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Much of the prayer of the Church of England is corporate, that is to say we do it together and this is reflected in much of what you will say when you recite Morning or Evening Prayer. Yet there is another side to our prayer life, our own individual prayers, as we try to share in Christ’s prayer to his Father, that his will be done, his kingdom come.
The advice we provide here was originally written for a children’s book. However, whether you are a child, young person or an adult, prayer is easier than you might imagine! Millions of people of every age pray every day.
You don’t have to know any prayers if you want to pray – in fact, words can often get in the way. Picture Jesus, and then say what is in your heart, what you feel.
Remember! God hears every prayer – but not all prayers are answered in the way we might expect or desire: we don’t always pray for his will to be done!
‘Arrow’ Prayers can be offered to God anywhere, at any time.
But thankfully we don’t live all our lives in moments of extreme crisis. What about day-to-day praying? We need to come closer to God, to experience His love for us and to try to make sense of where we are in the world. Prayer is the way we do this.
How to start?
Use your hand. Your fingers can be used to bring to mind different things to pray for.
thumb this is the strongest digit on your hand. Give thanks for all the strong things in your life, like home and family, relationships that support and sustain you.
index finger this is the pointing finger. Pray for all those people and things in your life who guide and help you. Friends, teachers, doctors, nurses, emergency services and so on.
middle finger this is the tallest finger. Pray for all the important people who have power in the world, like world leaders and their governments, members of parliament and local councillors, the Royal Family, other world leaders and their governments.
ring finger this is the weakest finger on your hand. It can not do much by itself. Remember the poor, the weak, the helpless, the hungry, the sick, the ill and the bereaved.
little finger this is the smallest and the last finger on your hand. Pray for yourself.
When should I pray?
Traditionally, prayer times have been morning and evening, but you can choose a time which is best for you. It helps to be somewhere quiet, where you can have some time for yourself.
Do I have to kneel?
Kneeling is the traditional posture for penitence and standing for praise, but you can pray anywhere – walking, standing, sitting, whatever feels comfortable.
What else do I need to know?
Be creative – use music, a stone, a feather, a flower, or a candle to help you focus – if you are very young, or elderly, be careful with candles!
Prayer activity is a discipline – it can be difficult at times, just like keeping fit, being on a diet, or keeping weeds down in the garden! Little and often is best, but don’t give up! No prayer, however inadequate you may feel it to be, is ever wasted or of no value.
Build up a collection of favourite prayers and sayings -anything that speaks to you. You can find them in greeting cards, cuttings in the press or bookmarks and prayer cards. You could make a scrapbook for them.
Here are some books you might find helpful.
The Pocket Prayers series -especially Pocket Prayers for Children (also useful for adults first learning to pray) and Pocket Prayers (The Classic Collection) – both by Christopher Herbert and available from Church House Publishing.
How to Pray: Alone, with others, at any any time, in any place – Stephen Cottrell, Church House Publishing (2010)
Confirmation Prayer Book – Stephen Lake, SPCK (2002)
How to Pray: A User’s Guide – John Pritchard, SPCK (2011)
There are many, many more designed to help people like you. Prayer is life-enhancing. Try it!
(The above extract by Rt Revd David Stancliffe from Children and Holy Communion – Diana Murrie and Steve Pearce is copyright © Diana Murrie and Steve Pearce and is quoted here from http://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/learnpray.aspx)