AMMAN (AFP) - Jordans ministry of religious affairs on Saturday urged citizens to gather next week and hold special prayers for rain across the parched kingdom. A ministry statement said people should begin fasting for three days ahead of Thursdays planned prayers in Jordan, where a lack of rainfall could trigger a drought and exacerbate water shortages. Since the rains have been delayed and because of the pressing need for water in the country, we call on you to hold open-air prayers for rain on Thursday afternoon, said the statement. Jordanians should prepare for the Istisqa prayer by fasting for three days starting on Monday, and by stepping up devotion and charity work. The special Muslim prayers known as Salat al-Istisqa-a ritual practiced since the time of the Prophet Mohammed-are frequently held across the Middle East, where water is a precious resource, especially on the Arabian Peninsula. Jordan, one of the 10 most water-impoverished countries in the world, has a population of about 6.3 million and consumes more than 900 million cubic metres (31.5 billion cubic feet) of water every year. The county, where 92pc of the land is desert, depends mainly on rain to meet its needs with the agriculture sector representing 3.6pc of overall gross domestic product. More than 60 percent of the annual water consumption goes to agriculture. But five successive years of below-average rainfall has created a shortfall of 500 million cubic metres a year. According to the water ministry, Jordan needs 1.6 billion cubic metres of water a year to meet its requirements by 2015.