Section 6—The Purpose of Prayer

After a lifetime within the church, I still struggle with the concept of prayer. Often, particularly in times of difficulty people will seek to reassure you with the promise that “I will pray for you”. What form does that prayer take? At my most cynical I would say it is handing the situation over to God, and so discharging any personal responsibility!

In our churches we invariably pray:

  • for the lonely—but do not operate a friendship group or visiting rota.
  • for the poor—but still insist on spending good money on buildings used one hour a week and often no longer fit for purpose rather than fund a community project at home or abroad.
  • for the sick—but consider a hospital visit too risky or demanding, and it’s the clergy’s job anyway.
  • for the outcast—but are selective whom we welcome into our congregation.

Is it very wrong of me to consider prayer, in the context of our traditional understanding, to be a cop-out!

As I understand it, prayer or more acceptably “thinking about you” means standing in the shoes of the person in your thoughts. It means empathy and action, giving of oneself, not sending a few words heavenwards and leaving the outcome up to God!


  • What is your understanding of prayer?
  • Do you feel comfortable with the idea of getting involved?
  • Does the spoken word play an important part or are you happy with inner thoughts?
  • Would you say that prayer is hollow unless it is accompanied by action?

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You can find the next section of this study here.