Sittings in both Houses begin with prayers. These follow the Christian faith and there is currently no multi-faith element. Attendance is voluntary.
The practice of prayers is believed to have started in about 1558, and was common practice by 1567. The present form of prayers probably dates from the reign of Charles II. Members of the public are not allowed into the public galleries during prayers.
In the Commons
The Speaker's Chaplain usually reads the prayers. The form of the main prayer is as follows:
"Lord, the God of righteousness and truth, grant to our Queen and her government, to Members of Parliament and all in positions of responsibility, the guidance of your Spirit. May they never lead the nation wrongly through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy ideals but laying aside all private interests and prejudices keep in mind their responsibility to seek to improve the condition of all mankind; so may your kingdom come and your name be hallowed.
In the Lords
A senior Bishop (Lord Spiritual) who sits in the Lords usually reads the prayers. Prayers are read at the beginning of each sitting. The text of the Prayers read in the House of Lords is printed in the Companion to the Standing Orders.
Custom and practice
MPs and Peers stand for prayers facing the wall behind them. It is thought this practice developed due to the difficulty Members would historically have faced of kneeling to pray while wearing a sword.