Prayer is a spiritual communion with a deity in the form of supplication, adoration, contrition or thanksgiving. Prayer presupposes a belief in the deity and its desire to hold a communication with the petitioner as well as a belief in the deity's power to change things. Prayer can be an individual or group activity. Gestures such as folding hands, kneeling, bowing of the head and closing one's eyes are often part of prayer, as they improve concentration and manifest a humble attitude towards the deity. Many will find a quiet place of worship better suited for prayer, but prayer can be uttered anywhere.
Prayer and Faith Healing
The X-Files is set in the American Judeo-Christian culture, and prayer in this context is generally addressed to the biblical God, but New Age, First Nations and Buddhist religious practices are sometimes observed. No main character openly expresses an absence of belief in God except for the Cigarette-Smoking Man (see Atheism). The X-Files television series depicts prayer as an ultimate recourse in inextricable situations. Prayer brings change as evil forces are neutralized, cast out or destroyed, suggesting God is above these forces, would they be material or spiritual. The X-Files characters almost exclusively turn to prayer in time of illness, especially when death is near.
The episode "Miracle Man" is the first in which the idea of prayer is explored. Pentecostal reverend Calvin Hartley adopts a child named Samuel who, early on, manifests a spiritual gift of healing, similar to that of Jesus Christ. The episode opens on a scene where Leonard Vance is found dead in a fire. Young Samuel lays hands on the burned corpse, and with confidence in God's power, prays with authority to bring back the man who is raised from the dead. Samuel Hartley's reputation grows as he becomes the central figure in a faith healing ministry. As some who have attended healing services begin to die, the FBI is brought in to investigate. Mulder examines the many physician-documented cases attesting the unexplained recovery of many on whom Samuel had laid hands and declares, "I think the kid's for real." It turns out the deaths were caused by Leonard Vance, who poisoned service attendees with fruit juice as they entered; embittered by his life as a disfigured man, he wished to destroy Samuel's ministry.
In "The Blessing Way", the Navajo find Mulder unconscious in the New Mexico desert and bring him to a hogan, where they perform chants and rituals for three days, asking the holy people to bring him back. Albert Hosteen conducts the rituals and fears that Mulder's spirit does not want to be healed because his wish to join his ancestors is too strong. Mulder is visited by "Deep Throat" and William Mulder's ghosts in his unconscious state and they each speak to him, to help him choose whether to live or die. Mulder suffers great fevers, but on the night of the third day, asks for water and Hosteen senses in him a rebirth. In the following episode, "Paper Clip", Albert Hosteen prays over Melissa Scully's body in the hospital, after she is mistakenly shot in her sister's apartment, but Melissa dies from her wounds.
The power of prayer is again tackled but bathed in ambiguity in the episode "Redux II". Agent Scully's struggle with faith versus science is taken to a new level as she is fighting cancer and conventional treatment remains unsuccessful. Mulder's search for answers and a cure for this illness, apparently caused by experiments performed on Scully during her abduction, leads to a chip implant at the Pentagon. Scully agrees to have the chip inserted, but a PET scan performed afterwards shows no improvement. The agent is dismayed and asks her mother to send the family priest, Father McCue, to minister to her faith. Scully says, "I'm so sorry. I fight and I fight and I fight, but I've been so stupid. I've come so far in my life on simple faith. And now, when I need it the most, I just push it away. I mean, why do I wear this? (indicating her cross necklace) […] I put something that I don't even know or understand under the skin of my neck. I will subject myself to these crazy treatments and I keep telling myself that I'm doing everything I can, but it's a lie." Prayer, here, is understood as a valuable option she had refused to turn to but is now willing to accept. Father McCue visits Scully at the hospital and they pray for Scully's health, as well as a meeting Mulder has with an FBI panel. The situation with the panel is resolved and Scully's cancer goes into remission. No clear answer is given to which caused the cure, the chip or the prayer of faith.
As an unconscious Mulder – affected by alien technology – ends up in the hands of the Syndicate who perform experiments on him in "The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati", Scully finds herself in a helpless position. She is twice visited by Albert Hosteen, in her apartment. Scully tells Hosteen this science makes no sense to her, and the man exhorts her to pray for Mulder. They kneel together and pray. This prayer appears to be instrumental in saving Mulder's life and raises questions about what had been concluded from the previous events.
Another Pentecostal congregation appears in the episode "Signs and Wonders". The Church of God with Signs and Wonders is led by an exuberant, charismatic Enoch O'Connor, who handles snakes with his flock, lays hands on them and slays them in the Spirit. The FBI investigates this church, following a former member's death from numerous snake bites. The pastor's pregnant daughter, Gracie, who was also the dead man's wife, has left her father's church and is now attending Reverend Samuel Mackey's more conventional Blessing Community Church. Everything seems to point blame in Enoch O'Connor's direction, but as it turns out, Reverend Mackey is the demon-possessed father of Gracie's child and has an ability to summon snakes to test and kill people. Gracie is taken to her father's church and the congregation intercedes for her as Reverend O'Connor lays hands to deliver the child, who is really a bundle of snakes nested inside her womb. The pastor is also seen praying as Mackey sends snakes into his prison cell to test him.
The chip that may have caused Scully's remission from cancer is discussed again in "En Ami". A young boy named Jason McPeck, who suffers from lymphatic cancer, is taken home by his Christian parents, who prefer to rely on God's intervention to save their child rather than conventional treatment. A crowd of angry protesters gathers at the McPeck's home, to denounce the parents' decision, and the story causes controversy. The McPecks' prayers for their son are implicit, as they trust God to heal him according to his will. During the night, a group of men comes to Jason and inserts a chip in the nape of his neck. Jason believes the men are angels who came to cure him, as his cancer goes into remission shortly after the incident. The case is brought to the attention of Agents Mulder and Scully by the Cigarette Smoking Man, who embarks Scully on a secret journey to unveil the chip implant's uses and origins.
As no conclusive evidence or information is obtained about the chip's healing powers in the end, it is possible that Jason McPeck's remission was a case of faith healing, just as Scully's in "Redux II". The Cigarette Smoking Man makes claims about an alien chip capable of curing all diseases but, since he is proved to be a very deceitful man, these statements are questionable; if he was dying himself, as Scully was told, he could have had a chip implanted in his own neck but didn't. His stealing the information disk from the agent only to have it destroyed also makes his claims dubious. It is worth noting here that this chip is referred to as a monitoring device by Knowle Rohrer in the episode "Existence".
Prayer is mentioned again in "Three Words", as Mulder returns to his apartment after having been hospitalized. Scully is still shaken by the events of his abduction, death and "resurrection" and tells him, "I prayed a lot… and my prayers have been answered." Mulder replies, "In more ways than one," pointing out to Scully's pregnancy. Scully is never seen praying to have a child but her son William is perceived by many to be a miracle child born of a barren mother, even an indication of God's existence, as proposed by Mulder in the episode "Essence".
Agent John Doggett is hospitalized and unconscious in the episode "Providence" and the doctors' verdict is that he could never wake up. Agent Monica Reyes asks Walter Skinner if he thinks Doggett can hear them speak and if talking to him is helpful, to which Skinner replies that, if he can't, perhaps God can, like prayer. Agent Reyes notices the chapel sign in the hall and decides to go in and pray for her partner. As Doggett wakes up later, he recounts hearing a voice in his head, inciting him to get up and warn Scully of the dangers awaiting her.
"You know they say when you talk to God, it's prayer, but when God talks to you, it's schizophrenia" is one of Fox Mulder's memorable quotes.
Other Faith Healing Occurrences
The notion of faith healing also appears in other episodes, but unrelated to prayer per se.
In "One Breath", New Age adept Melissa Scully holds a hanging crystal over her unconscious sister's body and places her hands above it to feel her spirit, inciting Mulder to do the same. It is unclear whether she is attempting healing or not with these gestures.
In "all things", Doctor Daniel Waterston is experiencing heart failure, and on the recommendation of a new Buddhist acquaintance, Scully invites a healer to clear the patient's chakras, or energy channels. According to this view, chakras that function improperly can create conditions for disease. Dr. Waterston recovers, and as he sneers at the healer's efforts, Scully interjects that they may have saved his life.