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How do you pray?

Prayer might just be one of the most popular activities on Earth.

Research shows that most people pray at some point in their lives, even if they wouldn’t say they had a religious faith. History shows that people have always prayed. Some of the earliest archaeological finds relating to human beings are objects used in worship.

The truth is, there’s something hard-wired in humans that causes us to call out to God, particularly when we’re in difficulty. Yet prayer is so much more than the occasional cry for help.

    Intercultural prayer

    For Christians, prayer is more to do with spending time enjoying God’s company, a bit like you would do with your best friend. People often liken prayer to breathing, as essential to our spiritual lives as breathing is to our physical lives.

    Prayer is a two-way conversation with God. God, our loving creator, has reached out to us – he sent Jesus and his Spirit. If you don’t know how to respond, here are things to think about:

    • Don’t worry about having just the right words to say. God is more interested in the content of your heart than the quality or style of your words.
    • Be honest and open with God, as he already knows you better than you know yourself. Share the good and the bad.
    • Prayer is more about being with God than transferring information to God. Knowing our thoughts is no problem to the one who created all things but that’s not what matters most to God – what matters to God most is being with us and embracing us with his love.
    • Present your requests to God, but keep in mind that God doesn't always answer in the way we would want. God is love, and love doesn’t always work in exactly the ways we’d like it to but love always works for good.
    • Don’t stop praying when the conversation with God gets hard. God may not do exactly what you ask, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a conversation about it. Let God know how you feel. Ask him to teach you something new.
    • Try using the words that Jesus taught his first disciples – what we know as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.
    Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever.
    See Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4

    Prayer doesn’t need to be silent or still, with our eyes closed and hands clasped. Here are some things you could try:

    • Go out for a walk and use the world around you to inspire your prayers. What brings you joy? What concerns you? Who do you meet along the way?
    • Buy a local newspaper or read the news online and pray for some of the people and situations you come across.
    • Get creative – listen to music, get journaling, write poetry, keep a diary, exercise, light candles

    Discover more

    This bite-sized Open Learning course introduces you to the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to say in Luke 11:1–4.

    Daily prayers to inform, encourage and immerse the territory in prayer.

    Lyndall Bywater explores some of the big questions surrounding prayer and tries to tackle some of the seemingly illogical bits too.

    Rebecca Goldsmith interviews Lyndall Bywater, author of 'Big Questions for Small Groups: Prayer'.

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