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By Susan Hines-Brigger

Praying As a Family


Many Ways of Praying
Making Prayer Part of Your Daily Life
For Teens: Talking With God
For Kids: Dear God


Bedtime 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 the day.

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 prayer:

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

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



For Teens: Talking With God

With school, work, afterschool activities, friends and family, your life is probably pretty busy and stressful. The thought of adding one more thing, such as prayer, to your schedule may seem overwhelming.

Taking the time for prayer can help you cope with everything else going on in your life. Have you ever thought you would feel better if you could just get something off your chest, but didn't know to whom you should say it? Tell God. Or has there been a time when you really wanted or needed to talk to someone but no one was home, the phone was busy or the person wasn't online? Talk to God.

Prayer offers you a time out of your busy life to talk—one-on-one—with God. God's always there to listen. And don't think that your prayers have to be formal. Sometimes the most sincere prayers are those that come straight from the heart, such as "God, give me the strength to handle this situation."

For more help on developing your prayer life, check out Youth Update's "Pray by Reading," by Austin Newberry, or "Praying With the Silence of God," by Christopher Bellitto. Both are available on this site.

For Kids: Dear God

When you want to talk to someone who doesn't live near you, and you can't call him or her, how do you communicate? You might write that person a letter to tell what is going on in your life. Well, since prayer is a way of talking to God, why not write a letter or draw a picture telling God what's going on in your life?


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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