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Prayer, invoked with the #pray extended command, is an action used to communicate with the player's god. The purpose of praying is to ask your god for help, and you must not do so too often. The player has a prayer timeout, a counter which is raised when praying, and decrements one turn at a time. Only when this counter reaches zero may the player pray safely again (exceptions exist, see below). Thus prayer is usually reserved for one of a few things: saving the player from almost certain doom, performing some action the player cannot yet do (removing cursed items, getting out of walls, etc.), or creating holy water. For those players who like a challenge, avoiding any interaction with gods, altars and other religious concepts in the game will satisfy the atheist conduct.

Inexperienced players often treat prayer as an escape item reserved for emergencies. However, it is not 100% reliable due to the long maximum prayer timeout, and conventional escape items can drastically reduce the need for emergency prayers.

During the course of a successful prayer, you are protected from all harm (except from psychic blasts by mind flayers, from a poison cloud or from boulder traps). During this protection, the timer for the Wizard's periodic harassment of the player does not advance.

When not to pray

Because prayer is usually used in dire situations, it is important to know when prayer will not save you. In fact, praying at the wrong time can hurt you, as your god may become angry enough to strike you with lightning or enact some other punishment. The following conditions make it unsafe to pray:

  • You are polymorphed into a demon and are attempting to pray to a non-chaotic god.
  • You are polymorphed into an undead creature and are attempting to pray to a non-chaotic god. (Neutrals have a 90% chance of being able to pray anyway.)
  • Your alignment record is negative.
  • Your luck is negative.
  • Your god is still angry at you from an earlier event.
  • Your prayer timeout is not yet zero. (If you are currently suffering from a major problem, it is safe to pray with a timeout as high as 200; if a minor problem, it may be as high as 100.)
  • You are in Gehennom.
  • You are standing on another god's altar, and both your alignment record and your luck are OK.

When to pray for help

Main article: Trouble

Not all afflictions are equally severe. Gods make a distinction between two groups of problems: minor problems and major problems.[1] Most players do not bother to pray for relief from minor problems, but it is often the solution to a major problem.

Major problems:

XL Percentage
1-5 1/5
6-13 1/6
14-21 1/7
22-29 1/8
30+ 1/9

Minor problems:

Note that if your maximum HP is less than or equal to 5 * (level + 2) and you are praying as a result of low HP, you will also receive 1d5 extra points to your maximum, and then be healed to that new maximum.[5]

Water prayer

The other useful purpose of prayer (besides praying for help) is to make holy or unholy water. Praying while standing on an altar on which potions of water were dropped will (assuming the prayer is successful) bless or curse these. Which one you get is dependent on your own alignment and that of the altar you are praying on. If you are standing on a coaligned altar, the water will become blessed (holy), and you will also receive the benefit of the prayer. If you are standing on another god's altar, the water will become cursed (unholy). Note that making a water prayer on another god's altar will anger your god, so this should be done with extreme caution.

Praying at a co-aligned altar additionally has the other effects described below, whether or not there was water to bless.

In Slash'EM Extended, a water prayer carries a 1% risk of the altar disappearing permanently.

Alignment clues

After a prayer is completed, you will receive a message giving you a hint as to your current alignment, in the form of "You feel that <god> is <feeling>".[6]

Feeling Feeling (hallucination) Alignment range
well-pleased pleased as punch 14 or greater
pleased ticklish 4 to 13
satisfied full 0 to 3

How your god decides what to grant

The following table shows how your god decides what you are worthy of receiving during a prayer. This assumes that it is safe to pray. If you are not on an altar, the result is always capped at 3.

  • If your alignment is at least 14, and you have no major or minor problems, you are granted a favor. See "Favors and gifts", below.
  • If your alignment is less than 4, but still positive, the result is always 1.
  • If your alignment is 0, there is a chance based on Luck (!rnl(2)) that the result will be 1, otherwise it is 0.
  • If none of the above apply, the result is generated by 1d(Luck+x), where x is:[7]
    • 4 if you are on an altar in a temple with a priest,
    • 3 if you are on an altar not in a temple (or the priest is missing), or
    • 2 if you are not on an altar.

Lookup number Result
0 nothing
1 Fix one major problem
2 Fix all major problems
3 Fix all major problems or, if you have no major problems, fix one minor problem
4 Fix all major and minor problems
5+ Fix all major and minor problems, then grant a favor

In practice, this has the following implications:

  • If you have zero alignment and no worse than -2 Luck (e.g. an early pacifist or protection racketeer), there is a 50% chance that one major problem will be fixed (higher with Luck above 2).
  • If your alignment is positive, at least one major problem will be fixed.
  • If you are not on an altar, a favor will be granted only if you have no problems, and have high alignment. At most one minor problem will be fixed.
  • The chance of a minor problem not being fixed is 2/(Luck+2), assuming you have no major problems.

Favors and gifts

If your god decides to grant you a favor, as explained above, the following table is used. The lookup number is generated by 1d(Luck/2 + 3) (With Luck/2 rounded down).[8]

Lookup number Result
1 No favor.
2 Your weapon is uncursed if it is cursed, and blessed if it is uncursed. Any erosion is repaired. It is not made erodeproof. Only weapons and weapon-tools are eligible for this effect.
3 You either regain one lost experience level as though from a blessed potion of full healing (up to 1/2 the levels lost), or otherwise gain 5 maximum hitpoints; in both cases your hitpoints are restored to maximum. Any drained strength is restored, and your nutrition is reset to 900 if it's lower than 900. (“You are surrounded by a golden glow.”)
  • First time: “Hark, mortal! To enter the castle, thou must play the right tune!” (“Hark, creature! ...” if not human). No effect.
  • Second time: Tune to enter the castle is revealed.
  • Subsequent times, or if the drawbridge has already been opened: Same as effect 3 above.
5 Uncurses all possessions (as blessed scroll of remove curse). Since NetHack 3.6.1, a worn helm of opposite alignment will not be made uncursed.(“You are surrounded by a light blue aura.”) (“Your <item> softly glows amber.”) If blind (“You feel the power of <deity>.”)
6 You gain one intrinsic, selected in order from (Telepathy, Speed, Stealth). If you already possess all of them, you gain intrinsic protection as from an aligned priest, except without the natural AC limits. (“Thou hast pleased me with thy progress, and thus I grant thee the gift of <intrinsic>! Use it wisely in my name!”)
7 You get a spellbook. (“A spellbook appears at your <feet>!”)The game will generate a random spellbook according to the usual object generation probabilities. It will then re-roll another random spellbook up to xlvl times if it picks a spell you already know, a spell school you are restricted in, or (if not carrying a magic marker or you haven't identified one) a blank spellbook. "Know" means present in the spellcasting Z command menu. The book is always blessed.
8+ If you are Pious, you are crowned. If already crowned or your alignment record is less than 20, same as effect 7 above.

Crowning may be considered undesirable, if you already have most necessary resistances, since it increases prayer timeout. Putting away your luckstone will decrease your Luck to at most 10, reducing (but not eliminating) the possibility of crowning.

If you can reduce your Luck to 9 or lower, you are safe from crowning. This can be achieved by breaking a mirror (-2), or by jumping in Sokoban (-1). Be careful not to affect your Luck further by sacrificing too much or spending many turns without your luckstone.

If you don't have any reason to keep your alignment record high, you can prefer to lower it instead of Luck for the time of prayer. This allows you to receive all other profits from favors except for crowning, especially getting spellbooks (every time you'd be crowned instead). Sadly, there are only a few reliable ways to lower your alignment record anytime (without altering any other statistics). You can offer 0 zorkmids to a coaligned priest, pray at a cross-aligned altar (with no water on the altar), attack a creature while standing on an engraved Elbereth, or heal your pet as a chaotic non-healer. Monks who know the spell of stone to flesh can eat lots of meatballs. Knights can lower alignment by eating while satiated; meatballs are best for this as well. In 3.6.1 you can also attack an enemy on a permanent or semi-permanent Elbereth (a weak attack on a sessile monster is recommended to make this method reusable). Don't forget to check your alignment for not being piously aligned with a stethoscope, wand of enlightenment or a wand of probing. Alignment record is increased very easily, so check it before every prayer.

Unsuccessful prayers

Unsuccessful prayers can happen for a variety of reasons, documented above. The following table indicates the result of praying during one of these situations. Angering a god and/or causing them to smite you always results in a loss of divine protection.

Condition Result
Polymorphed into a demon and praying to a non-chaotic god You are simply unable to pray: "The very idea of praying to a <non-chaotic> god is repugnant to you."[9]
Polymorphed into an undead creature and attempting to pray to a lawful god (or a neutral god, 10% of the time) If lawful, receive "Vile creature, thou durst call upon me?". If neutral, receive "Walk no more, perversion of nature!". Both then receive "You feel like you are falling apart." You return to natural form (even if wearing an amulet of unchanging), take 1d20 damage, and abuse your constitution.[10]
Prayer timeout is too high Your god's anger is incremented by one, you lose 3 luck, and your god smites you.
Alignment or luck is negative, or your god is angry with you Your god smites you.
Standing on a different god's altar and praying for unholy water Your god's anger is incremented by one, you lose 3 luck, your prayer timeout is increased, and your god smites you.
Standing on a different god's altar and praying as normal Your god (may?) become angry and/or smite you. You lose all divine protection.
Praying in Gehennom Your god won't help you and may be angered.[11]

Encyclopedia entry

Whatever a man prays for, he prays for a miracle. Every
prayer reduces itself to this: Great God, grant that twice
two be not four.

[ Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev ]


This page is based on a spoiler by Matthew Lahut, available at

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