Divine grace is a theological term present in many religions. It has been defined as the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation; and as an individual virtue or excellence of divine origin.
Grace in Christianity is the free and unmerited favour of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowing of blessings. Common Christian teaching is that grace is unmerited mercy (favor) that God gave to humanity by sending his son to die on a cross, thus delivering eternal salvation. Bill Gothard, an American conservative Christian, has suggested "God's grace gives us the desire and the power to do his will."
Within Christianity, there are differing concepts of how grace is attained. In particular, Catholics and Reformed Protestants understand the attainment of grace in substantially different ways. It has been described as "the watershed that divides Catholicism from Protestantism, Calvinism from Arminianism, modern liberalism from conservatism". Catholic doctrine teaches that God has imparted Divine Grace upon humanity, and uses the vehicle of sacraments, carried out in faith, as a primary and effective means to facilitate the reception of his grace. For Catholics, sacraments (carried out in faith) are the incarnational or tangible vehicle through which God's grace becomes personally and existentially received. Reformed Protestants, generally, do not share this sacramental view on the transmittal of grace, but instead favor a less institutionalized mechanism. For example, in the Catholic Church, the primary initiation into a state of grace is granted by God through baptism (in faith) instead of by a simple prayer of faith (sinner's prayer); although, Catholics would not deny the possible efficacy of even a simple prayer for God's grace to flow (Baptism by desire).
In another example, for Catholics, the sacrament of reconciliation (in faith) is the primary means of transmitting grace after a mortal sin has been committed. Many graces are historically associated to the prayer of the holy Rosary; also, the tradition held by Dominicans reports of the fifteen rosary promises made by the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Dominic and Alan de Rupe in favour of Christians who faithfully pray the Rosary.
In the New Testament, the word translated as grace is the Greek word charis (/ˈkeɪrɪs/; Ancient Greek: χάρις), for which Strong's Concordance gives this definition: "Graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude)". A Greek word that is related to charis is charisma (gracious gift). Both these words originated from another Greek word chairo (to rejoice, be glad, delighted).
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew term used is chen (חֵן), which is defined in Strong's as "favor, grace or charm; grace is the moral quality of kindness, displaying a favorable disposition". In the King James translation, chen is translated as "grace" 38 times, "favour" 26 times, twice as "gracious", once as "pleasant", and once as "precious".
Hindu devotional or bhakti literature available throughout India and Nepal is replete with references to grace (kripa) as the ultimate key required for spiritual self-realization. Some, such as the ancient sage Vasistha, in his classical work Yoga Vasistha, considered it to be the only way to transcend the bondage of lifetimes of karma. One Hindu philosopher, Madhvacharya, held that grace was not a gift from God, but rather must be earned.
Dr. Umar Al-Ashqar, dean of the Faculty of Islamic Law at Zarqa Private University in Zarqa, Jordan, wrote that "Paradise is something of immense value; a person cannot earn it by virtue of his deeds alone, but by the Grace and Mercy of Allah." This stance is supported by hadith: according to Abu Huraira, prophet Muhammad once said that "None amongst you can get into Paradise by virtue of his deeds alone ... not even I, but that Allah should wrap me in his grace and mercy."