Exploring prayer

Prayer is communicating with God. Christians believe that God made human beings to have a relationship with him so talking with God is perfectly natural. He wants us to bring him our concerns, our requests, our thanks and our praise – to talk to him, to listen to him, to spend time with him and to share our lives with him, just as we would with a close friend or relative. Everyone can pray – you don’t need to ‘be good’ or live a good life first.

A small boy in a blue t-shirt smiles and holds his hands together in prayer.

There is no magic formula for praying. You don’t need to be religious, nor do you need to use particular words or phrases (or even any words at all!). You don’t need to go to a church or any special place. You can pray alone or with others. You can pray out loud or silently or even sing your prayers. You can use prayers that have been written down by others or you can make up your own. You can just be still and open your heart and mind. God loves to hear from us whatever way we choose to communicate. Some people close their eyes and clasp their hands together to help them focus.

A hand holding a lit splint lights candles.

Others light a candle or use a string of beads, holding each one as they pray for an individual person or situation.

Prayers are an important part of church services. Some will be formal prayers that have been used for centuries, such as the Lord’s Prayer; others will be prepared for a particular context, or are just spontaneous.

Prayers are usually addressed to God the Father, one of three dimensions of God. But you can also pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit too. In some denominations, such as the Roman Catholic Church, prayers are addressed to Mary, Jesus’ mother.

‘When I pray, coincidences happen. And when I don’t, they don’t’ 
William Temple

Finding a time and place to pray

We can speak and listen to God at any time, but it can also be helpful to find a time of day and a particular place where we can focus on being with God without being distracted. If you have young children or other major demands on your time, this might not be easy so just reach out to God as and when you can!

Many people find a pattern of prayer helpful. They might start by reading a short passage from the Bible and then begin their conversation with God by asking forgiveness for anything they have said or done wrong before moving on to thank him for his goodness and then making requests.

Christians believe that if you pray - in other words, talk to God - he will always hear you. This includes bringing our needs and requests. However, God does not always give us what we want; sometimes the answer to our prayers might be a ‘no’ or ‘not yet’. We might not understand why, but God sees the bigger picture.