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What Is Prayer?

Prayer is for everyone

by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the importance of prayer, with particular reference to the Prayers on the Move project.

Preparation and materials


  1. Ask the students to consider the activities that they have engaged in so far today. Maybe they leapt out of bed, grabbed breakfast, cycled to school, chatted with friends and so on.

  2. Ask the students to consider whether they have paused since the moment they got up this morning.

    Pause to allow time for thought.

    Point out that in our busy lives, we can often end up moving from one activity to another, without ever stopping to think.

  3. Ask the students, What is prayer?

    A straightforward answer would be that prayer is talking to God. However, many people would consider that prayer is more than us speaking to God; rather, it is also a process of God communicating with us. Many people believe that prayer brings peace, reduces stress, gives them hope, helps them to care more about others, decreases how much they worry and brings them joy.

    The actor Mark Wahlberg has said, ‘If I can start my day out by saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I’m doing the right thing. That ten minutes helps me in every way throughout the day.’

    For the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, prayer is at the centre of Christian life.

  4. In 2016, the Christian publisher SPCK set up a project called Prayers on the Move, which was advertised on public service networks throughout the UK. The aim was to encourage people to have a go at praying for the first time or to pray more often. The Archbishop of Canterbury supported the project, asking people to open themselves up to God and see what happened.

    Show the YouTube video ‘Archbishop of Canterbury: Christianity and Prayers on the Move’.

  5. Point out that during the video, the Archbishop states that prayer:

    - is a profound experience
    - is part of our daily life
    - is a means to know God and be known by God
    - opens people to God
    - is central to living in relationship with God
    - enables God to shape us
    - is God interacting with us

    Ask the students to consider each point in turn and consider whether these statements correlate with their own opinions and experiences of prayer. Explain that prayer is a personal experience.

  6. People pray in different ways, in different physical positions and using different words and phrases.

    There are several famous prayers that are still used today. One of these is the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus gave to the disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray.

    Invite a student to read the Lord’s Prayer.

  7. Explain that even a prayer that Jesus has given us can mean different things to different people. The following video asks some people which lines of the Lord’s Prayer stand out for them.

    Show the YouTube video ‘What line of the Lord’s Prayer stands out to you the most and why?’.

Time for reflection

In the first video we watched, the Archbishop of Canterbury said, ‘Prayers on the Move is trying to encourage people to open themselves to God. And when they open themselves to God, who knows what will happen in their lives – it’s the most exciting thing!’

Ask the students to reflect on whether they consider prayer to be an exciting thing.

Remind them that prayer is personal: it is us expressing our thoughts and feelings to God. We don’t have to use specific phrases or words; we can speak to God about anything using any vocabulary. Christians believe that people can come to God as they are and can speak to him at any time, anywhere.

The following videos show the prayers of four individuals.

Show each video, pausing to allow time for thought after each.

Prayer - Day 2
Pause to allow time for thought.

Prayer - Day 5
Pause to allow time for thought.

Prayer - Day 7
Pause to allow time for thought.

Prayer - Day 19
Pause to allow time for thought.

Encourage the students to consider praying. If they are interested, invite them to visit the Prayers on the Move website or download the Prayers on the Move app.


You may wish to use one of the following videos:

- The Lord’s Prayer Lyric Video – Hillsong Worship’, available at: (6.08 minutes long)
- ‘Our Father – Hillsong Worship’, available at: (4.49 minutes long)
- ‘Taizé – O Lord, hear my prayer’, available at: (just over an hour long)

Publication date: December 2019   (Vol.21 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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