Extemporary is a churchy word to describe prayers in our own words that are not pre-planned; whatever is on your heart. While for many Christians our entire prayer life uses extemporary prayer, just as many of us find it an unfamiliar, perhaps even too informal way of communing with God.
This very informality can be treasured and has led this type of prayer to be called a conversation between you and God, though that can sound easier than it is. How do we have a conversation with an omnipotent being, who we can’t visually see or audibly hear? And why? Below are a few ways to start exploring extemporary prayer.
If prayer can be a conversation with a Loving God then…
- You don’t need to be eloquent or have something prepared. You can just talk from where you are, like you would to your closest friend.
- You listen as well as talk – conversations are two-way!
- You can do it anywhere – walking down the street, at home, at university, shopping, cycling, with friends or alone.
- You don’t have to pretend to be happy, or pretend at all, God knows any way – so what’s the point? You can even complain, or scream if that’s how you feel!
Does God answer prayer?
Many Christians would say: 'Yes, always!' But sometimes it doesn't feel like it...
It largely depends on what you think prayer is. If you pray for a particular thing to happen and it doesn't appear to - then perhaps it was the wrong thing to be praying for. Or else, perhaps your prayer was answered but not in a way that you expected or can recognise.
If we believe in a loving God who cares for all of creation for each individual, regardless of who or what they are, then we need to believe that God will not ignore us. Perhaps too when we pray for God to do something in a situation, we ourselves should be more involved in making that prayer happen. Why pray for God to end all famines – if we don't do anything to help? Prayer is never an excuse for not being involved ourselves.
“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words.” Psalm 17:6
Many people find this acrostic useful to structure their prayers…
Adoration – start by expressing your love and praise to God. (Luke 1 46-55)
Confession – admit your mistakes and shortcomings and offer up those parts of you that you which to change. (Daniel 9:4-11)
Thanks – give thanks for all that God has given and done for you. (Exodus 15:1-19)
Supplication – asking for God’s help and movement in the world is the last part of your prayer. (Genesis 25:21)
This resource was written by Revd Terry Biddington. Terry is a university chaplain and author of Recipes for Good Living: The Beginner’s Guide to Spirituality.
Prayer and Liturgy