differences between prayer and meditation. After all, both involve isolating yourself in a quiet place, closing your eyes, and focusing your mind. But both prayer and meditation have their unique distinctions and benefits. 


Religious people consider prayer as a valuable part of their lives. They see prayer as a way to send their thoughts and praise to God. Some pray to achieve a sense of connection and share their energies with God. Most religions have a seemingly endless number of prayers, from healing the sick to asking for forgiveness. Islam, for example, requires followers to pray 5 times a day, with the goal of expressing gratefulness towards Allah, while prayers with similar goals exist in Christianity and Judaism. Basically, religious people use prayer to establish a deeper connection with God.

Meditation, on the other hand, does not involve a connection with a higher power. Rather, the goal is for you to form a connection with yourself. Instead of speaking your thoughts aloud, you direct your energy inwardly, follow your breathing, and sit in silence. There is no God or deity involved in meditation–it’s a solely personal practice which helps you reach a point of spiritual clarity.

But meditation and prayer have their similarities. Both are used as ways to reflect on yourself and achieve a higher sense of awareness. Both focus on calming the mind and letting go of negative thoughts and energies. Both are ways to concentrate on the self and ignore your surroundings. There are reasons that almost all religions and faiths adopt either meditation or prayer as part of their practice. Both meditation and prayer help you attain a stable connection either with yourself or with God.


Science also recognizes the benefits of prayer and meditation. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and promote emotional health and well-being. While prayer also reduces stress and anxiety, it may even help you live longer, according to a number of studies. 

If you are a secular person, you are probably less open to the idea of prayer. But thankfully, you can achieve most, if not all, of the same benefits by practicing meditation. It’s very easy to start incorporating meditation into your life.


The most popular meditation is called the “mindfulness meditation” which only requires you to sit by yourself, close your eyes, and follow your breathing for 10 minutes or so. If your thoughts start to wander, continue focusing on your breathing every time this happens. If you’re a beginner, you may struggle during the process, but after consistently meditating for some time, you’ll notice concrete results. 


It doesn’t matter if you prefer prayer or meditation. If you practice either one consistently, you can reap the benefits.

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