Reopening church buildings for private prayer


Author: James Burden

Following the government’s announcement about churches and private prayer, what does this mean for older people? Why is individual prayer so important?

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has been meeting regularly with a ‘Places of Worship’ task group on opening buildings for prayer, which has included the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Westminster and Daniel Singleton from the independent network Faith Action.

From Monday 15 June places of worship will be permitted to open for individual prayer in line with social distancing guidelines. Robert Jenrick MP said: “Ensuring places of worship can open again, beginning with individual prayer has been my priority. Their contribution to the common good of our country is clear, as places of solace, comfort, stability and dignity. And the need for them is all the greater as we weather the uncertainties of the pandemic.”

These words are interesting. There is a recognition in this of the common good provided by churches, even by church buildings, and the need for “solace, comfort, stability and dignity” in the face of coronavirus.

Many older people have longstanding and personal connections with the building in which they worship. It may be the place where they or their family were christened or married or buried. However, churches in other countries who have opened sooner than the UK have found people are ‘too afraid’ to go even when they are open. There may be concerns about church hygiene, despite guidelines from denominations on this, and about travel and health risk, and fear of a very different experience to normal. And we must not forget that many church communities do not own their church building (and so cannot necessarily just open it again).

Places of worship still have discretion over when they consider it safe to open and may decide to remain closed or reopen at a slower pace if they wish. Other religions are not rushing, particularly where they have more of a focus on communal rather than individual prayer.

Matthew 18:20 says that ‘where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them’ – but we also know Jesus made it a habit to pray alone. We can pray with others over the phone, and we can continue to grow in our faith whether or not we choose to go to a church building during continued ‘lockdown’.

The Bible says that when Christians believe that in Christ the “solace, comfort, stability and dignity” referred to by the Secretary of State can be found even without a building.

Here are some prayers and verses which can be prayed individually at home or in a church:


God of love and hope, you made the world and care for all creation. But the world feels strange right now. The news is full of stories about Coronavirus. Many people are anxious because of it. Many people are anxious that they might get ill. Many people are anxious about their family and friends. Be with them in their worries and help them to find some peace. We pray for the doctors and nurses and scientists who are working to discover the right medicines to give hope to those who are ill. Thank you that even in these strange and worrying times, you are with us. Help us to look for the signs of your goodness and love towards us. Amen.


Lord God, you are always with me. You are with me in the day and in the night. You are with me when I’m happy and when I’m sad. You are with me when I’m healthy and when I am ill. You are with me when I am peaceful and when I am anxious. Today I am feeling (name how you are feeling) because (reasons you are feeling this way). Help me to remember that you love me and are with me in everything today. Amen.

These prayers are from the United Reformed Church free online resource which can be found on our resource hub here.


From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. – Psalm 90:2

Almighty God, to know You are unchanging gives me peace in a frighteningly changing world.

From Billy Graham’s daily devotions.


Galatians 3:28 says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 139:13 reminds us that God “formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm139:14).

Thank you Father God that you treat us with dignity, even when it can feel like the world does not. Please help us to treat others – all others – with the dignity they deserve.