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What is prayer?

Prayer is simply the expression of our relationship with God. This is both more and less than what we often make it!

Often prayer is reduced to intercession, asking God for things on behalf of others or ourselves. Imagine having a friend that only ever asks you to do things for them! In a good friendship you might also do things together, or natter about the state of the world, or argue and forgive, or sometimes simply spend time sitting side by side in silence.

On the other hand, prayer can be made very complicated. It can sometimes seem that you have to use a particular technique or combination of special words in order to get close to God. Yes, words and techniques can help, but they are not the be all and end all. Sometimes your friend would simply appreciate a listening ear.

At root, you are infinitely loved by God, and God is waiting and longing to be with you.

You might like to find out more about the life of prayer in the Cathedral, and join in.

We have also provided some guidance on different forms of prayer, and information about helpful resources.

Starting Out

If you don’t know where to start, recognise that it’s a good thing that you want to start. That’s a prayer in itself. Archbishop Michael Ramsey once said: “if in sincerity you cannot say that you want God you can perhaps tell him that you want to want him; and if you cannot say even that perhaps you can say that you want to want to want him!”

Like life, prayer can be seen as a journey, a journey into God. No one has all the answers. The good news is that a lot of people having been journeying in prayer over the centuries, and have developed route maps and resources that can help you.

Two tips: do start small and manageable; and don’t feel guilty. The important thing is to begin. We are all beginners after all.

Forms of Prayer

There are as many forms of prayer as there are people and relationships with God.

God reveals Godself in many different ways: through the extraordinary creation; through other people in their joys and sorrows; through the scriptures and intellectual exploration; and through the imagination and subconscious.

People have different characters and are naturally drawn to experience God in different ways. For example, you might feel close to God when you are walking in the countryside listening to birdsong; or when sitting alongside someone in hospital; or when reading the Bible or studying science; or in silent meditation or poetry. We also change over time, so the ways we experience God change too.

Then some people prefer to spend time with other people, and others prefer to spend time alone. Some find more structure helpful, and others prefer more spontaneity. So different forms of prayer suit different people at different times.

The Cathedral offers many opportunities for corporate prayer in its ongoing cycle of services. It also provides a sacred space for private prayer. There are groups that practise contemplative prayer and prayer for healing together. We hope that the resources in this part of our website will help you in your exploration and practice of prayer.