prayers are a ritual in our family. Each night before my daughter, Maddie, goes
to bed, I lie down next to her and we say our prayers. Sometimes it takes a
few minutes as we make our way through the list of family and friends she asks
God to watch over. Other nights it takes longer as we talk about something exciting
we did that day or she asks questions about certain prayers—such as "What are
they going to do to Grandpa?" before his recent angiogram.
For my son, Alex, who is too young to say his own prayers, I pray
for him as I rock him to sleep.
I would suspect that the ritual of bedtime prayers is pretty common
in most families, as is the mealtime prayer. In the busy lives of families today,
those seem to be especially opportune times to slow down and pray. But the Church
offers many opportunities for your family to reap the benefits of prayer throughout
Many Ways of Praying
St. Paul said that we should "pray unceasingly." That may seem
impossible, but if you think of all the ways the Church offers us to pray, it's
really not that hard to fit it into our schedules.
For instance, here are just a few of the ways the Church encourages
The Divine Office is a cycle of prayers, psalms, antiphons and readings
that are said or sung at specific times throughout the day.
The Morning Offering is an opportunity for families to recite a prayer first
thing in the morning as a reminder to offer up to God everything
you may encounter throughout the day. You can find the pope's
monthly intention for the Morning Offering at www.apostleship-prayer.org.
The Angelus is a group of prayers traditionally recited at six in
the morning, noon and six in the evening. Your parish bells may ring at these
times to remind you to stop for this prayer. The Angelus is prayed by reciting
three sets of Scripture verses and Hail Marys, followed by a short prayer.
Making Prayer Part of Your Daily Life
In addition to those traditions mentioned above, there are other
ways of incorporating prayer into your family's daily life. Some of those ways
are reciting traditional prayers, singing, mealtime prayers, bedtime prayers,
praying before Mass, etc.
Have your family explore and discuss ways to make prayer a part
of their lives. Here are some suggestions to help get you started:
Make your prayers your own. My grandpa would always add, "St. Joseph,
patron of a happy death, pray for us," to the end of our dinnertime
prayers. It struck me as rather odd and morbid to be praying
for a happy death just before dinner, so that line was dropped
from my family prayers. Your prayers should reflect what's
important to you and what concerns you and your family.
Go with the flow. One evening after being at my sister's house, Maddie
prayed before dinner for her dad's safety. My husband, Mark,
was a bit puzzled until I explained that she was mimicking
my sister's kids whose father is a police officer and is at
work during their dinnertime. For Maddie, though, the idea
of praying for her own dad's safety seemed perfectly logical.
Assign each member of the family a different evening to lead the family
prayer. They can create their own prayer, read a poem or recite
a familiar prayer. Ask everyone to offer one petition for
someone or something for which the family should pray.
In his book Raising Faith-filled Kids (Loyola Press), author
Tom McGrath offers "Forty Ways to Foster Prayer in Your Home,"
such as, "Pray for the person in need when you hear an ambulance's
siren." Put some of his ideas into practice.
If someone in the family has something important happening in his or
her day, such as a meeting, test or appointment, stop and
say a prayer at the time the event is taking place.
Start each morning and end each day with a prayer of thanksgiving.
Let prayer get you through trying times. I don't mean only times of
illness, death, conflict, etc., either. Lots of times when
Maddie and Alex are being particularly challenging, I'll often
stop and pray for patience, understanding or whatever I need
to help me act in a calm and loving way.
Check out one of the following books from St. Anthony
Messenger Press: The
Blessing Cup: Prayer Rituals for Families and Groups,
by Rock Travnikar, O.F.M.; Thresholds
to Prayer, by Kathy Coffey; The
Blessing Candles, by Gaynell Bordes Cronin & Jack
Rathschmidt, O.F.M.Cap.; and Everyday
Prayers for Children, by Lois Rock.
Next Month: The Dignity of Work