Page last updated at 16:18 GMT, Thursday, 16 October 2008 17:18 UK

Prayers are said at the beginning of every sitting of Parliament, both in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

MPs and peers stand for prayers, facing the walls behind the benches.

One possible explanation for this historical practice is the logistical difficulty of kneeling while wearing a sword.

In the Commons the Speaker's Chaplain usually reads the prayers.

If they or a deputising member of the clergy are not available, the Speaker may do so.

The Speaker does not sit in the chair during prayers and strangers are not allowed to watch from the public galleries.

The Reverend Phyllis Bates became the first ever woman priest to read prayers in the Commons on June 29th 1994.

A number of senior Bishops (Lords Spiritual) sit in the Lords and one of them normally conducts prayers in the Lords.

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