Diocese of Carlisle

What is Prayer?

Prayer is a way of life. It’s not just something we say or do, it’s about our whole life. It is a relationship, and as with any relationship we shouldn’t do all the talking we need to listen as well.

Prayer is a life-giving relationship. This is one reason why the great teachers of prayer - Antony, Benedict, Augustine, Francis and Ignatius - remind us that we need a regular routine of prayer, in order that prayer ceases to be merely an action; rather, it becomes who we are: Christians living prayerfully.

John Pritchard, in his excellent practical guide, How to Pray, points to the need for structure and discipline in order to build a prayerful relationship:

"The key is regularity. It doesn’t matter whether our way of starting the day with God is a snatched greeting or an extended conversation—the important thing is that is that it becomes part of the choreography of the morning. We don’t have to think each morning about whether we’re to clean our teeth or not, because it’s part of the routine. We just do it, without agonizing, and we know we’re the better for it. So with prayer."

We can learn words to say as part of our prayer life, and some well-known prayers are in the resources section. The Bible though advises us to base our lives on prayer. Prayer is our priority, which gives meaning and purpose to the rest of our life.

Living a prayerful life

"Prayer is sitting in the silence until it silences us, choosing gratitude until we are grateful, and praising God until we ourselves are an act of praise."

Richard Rohr, in Falling Upwards, understands prayer to be a way of living, to be about our relationship with God and God’s engagement with creation. Too often, prayer is talked of as something we do rather than the realisation that it is something we are: a living relationship with the divine. 

Thomas Keating, in Centering Prayer, expresses this intimacy with God which is vital to every faithful heart:

We rarely think of the air we breathe, yet it is in us and around us all the time. In similar fashion, the presence of God penetrates us, is all around us, is always embracing us’. 

For Rohr and Keating, therefore, the life of faith is a prayerful life. Times of prayer are therefore moments when we stop to recognise the greater truth is at work within us every moment of every day.

Links and Resources