Types of Prayer: Praise, Supplication, and Thanks

In this resource we will become familiar with the three main types of prayers: praise, supplication, and thanks, with their distinctive characteristics.

Resource Ages: 9-11


A prayer of praise:

I will extol You, my God and Sovereign, and bless Your name forever and ever.

Every day will I bless You and praise Your name forever and ever.

Great is Adonai and much acclaimed; God’s greatness cannot be fathomed.

One generation shall laud Your works to another and declare Your mighty acts.

(From the Ashrei prayer)

אֲרוֹמִמְךָ אֱ-לוֹהַי הַמֶּלֶךְ וַאֲבָרְכָה שִׁמְךָ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד.
בְּכָל יוֹם אֲבָרְכֶךָּ וַאֲהַלְלָה שִׁמְךָ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד.
גָּדוֹל ה’ וּמְהֻלָּל מְאֹד וְלִגְדֻלָּתוֹ אֵין חֵקֶר.
דּוֹר לְדוֹר יְשַׁבַּח מַעֲשֶׂיךָ וּגְבוּרֹתֶיךָ יַגִּידוּ.

A prayer of supplication:

Bless this year and all its produce for good for us, and grant dew and rain as a blessing on the face of the earth.

(From the Blessing of the Years in the Amidah)

בָּרֵךְ עָלֵינוּ ה’ אֱ-להֵינוּ אֶת הַשָּׁנָה הַזּאת. וְאֶת כָּל מִינֵי תְבוּאָתָהּ לְטובָה. וְתֵן טַל וּמָטָר לִבְרָכָה עַל כָּל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה 

A prayer of thanks:

I give thanks before you, Sovereign living and eternal, for giving me back my soul in compassion. Great is Your faithfulness.

(From the Shacharit [morning] service)

מוֹדֶה (מוֹדָה a woman says – ) אֲנִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ מֶֽלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּים. שֶׁהֶֽחֱזַֽרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְחֶמְלָה. רַבָּה אֱמֽוּנָתֶֽךָ

Foundations for Planning

Essential Questions

  • How do Jewish practices reflect Jewish values?
  • How is prayer a vehicle to help us access connections to God?

Content Questions Related to the Essential Questions

  • In what ways do prayers reflect personal and collective/national needs?
  • In what ways can prayers influence the way we look at the world?
  • In what ways can prayers influence the person who says them?
  • In what ways do prayers teach us about the importance of gratitude?

Background for Teacher

In Jewish tradition, prayers are usually divided into three main types: supplication, praise, and thanks. Each type has its own unique features and distinct goals. In this resource we present three prayers as examples of these types. We examine two of these prayers – ...

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In Jewish tradition, prayers are usually divided into three main types: supplication, praise, and thanks. Each type has its own unique features and distinct goals. In this resource we present three prayers as examples of these types. We examine two of these prayers –  Modeh Ani and the full Amidah in depth in other resources.

Prayers of praise: These prayers address and praise God for divine actions in the world. The person saying the prayer mentions things God does in the world and praises God’s treatment of humans in general and of himself/herself specifically. Typical expressions include baruch – blessed, hallelu-yah – praise God, yishtabach – may God be praised and other words of praise (glorified, lauded, magnified, elevated, etc.). 

The excerpt from the Ashrei prayer is used here as an example of prayers of praise. This prayer is recited twice during the Shacharit (morning) service and again in the Mincha (afternoon) prayers. It is based on one chapter from the Psalms, combined with verses from another chapter. The prayer is written in Hebrew alphabetic order (though the letter nun is missing), and this can be seen as an attempt by the author to praise God “from A to Z,” so to speak.

Prayers of supplication (request): These prayers ask God to do or give something. They include different kinds of requests, such as requests for health, livelihood, and success. Typical expressions include yehi ratzon – may it be God’s will, and na and ana, both which mean please. The prayer for rain, which forms part of the Blessings of the Years, is used in this resource as an example of a prayer of supplication. The prayer in the format that appears here is recited from 7 in the month of Cheshvan through Pesach (the rainy season in the Land of Israel). From Pesach through 7 Cheshvan (the dry season), the wording changes to “grant a blessing.”

Prayers of thanks: These prayers thank God for actions toward humans. The prayer may relate to a specific and personal event, such as recovering from sickness or childbirth. Other prayers of thanks are more general and reflect appreciation for all the good in a person’s life. Typical expressions include modeh/modah – I thank, nodeh – let us thank, modim – we give thanks, lehodot – to thank. The prayer Modeh/Modah Ani, which is the first prayer recited in the morning, is used in this resource as an example of a prayer of thanks.

Optional Hooks
In-Depth Discussion
Suggested Activities
Further Study

Put three hoops or pieces of card on the floor with the words request, thanks, and praise. Pass a box around the room containing slips of paper with typical words from the different types of prayers (e.g. please, give, grant, praise, give thanks, thank, etc.). Each student takes a piece of paper and stands by the appropriate hoop for the expression they received. Ask a few students to read out what it says on their slip of paper and to compose a sentence or prayer including that expression.

End the activity by explaining the general character of each hoop (each type of prayer), and note that the prayers in the siddur can also be divided into these three types.

Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.


  1. Ashrei is a prayer of praise to God. Mention some of the expressions in the prayer that convey the message of praise.
  2. We also make comments to other people that convey praise. Why do you think it’s important to express praise?
  3. How do you feel when someone praises you (be specific – “I feel…”) 

For older students:

  1. Look at the first letter of each line of the prayer in Hebrew and discover what order the prayer follows.
  2. What do you think is the connection between arranging the verses in alphabetic order (an acrostic) and praising God?
  3. It’s safe to assume that God does not really need our praises. Why, then, did the Sages think it was important for us to praise God every day in our prayers? How can doing this influence the person who says the prayers?

Prayer for Dew and Rain

  1. Why is rain so important to us?
  2. In the prayer, we ask for “dew and rain as a blessing.” When is rain a blessing, and when is it not?

For older students:

  1. What other subjects related to nature do people pray for? 
  2. This prayer is not recited during the dry season in Israel. Try to explain why not, and what this tells us about prayer in general.
  3. The prayer asks for rain in the Land of Israel, but even Jews who live outside Israel say this prayer according to the season in Israel. Why do you think they do this?

Modeh/Modah Ani

  1. In this prayer we give thanks for waking up in the morning. Why do you think we need to say a prayer for such a natural and daily occurrence?
  2.  What would you like to say thanks for in the morning?
  • Make a “prayer tree” in class (you can draw a tree on a poster board, or bring actual branches into class). Each student writes a supplication (a request), thanks, or praise on slips of paper. They can address the message as they prefer – to God, to nature, or to a particular person. Use a different color for the different types of slips. Hang the prayers on the tree. Ask the students if they would like to say more about their prayer and explain why they wanted to make it.

For older students:

Prayers can teach us about the importance of thanks, supplication/requests, and praise in our everyday lives.

  • Divide the class into three groups:
    One group thinks of people in the school or the community who deserve to be praised. The second group thinks of people or things at school or in the community for which they are grateful. The third group thinks of things that are lacking at school and they would like to request. Each group has to find a way to express the praise, gratitude or request (e.g. – a small gift, a greeting card, a poster or sign, letters, etc.). They present this to the class and explain why it was important to them to express their message in this particular way.
  • Give the students the template or draw the three axes on the board and ask them to copy them onto a sheet of paper and position themselves across each axis:
    I express praise a lot  ——————————————  I don’t express praise at all
    I often say thank you  ——————————————  I don’t say thank you at all
    I ask for things a lot   ——————————————  I don’t ask for things at all

If the students have computers, you could also plan this activity digitally, as a poll. Ask students who wish to do so to share with the others where they positioned themselves on the different axes (in pairs or to the whole class). It will be interesting to see the diversity among the students’ replies. Discuss: Why is it important to know how to express thanks, praise, and supplication? Would you like to change your position on one of the axes? Why?

  • Study the full prayers and how they are recited: Modeh/Modah Ani in a musical version, Ashrei (and here set to music), and the prayer for dew and rain.
  • Study the prayer Modeh/Modah Ani in depth (for aged 6-8).
  • Study Birchot Ha-Shachar – the Morning Blessings, which are prayers of praise recited every morning.
  • If the class holds prayer services, you can pause every now and then in the service and ask them to classify the prayers into the three different types.
  • In addition to prayers from the siddur, there are also songs that you can play and classify according to the three types of prayers. For example the song Halleluyah praises God; the song Todah expresses thanks, and the song Lu Yehi expresses supplications or requests.
  • For older students: You could ask students to look for songs in their own language that express thanks, praise (to God or nature), and supplication.