Notes on Prayer


prayer (noun)
A personal request, confession, expression of praise or thanksgiving, addressed to God aloud or in thought.   (New Penguin English Dictionary)

Extract from ‘Learning to Pray’ by Evan Pilkington
…..’Prayer is a very strange activity.  It is an attempt to communicate with a Being who is inaccessible to our ordinary senses, inaccessible to reason, inaccessible to science.  To believe in God and to pray is a sheer act, a wager, a leap, of faith’

Have you ever thought like this?   I certainly have!  And over the years I have spent more time talking to colleagues about prayer than perhaps anything else.There are a great many books written on the subject (I have most of them!!) but reading and talking about prayer is really prevaricating against the real job of getting on with it!

Someone once said ‘pray as you can and not as you can’t’. 

Sister Edméé, Convent of the Incarnation, Fairacres, writes about prayer….‘We have a picture, have we not? of  perfect prayer, that is to say, of a person in prayer, whose heart is suffused with loving devotion and whose mind, deeply recollected, is presenting to God in orderly fashion the traditional components of prayer: Adoration, Confession, Intercession, Petition, and Thanksgiving.

Moreover, with such a picture, prayer is regarded as something we do and therefore becomes another thing to be done, yet another demand on our time, another activity to be fitted into a full day.

But, in truth,prayer is something that is done within us, the very opposite of another activity, for it is the activity of Another’……

Read Romans 8:26-27 

Lord Jesus Christ, like your disciples long ago,
our prayer today is simply ‘Teach us how to pray’. 
Amen         (Kevin Mayhew)

Why Pray

1.  We pray in order to share our lives with God.  If we are trying to put him at the centre of our lives we have to keep the doors open for his constant arrival.

2.  We pray in order to get to know God. How do you get to know another country?  You go and live there.  Prayer is living with God in a new country with new priorities, and we live with him there in order to become acclimatized to the new culture of the kingdom of God.

3.  We pray in order to express our love and thanks to God.  When ‘deep calls to deep’ within us, prayer is one of our responses, reaching to God with the heart.  A relationship with God ought to have fewer of the characteristics of duty and more of the characteristics of a love affair.

4.  We pray as a way of loving people.  Because we love them we pray for them. The most important thing we can do for those we care for is to hold them in the loving presence of God.

5.  We pray to bring our own needs to God. Yes, that’s OK too!

 (Beginning Again—J Pritchard)


Living God,

            We thank you that you are not just with us here in prayer but also in the daily round of life, 
            waiting to meet us 
lead us and bless us.
         Help us to glimpse your presence and to live each moment conscious that you are by our side, 
            to your praise and glory.
Amen    (Kevin Mayhew)


God doesn’t only want the ‘holy’ bits of life!

….people sometimes think that divine and earthly things cannot possibly mix….but God is not thousands of miles away, only paying us a visit on Sundays.  He is in our world, in its profoundest depths and minutest details, and in the heart of every pain.  God in Jesus has become flesh. So,as well as being wholly other than we are, beyond our human comprehension, God is also here with us in the middle of it all, inviting us to respond and work with him….God doesn’t only want the ‘holy  bits’ of our weekly routine.  All of life can be sacred if we will only look and listen.

‘Heaven in the Ordinary’ - A .Ashwin—pg14


Where, When, How

God has made us all different and with different personalities.  Just as we will not all find the same music to our taste nor find the same books accessible, so it is with prayer.

Whether we are extrovert, introvert, like to use our imagination and contemplation, prefer structure, symbol or the beauty of creation to exercise the  senses, we can find a way that will both suit us and the time we can give to it.  It is good practice to make time for prayer every day.  Identify a time and place where you can spend a few minutes uninterrupted (I know, this is not easy for some).  But whether it be for two minutes or twenty– try to stick with it.  I know a woman who can only find time to pray when she is in the bath.  Yet another prays on her journey to work in the train.  The important thing is to find what works for you.  Check your posture.  If you are not comfortable, you will not be praying for long!!!!!

Remember the passage from Romans 8—The Holy Spirit helps us to pray (even if we are not aware of it!).  Some find it helpful to follow a structured outline of prayer.  Many believe that the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ was given for this very use.  I found the Psalms particularly helpful—especially for getting started.  Check them out!  You will find every human joy, hurt and frustration within them.  Many churches follow a ‘daily office’ of morning and evening prayer.  These can be found in book form or are downloadable from the web:

Others are more comfortable with a less formal approach.  Remember, prayer is about relationship.  How would you speak to a friend? Think about comfortable silence with another. What would you most like to say to God? (for your eyes only—and God’s of course!!) 

Praying together - When we come together in worship on a Sunday and at other times during the week prayer becomes ‘corporate’ (belonging to a unified body of individuals).

Intercessions are made on behalf of the whole church to which we accede by saying ‘Amen’ (we agree!).

During the Service prayer normally embraces a structure that includes Confession, reading of God’s Word, Praise and Worship, and Holy Communion. It should be noted that prayer can be spoken, accompanied by music, acted out in drama, silent or displayed in art.  Someone once told me that they believed prayer was simply ministry in action!  What do you think?


Prayers in Print……..

There are a great many prayers in print  a small selection are included here.

Common Worship Morning Prayer:

            The night has passed, and the day lies open before us. Let us pray with one heart and mind. (silence is kept)
as we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you; now and for ever.  Amen


Celtic Daily Prayer

            Christ, as a light, Illumine and guide me:  Christ, as a shield, overshadow me Christ under me;
            Christ over me; Christ beside me on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all powerful.
e in the heart of each to whom I speak;  in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
his day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all powerful.
Christ as a light;  Christ as a shield;  Christ beside me on my left and my right.     Amen


Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. St. Macarius


Short Prayers for Public Worship—K. Mayhew

            May the word of God guide our footsteps,  the power of God equip us for service,
the grace of God renew us and the love of God surround us always.
May Christ be our constant companion on the path of discipleship,
until our journey is over and we meet with God face to face, secure in the joy of his
everlasting kingdom.  In his name we ask it.  Amen


The Prayer before the Crucifix—St. Francis 1205

                        Most High, glorious God enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me true faith certain hope,
and perfect charity, sense and knowledge,
Lord, that I may carry out Your holy and true command.    Amen


Sarum Primer (1527)

                        God be in my head, and in my understanding.  God be in my eyes, and in my looking.
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking. God be in my heart, and in my thinking.
God be in mine end, and at my departing.


O Lord my God, I thank you that you have brought this day to a close; I thank you for giving me rest in body and soul.  Your hand has been over me and has guarded and preserved me.  Forgive my lack of faith and any wrong that I have done today, and help me to forgive all who have wronged us. Let me sleep in peace under your protection, and keep me from all the temptations of darkness. Into your hands I commend my loved ones and all who dwell in this house; I commend to you my body and soul. O God, your holy name be praised.                            
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)


Evening Collect CW Daily Prayer for Sunday

            Lighten our darkness, Lord we pray, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night,
            for the love of your only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.Amen


Material compiled by G. Anderson from various sources—February 2011