What is prayer and
how do I start?
Now I've started praying,
how do I keep going?
'When we pray,
we are not putting money in the
heavenly slot machine to get what
we want or to make a transaction
Prayer isn't just asking for things.'
We can and do ask for things.
What could be more natural than to come
to the one we love with the requests
and concerns of our hearts?
But more than asking for what we want,
prayer is receiving from
God what God wants to give us.
When we pray, we are resting in the presence
of the one who loves us and
who knows what is best for us.
This is why we keep going with prayer,
even when it is hard.
We don't give up on the ones we love.
To know God and to know that we are loved
by God is the only reward we need.
Many people find prayer difficult
because they have a picture in their mind
of what it is supposed to be like.
Then they feel a failure if their
prayers don't match up.
Sitting in blissful silence for half an hour,
your mind empty of everything but God?
A wildly joyful and ecstatic experience
in which you speak in tongues of Pentecostal fire?
Or eloquently bringing before God
the needs of everyone and
everything in the world?
If you imagine that prayer will
always be like one of these,
then you probably won't get very far.
But prayer is relationship with God.
So, like every other relationship,
it is nurtured in small acts of
In the best and most intimate
relationships sometimes it's just enough
to be in the presence of the one you love.
You don't necessarily have to do or
But small words and gestures of love
will always help.
Knowing God is not the only way
to be happy in life.
There are many happy and fulfilled people
in the world who are not Christians.
But the fullness that we long for
only comes from God,
because everything which is good and
fulfilling ultimately comes from God.
And nothing which is good is outside
the heart of God.
So, when we seek the heart of God in prayer,
we are seeking the deepest joy of all
and the deepest fulfilment.
When we pray, we come to the peak
of the mountain in whose foothills
we have always wandered.
More than asking for what
we want, prayer is receiving from
God what God wants to give us.
Also, the results, such as they are,
are most likely to be seen by others,
As St Paul says, as we see the glory of the Lord
as though reflected in a mirror,
so we "are being transformed into the
same image from one degree of glory
to another" (1 Corinthians 3.18).
Making your life a prayer
When we start to live this way -
knowing we are loved by God,
being secure in that love,
and bringing everything to God -
then we find that the whole of life
becomes a prayer, an offering of praise to God.
This life is nurtured and watered by
regular times of prayer.
But slowly - and over the course
of a lifetime it changes everything.
Even the world.
When we start to live this way . . .
we find that the whole of life
becomes a prayer.
Someone once asked me
how long this takes?
I was able to give them a precise answer.
It takes a lifetime.
By happy coincidence that is exactly
how much time each one of us
has been given.
One lifetime to live in praise of God
and to be part of God's mission
of love to the world.
"Your prayer will take
Sometimes you will taste
and see how good the Lord is...
Sometimes you will be
dry and joyless...
Sometimes you will be able
to do nothing else
but take your whole life
and everything in you
and bring them before God.
Every hour has its own
possibilities of genuine prayer.
So set yourself again and again
on the way of prayer."
Rule For a New Brother
Go back through this material
and highlight parts that call out to you.
Think about how you could act
on one of them today.
If you've found this helpful,
who do you know who would
benefit from reading this?
Find a way to share it with them.
in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature
by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ
your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
(The Collect for the Second Sunday
of Epiphany, 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 www.penguinboy.net
Copyright ©2021. The Church of England. All rights reserved.