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Prayers are read at the beginning of each sitting of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. During prayers the doors and galleries of the Houses are closed and strangers (visitors) are excluded.

In the House of Commons MPs stand for prayers, facing the wall behind them – a practice sometimes attributed to the difficulty of kneeling to pray whilst wearing a sword. Prayers are usually read by the Speaker’s Chaplain but at times other members of the clergy have deputised. On rare occasions in the absence of clergy the Speaker has read the prayers. Since 1997 an additional prayer has been used on the day after the death of an MP has been reported to the House.

In the House of Lords when the House sits judicially, prayers are read before judicial business and not when the House resumes for public business. They are usually read by one of the Bishops, who take a week each in turn, apart from the two Archbishops and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester. In the absence of a Bishop, prayers are read by a Lord who is a member of the clergy of the Church of England, if one is present. If no such Lord is present, the Lord on the Woolsack reads them.

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