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Required Daily Observances
Tuesday, January 08, 2008


The Baha’i adherent is responsible for his or her own spiritual growth. All forms of superstition are to be avoided. Believers do not rely upon rituals or clergy for spiritual progress.

The Baha’i are to read or recite from the Baha’i scripture in the morning and evening. The writings of Baha’u’llah are the word of God for this age, and through reading and meditation on these words, one’s soul is transformed. In addition, the faith enjoins believers to recite one of three fixed obligatory prayers on a daily basis, and other prayers regularly.

Baha’u’llah did not specify a format for meditation. Rather, each believer is allowed to choose his or her own form. For some believers, it may be enough to contemplate the meaning of a passage in the Baha’i writing each day. Others structure more rigorous forms into their daily routine. Regardless of the form, however, it is paramount that believers reflect each evening on the value and worth of their deeds.


Although differences may be evidenced among the Buddhist traditions, most will observe the following: acts of devotion (e.g. bowing, making offerings of incense and food, and honoring sacred objects), upholding the precepts and the six paramitas through meditation, and the study and chanting of sacred writings in developing wisdom, compassion, and the attainment of Buddhahood. These practices are usually conducted daily on an individual basis.

Eastern Rite Catholicism

There are none. However, daily personal prayer is highly recommended.


A Hindu is expected to pray three times daily. This is called Sandhyopasana, which means worship at the junction of time. It is a prayer offered at the junction of night and morning, of forenoon and afternoon, and of evening and night. This can be accomplished privately. Daily congregate prayers are not required. In addition, each Hindu is expected to say his mantra 108 times daily.


It is incumbent upon Muslims to perform prayers five times daily: Morning Prayer (al-Fajr), Noon Prayer (al-Zohr), Afternoon Prayer (al-Asr), Sunset Prayer (al-Maghrib), and After-sunset Prayer (al-Ashaa)

The time of the Morning Prayer begins when the dawn is bright and lasts until the sun brightens. The time of the noon prayer begins one minute after noon and ends when a shadow of an object is the exact length of the object. Afternoon prayer begins at that point, and concludes at sunset. The sunset prayer is directly after sunset until the colors in the horizon disappears, and the after-sunset prayer is from the time of the disappearance of color in the horizon until the beginning of Morning Prayer. While it is preferable to pray at the outset of each prayer time, the obligation to pray may be satisfied anytime during the prescribed times.

Exact prayer times for each locality are available from a variety of sources. An Imam or volunteer Muslim will be able to provide a schedule which states the beginning time of each prayer for specific geographical location. Web sites are also available which will print up accurate times to make the required prayers (

Ritual washing is required as well as a clean place where the prayer can be made. The purification must be total (ghosl) after coitus, semen emission, and after cessation of menses. The ablution (wudu) is prescribed before all prayer. This includes washing the hands three times, rinsing the mouth three times, cleaning the nostrils by sniffing water three times, washing the face from forehead to chin, and ear to ear, three times, washing the forearms to the elbow, three times, passing a wet hand over the whole head, and washing the feet up to the ankles three times. Ablutions may be performed in a designated place in the chapel or in the housing unit. The place of ablution should be included in the Institution Supplement.

For the prayer itself, Muslims face Mecca on a clean surface (i.e., prayer rug, towel, mat, carpet, blanket, or any other material that is kept clean and used only for this purpose) and prostrate themselves before Allah in prayer as prescribed by religious law. These prayers can be made individually. Once the prayer has started, the detainee should be able to finish without interruption.

The prayer involves four basic positions. The first position is standing erect, with hands beside the head, palms facing forward, and the individual says silently, or in a low voice, “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the most great). Then the opening surah of the Qur’an is recited. The second position is with back straight, the person bows forward from the hips and rests hands on knees, symbolizing Allah’s power over the Muslim. Another phrase is recited. The third position is standing up again with arms at the side, repeats a phrase. Then the phrase “Allahu Akbar” is repeated and the person glides to his knees and touches his head to the floor as the act of surrender to the only One who really matters in the universe. Next, the individual gets to a sitting position, places hands on knees, and repeats the phrase “Allahu Akbar.” Upon completion, the individual rises and stands again. This whole procedure is known as rak’a. This process is repeated with the number of rak’as being dependent on the particular prayer made. Daily prayers can usually be completed in 5 to 10 minutes.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

There are no scripturally mandated daily observances. However, most Witnesses practice daily reading of the Bible (New World Translation), prayer, and meditation. Daily devotions and prayer do not require scheduled Chapel time.


Daily Prayer

Prayer for the Jew evokes a sentiment, a way of relating to God, a mood that is embedded in one’s soul. Prayer cannot be confined to moments of inspiration or desperation - praying only when one is moved by events or need or fear. Judaism attempts to make prayer a natural, comfortable event, a day-to-day happening. Meaningful prayer is communication with God. In this way, God becomes accessible, almost a conversation partner. Not only is an intermediary between man and God undesirable, it is unnecessary. God can be found at home, in prisons, and everywhere.

The daily ritual of prayer consists of morning, afternoon, and evening prayers.

The most appropriate time for the morning prayer, or shachris, is between sunrise and approximately 10:30 am. When necessary, morning prayers can be recited from seventy-two minutes before sunrise until approximately noon. For the traditional Jew, approximately fifty minutes are necessary for morning prayers. Once the morning prayers begin, no interruptions are permitted until the prayers are concluded.

Afternoon prayer, or mincha, may begin at approximately 12:30 pm until sundown. When necessary, afternoon prayer may be extended until forty minutes after sundown. No interruptions are permitted. Fifteen minutes are necessary for the afternoon prayer.

The evening prayer, or maariv, begins at nightfall and may be said the entire night. No interruptions are permitted during prayer. At least fifteen minutes are necessary for the evening prayer.

Although it is permissible to worship in private, Jewish tradition has always considered public worship preferable and more laudatory. Therefore, every effort to provide congregational prayer should be made. Be sure to treat the requests of congregate prayer in the same manner as any other Chapel program. If time and space are available and the issue of equity is taken into consideration, congregational prayer can be scheduled.

The Prayer Book – Siddur

The Jewish prayer book is called a Siddur. It is more than just a book of prayers. It is a repository of the principles of Jewish faith. It is a testimony of the aspirations and hopes of the Jewish people throughout time. It is a reminder of laughter and gaiety, of grief and sorrow. It provides insights into daily Jewish living as well as into all the festivals and special occasions.

The Torah Scroll

Reading from a sacred parchment scroll constitutes an important part of the Sabbath and Festival services. The Torah scroll is also read at the Monday and Thursday morning services. Reading from the Torah scroll fortifies a Jew’s adherence to the external laws which it contains. A Torah scroll is a very sacred item. It must be treated with the greatest respect and accorded great honor. A secured and dignified area should be assigned for its custody. It must be kept in a standing position in a cabinet, locker, ark, etc. If no Torah scroll is available, a Chumash may be used instead.

A Torah scroll is also a very expensive religious article; the average cost of a Torah scroll is approximately $25,000. In most institutions, it is not possible to have a Torah Scroll, but it is appropriate for the contract rabbi to bring the Torah for special occasions. When a quorum of Jews requests a Torah scroll, it is appropriate for the institution to ask a synagogue to lend a scroll to the institution.

Torah Study

Torah study is one of the most important commandments of the Torah. “And you shall meditate on it by day and by night.”  This requires a Jew to set aside times for study every day. This daily mitzvah of Torah study, often called learning, is a dominant feature of Jewish life.

Torah study is not simply a matter of scholarship and academic excellence. Jewish tradition regards Torah study as a form of Divine worship. Torah study is crucial to the survival of the Jewish people. Accordingly, observant Jews will request a number of religious books to enable them to study on a regular basis. Jewish law requires that religious books may be disposed of only by actual burial.

Maimonides, the great Jewish scholar and rabbi of the 12th century writes, “Every man in Israel has an obligation to study the Torah – whether he is rich or poor, healthy or sick, young or old and without vigor. Even if he is poor and needs to beg from door to door, and even if he has a family to support, he is obligated to set aside time by day and by night to study Torah.”

Jewish tradition treats books as though they are living scholars themselves. If a sacred book falls to the ground, Jewish people pick it up tenderly and kiss it.


During the morning prayers men wear a religious shawl called a tallis. The tallis has eight-stringed tassels on its four corners. It is the tassels that provide the tallis with its religious significance. In addition to the prayer tallis, an observant Jew wears at all times a smaller four-cornered garment (tallis katan), with similar tassels, under his shirt. This garment covers the shoulders, chest and back. Detainees in transit should be permitted to maintain these articles in their conveyance.

The history of the prayer shawl goes back to Moses. Because of one man’s disobedience, God commanded the people to put fringes with a thread of blue on their clothes to remind them that they must obey His law (Numbers 15: 32-41). From this injunction and through various stages of development comes the modern prayer shawl or tallis worn by Jewish people in the synagogues today.


The Torah uses concrete everyday objects to remind Jews of their religious and moral obligations and to prod them in the right direction. Tefillin provide Jews with a convention that directs their minds and hands to useful and creative endeavors. They are a most important definitive symbol of Jewish identity and the Bible mandates that every Jewish male, thirteen and older, wear tefillin. Since a minor male does not wear tefillin, the wearing of tefillin has become the most visible ritual associated with becoming Bar Mitzvah, of age.

A tefillin consists of two small black leather boxes. Inside the boxes are pieces of handwritten parchment containing Biblical passages. Attached to the boxes are leather straps two or three feet in length, so designed as to enable one to be bound upon the hand and for the other to be worn on the head. Some men wear two pairs of tefillin. Ordinarily, tefillin are worn in conjunction with the morning prayers. However, the fulfillment of this commandment may be accomplished anytime during daylight hours.

Tefillin are not worn on Shabbos and Festivals, since the innate sanctity of these days renders them unnecessary. Tefillin are scared objects and must be treated with respect and care. They are not to be mishandled, thrown, placed on the floor, or brought into a bathroom. Detainees are permitted to have tefillin in their possession. If there is reason to believe that contraband may have been introduced into the boxes, the boxes should be opened only in the presence of a rabbi, so as to ensure that the sanctity and integrity of this sacred article is maintained.

The daily observance of the commandment to wear tefillin cannot be overemphasized. It is one of the cornerstones of the Jewish faith. No detainee should be denied access to tefillin, even for one day. Because of the supreme importance of tefillin observance, it is highly recommended that Chaplaincy Services retain a pair of tefillin to ensure their availability if the need arises.

It is proper to have one’s tefillin examined twice in seven years to make certain that they have not become defective through mold or perspiration. A certified scribe must do this examination.


There are no required daily rituals. Personal prayer and sacrifice to one’s Orisha is encouraged.

Orthodox Christianity

Orthodox Christians are expected to pray daily following one of the patterns established by the Church, which are found in recognized prayer books.

Protestant Christianity

While there are no daily observances mandated by scripture, many Protestants follow the examples of Jesus as found in the Gospels. These practices might include daily personal consecration, prayer, scripture reading, and meditation. Detainees can observe a daily, individual prayer time which would not normally require any special allotted Chapel time. However, on days of prayer/spiritual emphasis, community prayer time may be beneficial to the faith community.


There are no required daily religious observances for Rastafarians. Each person is encouraged to create and follow his/her own personal, spiritual walk.

Roman Catholicism

Generally, there are no specific requirements for daily religious practices. There is a general expectation of daily personal prayer and devotions, including morning and night prayer and grace before and after meals.

Priests, deacons or members of religious communities of brothers and sisters may have the daily obligation to pray the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours). Detainees who have this obligation should be assisted in acquiring an Office Book or Breviary.


Sikhs recite the following Mul Mantra every morning as part of their devotions. This is the Sikh creedal affirmation:

“There is one Supreme Being, the Eternal Reality. He is the Creator, without fear and devoid of enmity. He is immortal, never incarnated, self-existent, known by grace through the Guru. The Eternal One, from the beginning, through all time, present now, the Everlasting Reality.”

A devout Sikh will also attend the Gurdwara in order to recite hymns from the scriptures. The Mul Mantra continues:

“Meditate upon who was True before the Creation, who was True in the beginning of the Creation, who is True now, and O Nanak, Who shall be True forever.”

It is customary for a Sikh to cleanse himself/herself every morning - to clean and purify the body before coming into the presence of God, where the cleansing of the sinful mind takes place.


All information in this section has been compiled from the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Technical Reference for Inmate Religious Beliefs and Practices