A Guide to Prayer
Much prayer is corporate, that is to say we do it together and this is reflected in much of what you will say when you come to Church. Yet there is another side to our prayer life, our own individual prayers.
Whether you are a child, young person or an adult, it 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. Say what is in your heart, what you feel.
God hears every prayer - but not all prayers are answered in the way we might expect or desire!
'Arrow' Prayers can be offered to God anywhere, at any time.
Thankfully we don't (usually) 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?
There are lots of ways and the next few pages are some examples of how we might begin to pray.
However you pray, and whether you have your own way or use one of the ways described in this Booklet, it is always good to have a few general guidelines -
Wherever it is possible set aside regular times for prayer.
Have some idea of what and who you want to pray for.
Ask God in prayer, but don’t forget to give thanks as well.
Try some of the patterns on the following pages.
Prayer Pattern 1 Use your hand.
Your fingers can be used to bring to your 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 that support and sustain you.
Index finger - this is the pointing finger.
Pray for all those people and organisations in your life which guide and help you.
Examples might be friends, teachers, doctors, nurses, emergency services and so on.
Middle finger - this is the tallest finger.
Pray for all the people who have power, like world leaders and their governments,
Members of Parliament and local councillors, the Royal Family, and the people who support them in their work.
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.
Prayer Point 1
Do I have to kneel to pray? Only if you want to.
Prayer Pattern 2 ACTS
This serves to remind us of the Prayer life of the early church and the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ but it is also a jolly good acronym for a daily prayer discipline -
A - is for Adoration.
Begin your time of prayer by acknowledging how great God really is -
One of the prayers in the anthology section begins, ‘You are holy, Lord, the only God, and your deeds are wonderful....’
C - is for Confession.
Then move into a time in which you bring before God anything which you know is not right in your life.
Someone once said, ‘the only sins God is aware of are the ones we haven’t told Him about’!!
The great gift of God where sin is concerned is the gift of forgiveness - so tell Him.
T - is for Thanksgiving.
Very often prayer can become a shopping list of ‘God... will you do this, that and the other’.
Nothing at all wrong with such asking, but it is a good idea to give thanks first.
S - is for Supplication.
This is when we ask God to hear our prayers.
Sometimes these can be simple prayers, God bless mummy, daddy, nanny, grampy, auntie dot etc, etc, etc.....
other times they can be focussed on one person or particular need.
It is good to finish with a formal prayer - The Lord’s Prayer is an example of such a concluding prayer.
Prayer Point 2
Is silence needed for prayer? No - but it is helpful not to have too much distracting ackground noise.
Prayer Pattern 3 Lord - how do we pray?
Jesus’ followers asked him this question - and he replied by relating to them the prayer which is the most famous in the world, the one we call the ‘Lord’s Prayer’.
This has 3 sections - The first section consists of a series of statements about God. The second section is a series of requests with a ‘twist’ The third section has been added by the church as a concluding sentence. The Lord’s Prayer can be used as a framework for our own prayers by using each phrase as a starter for our own prayers as follows:
Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
this is rather like the A in Acts (see previous page) and is an acknowledgement of God’s holiness.
After you have said these words, take time to praise God who is the infinite creator God.
thy kingdom come; thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.
This continues the theme of God’s greatness and can lead us to pray for the ministry of His church on earth,
that His mission will be done on earth, and it can help us to focus prayers on places where there is strife and unrest.
Give us this day our daily bread.
This begins the second section of the prayer and it is an opportunity for us to pray for our needs;
as another prayer puts it, ‘that which is most expedient for us’.
There is nothing wrong with praying for our self —— sometimes we need to earnestly!
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.
This is a confessional with a two edged sword. We need to bring before God those things which are wrong in our life;
our impatience, temper, intemperance, harsh words, impure thoughts and all that might be described as ‘sin’.
But when others wrong us we need to be able to forgive them.
So in this section, as hard as it may be, we need to pray for those who have hurt us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
This section gives us an opportunity to pray for things that are coming up in the future -
that meeting or appointment, that holiday or contract, anything which we are planning.
It is an opportunity to listen to God’s word before we make decisions -
but careful though, it is not meant to help us prevaricate
or have someone (God) to blame if we make the wrong decision.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
This is the part added by the church and we can use this to conclude our prayer time with thanksgiving and praise.
Prayer Point 3
Do I need to write things down for prayer? Some people keep a prayer diary and find this very useful, it isn’t obligatory, but try it and see if it helps.
Prayer Pattern 4 Songs of Praise
Music and hymns are terribly subjective. What is music to the soul for one person is trite naffness to another. Many Christian hymns are based directly on scripture, ‘The Lord’s my shepherd’ being Psalm 23 is a famous example. Other hymns are songs of praise, others teach Christian values. Many can be a vehicle for prayer. Think of your favourite hymn or perhaps just a verse of that hymn, break it down into a series of segments and then pray using these as guides. Take this as an example:
Amazing Grace - This tells us something of the awesomeness of God.
Spend a few moments thinking and praying about the amazing gifts of life,
love and all the things we hold to be most precious.
how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me - This speaks of God’s unconditional forgiveness.
John Newton, who wrote this hymn, was once a slave ship captain who sold fellow humans into slavery.
Yet he (eventually!) repented of this sin and received total forgiveness.
We can bring before God the things that burden us and can confidently receive forgiveness -
not cheap forgiveness, but bought by Jesus at the price of His death on the cross.
I once was lost, but now am found - This could lead us into prayers
for those parts of the world where the Christian message is not heard.
Was blind, but now I see - Here we might pray for people in authority,
especially those who have authority but no accountability.
Different hymns can have different themes, perhaps a different one each day or week.
Prayer Pattern 5 Focused Prayer
It can be very helpful to focus on something as you pray. Some examples of this are :
Candles - Think about what or who you are going to pray for. Then light one or more candles. If you are going to pray for one person or thing, maybe just light one candle, if for several then perhaps light one candle for each. Night lights (tea lights) are very good and can burn for a long time. There are short stubby candles which are sold as ‘church candles’ and are very good for this. You can buy wrought iron candlesticks very easily these days to allow candles to be ‘3D’ in their effect.
Icons - Icons are very special pictures. They are not images in the manner proscribed by the second commandment. Icons have been described as ‘Doorways to the Sacred’ and they are used to help us focus not on the picture itself, but on what is ‘behind’ the picture. So, an Icon of Christ is not an idol or image, but a doorway to help us focus on the divinity of Christ. Very often they can be used to concentrate prayers on the nature of God and can be aids to praise and thanksgiving. Candles and Icons can be used together.
Pictures - The use of pictures can help us in many ways and a picture of nature in all its glory can be a tremendous aid to prayer. Pictures that are not pretty can also be helpful in aiding our prayers for those in need.
Music - The use of music can be a wonderful aid to prayer. Such music can be ancient or modern, simple or grand, short or long, played once or played repetitively. You can chose different music to help prayer with different themes.
Incense - This can be used to give a sense of well being - after all, prayer should touch all our senses.