THE online fitness guru Joe Wicks is on a mission to become “the PE teacher for the nation”.

Over the past week he has posted a daily 30 minute workout on his YouTube channel which within days had been livestreamed by more than a million people, as thankful parents across the nation rejoicing as children with energy to burn joined in with the high intensity routines.

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Of course it won’t just be children. Getting fit, or fitter, will be one of the goals set by those seeking to turn the challenges of the lockdown into opportunities. For some it will be a time to learn, with a friend recently telling me that all three of her grown up children had installed the duo lingo app in order to spend the time becoming fluent in another language.

For others the goals may be deeper.

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The German theologian Karl Barth wrote that “to clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world”. Just like keeping mentally or physically fit it is something that can be a discipline or occasionally practised – sometimes at moments of crisis or despair

A Survey by ComRes published in 2018 found that over half of all adults in the UK pray at sometime with one in five saying they pray even though they wouldn’t describe themselves as religious. Among the non-religious, personal crisis or tragedy is the most common reason for praying, with one in four saying they pray to gain comfort or feel less lonely.

At its simplest prayer is an opening up of yourself to God – thinking, reflecting, bringing worries and concerns into a bigger picture. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, described it as a stillness akin to birdwatching, spending time waiting to catch sight of the movement of God within. Taken seriously prayer is a discipline - difficult at times – but with the reward of encountering God fully and changing the way that we think about our lives, through creating new habits of heart and mind.

It’s unsurprising that the survey found that when people prayed, 71 per cent of them prayed for other people. At this time when we are all called to look out for our neighbours and our families, looking after their spiritual welfare as well as their practical concerns could be one of the greatest gifts we have to offer.

Wanting to pray can be the beginning of a relationship with God that can grow and grow. Find the way of praying that is right for you. Explore different ways of praying. Listen as well as speak. Give thanks as well as ask for help. Don’t just look for results. Don’t give up when it gets hard. Trying to pray is praying. Often the hardest thing about prayer is beginning. So just start.

  • Arun Arora is vicar of St Nicholas Church, Durham