Giles Fraser ruminates on the subject:
Some people, I suppose, may think of prayer as a peculiar way of making things happen in the world. And it would indeed be a quite a fringe benefit to religious belief if it granted believers the ability to change the course of the universe simply by closing their eyes, squeezing their hands together, and submitting a request to the divine omnipotence that things be otherwise. Yes, it is easy to be sarcastic at the philosophical naivety of this view. But is this really what people do?
The great Michael Ramsey, archbishop of Canterbury throughout the 1960s, was once asked how to pray. “I just get down on my knees and hope for the best,” he replied. In other words, there is not much that you have to do other than make time for it. For Ramsey, prayer was not the heaping up of pious chatter. It was not a peculiar way of getting things done in the world. Rather, it was about listening and waiting – being attentive to that which is beyond oneself, a form of concentration on that which is other.
Even non-believer Andrew Brown found meaning in prayer while attending a recent Church of England service:
I’m happy to kneel in prayer even though I can’t believe there’s anyone out there: not even the congregation, who are too busy lost in their own ritual. But it’s a cure for haste and pride and self-pity just to wait and listen, even if there is no one to hear. I even went up to the communion rail to take a blessing. Why not? What harm can blessing do? I don’t suppose that most, or any, of the congregation were theologians, and in any case I am never quite sure what theology means: it always appears to me as a purely rhetorical performance. So I didn’t wonder what it was like to believe in the Trinity, or even the resurrection, or any of the miracles. I’ve no idea if anyone in the church was really capable of such things, in any sense that I can understand.