Specifically the yud gimmel midos harachamim (the 13 Divine Attributes) are recited as a prayer rather than for example practicing kria (reading from the Torah with musical cantillation notes) when reading Shemot 34:6-7 https://mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0234.htm#6


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The source for saying it at all is Rosh Hashanah 17b

אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: אִלְמָלֵא מִקְרָא כָּתוּב, אִי אֶפְשָׁר לְאוֹמְרוֹ. מְלַמֵּד שֶׁנִּתְעַטֵּף הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא כִּשְׁלִיחַ> צִבּוּר, וְהֶרְאָה לוֹ לְמֹשֶׁה סֵדֶר תְּפִלָּה. אָמַר לוֹ: כׇּל זְמַן שֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל חוֹטְאִין — יַעֲשׂוּ לְפָנַי כַּסֵּדֶר הַזֶּה וַאֲנִי מוֹחֵל לָהֶם.

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Were it not explicitly written in the verse, it would be impossible to say this, as it would be insulting to God’s honor. The verse teaches that the Holy One, Blessed be He, wrapped Himself in a prayer shawl like a prayer leader and showed Moses the structure of the order of the prayer. He said to him: Whenever the Jewish people sin, let them act before Me in accordance with this order.

The fact that Hashem "dressed" like a prayer leader, or in Hebrew shliach tzibbur, implies at least a quorum of men. Otherwise, it's not called a tzibbur.


Shulchan Aruch 565:5


..." אין היחיד רשאי לומר שלש עשרה מדות דרך תפלה ובקשת רחמים דדבר שבקדושה הם אבל אם בא לאומרם דרך קריאה בעלמא אומרם: הגה וכן אין ליחיד לומר סליחות או ויעבור (מהרי"ל בשם א"ז): The individual may not say the Thirteen Attributes in a prayerful manner, requesting mercy, because they are words of holiness [that require a minyan]. However, if he says them by merely reading them, he may say them. Rem"a: Similarly, the individual may not say Selichot or "And God passed..." (Mahari"l in the name of the Or Zarua).

Mishna Brurah 565:5:11

(יא) דדבר שבקדושה הם - ואין נאמר בפחות מעשרה: Since they are a "davar sheb'kedusha" they may not be said by less than 10 people.

  • The context here, lost on many, is slichot were said (eponymously) in the 6th blessing of the repetition of the amida. One might have thought to insert these poems in one's private prayers if not with a minyan, but no, the slichot process is itself a davar shebikdusha
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 5 at 16:54

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