We have all heard the phrase, “The family that prays together, stays together”. How many of us though have ever really thought about what that phrase truly means? How many of us have put the phrase into action? As Catholics, praying together at Mass comes naturally. But what about at home? Does it come as easy to us? Have we been taught to share our prayers with each other? How often do we ask each other, “will you pray with me?”
I have noticed that Protestants many times have a much easier time asking someone to come and pray with them. I’m not talking about saying, “will you pray for me?” but literally taking someone by the hands and saying let’s pray about this right now. I remember years ago when I went to a volunteer meeting at our local pregnancy resource center and at the end of the meeting one of the women came to me, took me by my hands and said, “I feel for some reason I am supposed to pray with you right now. Can we pray together?” Startled, I shook my head yes, and I think I may have even whispered yes as she closed her eyes and began to pray out loud. To say I was startled a little bit would be an understatement. That night I went home and thought about why it shook me up so much. I came to the conclusion that I had never been in a situation where someone wanted to pray with me instead of for me.
I thought a lot about my upbringing in the Catholic faith. Do we encourage prayer together outside of the Mass? I know that I was never encouraged (I was never discouraged either) to pray with others with the exception of morning prayer at school and prayer before meals. It made me a little bit sad. I liked that the woman was so comfortable in her faith and prayer life that she could easily take my hands and say a heartfelt prayer for me. It touched me and made me want something more.
As the years have passed and I have tried to incorporate more prayer in my life I have also tried to incorporate it into my family’s life. I want my children to always feel comfortable praying not only for someone but with someone. I want them to be able to grasp the hands of another person and pray right then and there. I want prayer to be ingrained in our lives so much that it is second nature to pray. I have gradually incorporated more prayer into our lives. I thought I would share a few ways that perhaps you can as well. As our children’s primary educators it is our duty to teach our children our faith and it is our duty to teach our children how to pray.
So, how can you bring more prayer into your family’s life?
- Begin praying when your children are babies. Pick a simple prayer and say it every night.
- Pray before and maybe even after meals.
- As your children get older each night pray as a family and ask them what intentions they want to pray for. You’ll be surprised at the prayer intentions on their hearts!
- Have objects that are associated with prayer around your home: a bible, rosaries that the kids can handle, prayer cards, holy water, prayer books.
- Set up a prayer table. Make sure the prayer table has a special place in your home. Place a crucifix, candles, a prayer box, perhaps a statue on the table. Make it a special place they will want to visit.
- Let your children see you pray! Our children learn though seeing and when they see us in prayer they naturally turn to prayer as well.
- When you hear of someone who has been hurt, or see a wreck, stop that minute and say a prayer as a family for the person in need, even if you don’t know them.
- As time progresses at your nightly prayer introduce a new prayer. It’s amazing how quickly our children learn prayers when they are said on a regular basis.
- Pray the rosary. If your children won’t sit still for a full rosary, pray a decade, but introduce them to the beauty of the rosary. Make sure each child has his or her own rosary to hold.
- Allow your children to lead prayer. Let them say either memorized prayers or ones that they make up. Let their hearts lead them.
- Pray quietly yourself and in private. If we want to be able to teach our children to pray we must also be praying on our own.
- Pray with your spouse. Nothing will bring a couple closer than praying together. When your relationship is healthy and happy it helps the entire family be healthy and happy.
Prayer should be the of the center point of our day. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “Our Lord walks among the pots and the pans.” This means that we can be in prayer no matter what we are doing. Christ is present in Mass but he is also there when we are cleaning, running errands, sitting at our children’s ball practices… he’s always with us and always listening! We should be in prayer throughout the day not just at Mass, at supper or at night before bed. The more we immerse ourselves in prayer the easier it will be to approach someone, take their hands and say, “I would like to pray with you.” If we start doing this in our own homes imagine how much easier it will be to approach a friend, an acquaintance or even a stranger. Jesus encouraged us to pray. He gave us the Lord’s Prayer and even modeled praying for us. What a tremendous blessing it is to be able to pray with and for each other!
How do you teach your children to pray?