It seems to me that there seem to be two common misconceptions about prayer. The first, particularly among those who do not think of themselves as being particularly religious, is that you only pray when you are in trouble. The second is that prayer is a kind of add-on to the real business of leading a Christian life: we pray for God’s blessing on our endeavours but do not necessarily ask his opinion beforehand about what we should actually be doing!

Prayer is the heart-beat of the church. It is not so much important as essential – better to pray badly than not at all – and you don’t always have to use words.

To be sure there are as many ways of praying as there are Christians – the ways you find helpful might not be the same as mine. Some people are particularly called to intercessory prayer: that is to pray for God’s help and blessing for particular people and situations (e.g. praying for those who are ill or worried; praying for justice and peace etc.). Some may spend time reflecting on God’s word in the Bible, while for others sitting in silence, listening out for God’s voice, will be their particular calling. For most of us it is likely that there are two or three ways we find most natural. Part of our discipline of prayer, I think, should, if possible, include praying with others – whether in church, in the park or in someone’s home.

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