What is prayer and
how do I start?

Where and when should I pray?

'Some people say prayer is like eating.
 We don't eat all the time,
 but we need regular meals to resource us
 for everything else that happens
 during the day.
 Think of those times that you
 set aside for prayer as your chance
 to sit down and eat with God
 and receive what you need
 for the rest of the day.'

Some people say it is like breathing.
Something we do all the time.

"Pray all the time,"
  says St Paul.

"Pray all the time," says St Paul
(1 Thessalonians 5.17).
I don't think he means do that activity
we call "prayer" all the time.
I think he means make your life a prayer.
But to do that,
we probably need focused moments of prayer.

Over time - like a fine wine maturing in the barrel,
or an onion being pickled in vinegar -
we are slowly changed.
We become prayerful.

A love letter from God

The whole Christian story of
the birth, life, teaching, death
and resurrection of Jesus Christ
could be summed up as a "love letter from God".

In Jesus, God declares his love for us.
What we call prayer, those stumbling,
faltering words that we use to speak to God,
is simply our response.

In other words, prayer can become like breathing.
And it needs to be regular like eating.
But it is most like loving.
And it is most like loving because it is,
at heart, a relationship.
This is the most basic truth about prayer.
Prayer is relationship with God;
it is the relationship we are made for.
Like all relationships
it is not easy to describe.
I know what it feels like to be in love.
But it is hard to define it.
Put together all the most beautiful
love poems in the world and they are
as nothing compared with a few moments
of love itself.

Being a Christian is like a love affair.
In Jesus we see how God gives himself to us in love.
"As the Father has loved me,"
says Jesus,
"so I have loved you."
(John 15.9)

Prayer is an act of love and a
participation in the life of love.
In Jesus, God declares his love for us.
In prayer we come into communion with God
to express our love to him.
So prayer can happen everywhere and anywhere.

It's not just something that happens in a church
or other special place.
Neither does it depend on special times -
although we probably still need those
special times to nurture
the relationship.

So prayer can happen everywhere
and anywhere.
It's not just something that happens
in a church or other special place.

"The whole reason
 why we pray is summed up in
 the sight and vision of him
 to whom we pray ...
 the more the soul sees God,
 the more by his grace
 does it want him."

Mother Julian of Norwich

What images or objects remind you
that God is there?

Think about how you could make a special place
for prayer at home.
When you're on the go,
you might try carrying something
in your pocket or handbag,
or putting an image on
your phone's lock screen.

Could you set yourself an alarm
to remind yourself it's time to pray?

Think about when you could take
a couple of moments in your busy day
to check in with God.


Merciful God,
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you in all things
and above all things,
may obtain your promises
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus our Lord.

 (The collect for the
 Sixth Sunday after Trinity,
 Common Worship)

 The material by Stephen Cottrell is taken from
 the illustrated Church House Publishing book
 and eBook Prayer:
 Where to Start and How to Keep Going.
 The text is © Stephen Cottrell 2020
 and includes material adapted from How to Pray,
 which is © Stephen Cottrell 1998, 2003, 2010
 and is used here with permission of
 the author and publishers.

 Prayers from Common Worship volumes
 and New Patterns for Worship are
 copyright ©The Archbishops' Council
 2000-2008 and 2002 respectively and are
 published by Church House Publishing.

 Used here with permission.
 All rights reserved.
 Scripture quotations are from the
 New Revised Standard Version of the Bible,
 Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995
 by the Division of Christian Education
 of the National Council of
 the Churches of Christ in the USA.
 Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Illustrations are by