Houses of Prayer

What is Houses of Prayer?

Developed by Chester Diocese, we are a group of parishes seeking to appreciatively enquire and be more intentional, invitational and open for visitors to pray, (experience spiritual encounter with God), as one aspect of mission. This is because one of the foundational roles of church buildings has always been to be a ‘House of Prayer’ for all, wherever they are on the spiritual journey. But are we open for visitors outside service times? Do we intentionally welcome and encourage non-members of the church to pray? Do we help people know how to pray? Creating spaces and resources for prayer is about how churches can work with their context to develop something meaningful.

Would you like to be part of the Houses of Prayer group? 

Would you like to think this through with other interested parishes, share experiences and learn from one another? Then join our group of nearly 40 parishes. We meet about every couple of months, either in person or online, with a few updates circulated by email between meetings. If you would like to join, please contact Rebecca Hathaway, Outreach Administrator, at rebecca.hathaway@chester.anglican.org. Also, see the Houses of Prayer Facebook page

Resources for creating prayer spaces

  • Prayer Resources List. The Houses of Prayer group have put together this list of useful resources to help parishes think about creating prayer spaces or providing resources for visitors to take away.
  • COVID-secure prayer stations, guidance by Thy Kingdom Come, although relevant at any point in the year.
  • Outdoor prayer spaces in the Diocese. Here's a summary of just some of the creative ways parishes in our Diocese have used their outside spaces for prayer during the COVID-19 pandemic 2020/21.

Research about spirituality and prayer 

Did you know research shows non-members of the church are interested in prayer?

1. Churches, COVID-19 and Communities: research report by the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture, University of York

Included in this research are findings about how local communities (beyond the church congregation), have wanted to come to church buildings to pray during the pandemic, see Section 2.2.1: ‘Church buildings: spirituality, individual wellbeing, and worship', (p55-65). Key findings include:

  • 45%, nearly 1 in 2, non members of the church surveyed said during the coronavirus pandemic they might have wanted to come to a church building to pray or leave a prayer request
  • 41% said light a candle
  • Other reasons for wanting to visit church buildings connect with a prayerful ambience: 75% said for quiet reflection, 68% peaceful space, 50% remembering someone who has died, and 30% needing space to seek a new perspective.

This means the desire for prayer goes far beyond the church congregation. Non-members of the church wanted to come to church buildings for prayer or reflection.

2. Talking Jesus research

Key factors in practicing Christians coming to faith revealed (p23):

  • Nearly one in four (24%) said ‘an experience of the love of Jesus Christ’.
  • One in six (17%) said an ‘unexplained spiritual experience’
  • Combined, these total 41% attributing spiritual encounter as key to coming to faith. This is on par with ‘Growing up in a Christian family’
  • If ‘Dreams and visions’ (3%) and ‘Visiting/praying in open churches’ (4%) were added, this totals 48%!
  • This means about 1 in 2 (48%) practicing Christians attribute spiritual encounter as a key factor in coming to faith
  • The most popular word-associations with Jesus were ‘spiritual, loving and peaceful’ (p12)

3. The power of invitation

Learning from the Culture of Invitation about the power of inviting people, this can be applied to creating prayer spaces. They need to be public-facing; in other words, not based on the assumption that only people connected with church will want to pray or ask for prayer. How can your church welcome people to pray, and make it easy for them to do so? How can you promote your church being open for prayer in the locality? Do people who use the church hall know they can use the church building for prayer? How can you be more invitational? 

Reflections and questions for you to consider:

Based on this research and experience within the Houses of Prayer group, being more intentional and invitational with offering space for non-members of the church to pray may have a positive impact in helping people explore their spirituality further.

Of course, encouraging and offering prayer is a treasure we can share during our everyday lives beyond the church walls; prayer can happen anywhere! Church buildings are only one space to connect with people in this way. So this is more about using what we have well in the church building and churchyard/grounds, rather than limiting the thinking to only consider these spaces. 

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  1. Does this research alter your thinking about how we share the Good News of Christ? How?
  2. What implications does it have for your parish in thinking about ways for people to encounter Christ?
  3. What might you do next?


Page last updated: 14th June 2021 12:32 PM