There are times when prayer comes spontaneously; in a dire emergency, a quick prayer for help; when something lovely or pleasurable has happened, a warm 'thank you' to God; a prayer for forgiveness on realising meanness or selfishness; a prayer of awe and adoration in the face of beauty or wonder,
One part of growth in prayer is a greater awareness of the activity of God around us and in us so that those brief prayers become an ever-increasing part of our life.
When we come to prayer in a group or when we have set aside a time for personal prayer, or when we go to church, our minds or our emotions may be pre-occupied or agitated. In these conditions it would be unrealistic to think that we can start praying immediately. In this situation it can be helpful to prepare by attempting to let go of worries and distractions and trying to be attentive to the reality of God around us and within us. This is sometimes called ‘centring down’. You may regard this time as prayer-in-itself or simply as a preparation for prayer. It can in any event be a good place to start.