The family is the center building block on which our society is built. Strengthen the family, and society itself will be strengthened. What better way to strengthen ourselves and our families than with prayer! The power of family prayer is undervalued in our society. Instead, our families are judged as “successful” based on their income, academic successes, how busy we are with extracurricular activities and how emotionally well-adjusted our kids are.
If our families are to be busy, it should be busy with things such as prayer and living out our lives as good examples of Christians. The old adage, “A family that prays together, stays together,” is an undeniable truth. We know prayer is powerful, so why don’t we allow God to multiply our prayers by praying as a family?
In Matthew 18:20, the bible says, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Jesus is always with us yet often we take it for granted. We know it is true in theory, but do we feel His presence in every part of our day? What if there was a way to keep that truth in the forefront of our minds? A way that we literally “live” in Him and He in us.
That way is prayer, specifically family prayer.
I have had the best intentions to have our family pray together since before even my first child was born. As an engaged couple, my husband and I discussed how important we thought prayer should be in our family and how it was an important part of our family life we intended to in-state. There have been times of intermittent family prayer in our 14 years of marriage, but it has not been consistent. I want to make this a non-negotiable for our family. Something that my kids grow up being able to say to others, “yeah, we did family prayer time every day.”
I decided it is time to act and I have developed a “Family Prayer Challenge” designed to get our family in the groove of making family prayer a priority and a habit. I would love if your family will join us in this Family Prayer Challenge.
Have I convinced you yet on the importance of family prayer and that the time to start is NOW? If not, llet me give you a few more compelling reasons.
Reasons for Family Prayer
1-Strengthens Family Bonds
By praying aloud, you can learn each other’s needs and dreams. Giving you a glimpse into the soul of each of member your family members, you come to know their deepest struggles and joys. It becomes easier to forgive trespasses when you can understand how they perceive the world.
2-Encourages Forgiveness and Heals
When each family member speaks their intentions out loud, it brings to light hurts that our actions may have caused even if we did not intend to harm each other emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Being aware of how our actions impact others can begin the process of healing those wounds and damaged relationships.
3-Strengthens Communication in Families
Praying is a way of communication, not only with God but with each other. Good communication takes practice. We are not always comfortable speaking about our innermost desires and heartaches but praying out loud together helps develop strong communication habits.
4-Prayer Protects from Evil
Prayer is POWERFUL.
5-Builds Unity Within a Family
It is comforting to know it is not you against the world. It can actually help siblings see each other as allies and friends instead of just squabbling partners.
6-Demonstrates Living Out our Faith
Prayer gives us an opportunity to not just “talk the talk,” but to “walk the walk” being a living example to others of God's love.
So I challenge you to take 15 minutes and reflect on the following questions to prepare for the Family Prayer Challenge.
1. When is the best time of day for my family to gather for prayer?
In the morning before we all go off in different directions, at dinner (or maybe right after so the food doesn’t get cold!), right before bedtime. Consistency should be the focus, so think about what part of your day is easiest to find the time where every family member is available.
2. Where is the best place to gather for family prayer time?
Think about what area of your house (inside or outside) has comfortable seating for all family members and is free from the most distractions. Make sure all phones are on silent and all devices are put away. Have a bible, a rosary, paper, pencils, and prayer printouts, cards, or books at the ready.
3. How much time should I set aside for our prayer time?
This will be dependent on the ages of your children. Obviously, the younger they are, the shorter their attention span. I caution you to not place a great deal of importance on the duration of family prayer time. The quality of prayer time and the engagement from each family member is most important. So tailor the time frame according to the individual personalities and ages of your family members. Attempting to have a longer prayer time because that just seems like it’s the right thing to do, may actually diminish the effectiveness.
4. What role will each family member carry out during family prayer time?
Maybe that means for a 1 or 2-year-old just making the sign of the cross. For a 3-5 year old that may be repeating a prayer in chunks after a parent says it. Older children can take turns leading.
5. Revisit and revise your family prayer plan as time goes on.
Changes will happen. Children mature and our activities and obligations vary over time.
So, in the spirit of accountability, here is what I have decided for my family after reflecting:
Who are we? My husband and I, and four children ages 12, 8, 6, 2.
- My eight-year-old is dyslexic so she can’t necessarily read the prayers and reflections we will be doing.
- My 6-year-old seems uncomfortable with anything to do with prayer. He balks and refuses to make the sign of the cross. Maybe it is part his personality, but I know it is a direct reflection on the lack of family prayer that has made up most of his life.
My 2-year-old has a speech delay, so for right now I will need to focus on teaching her the actions associated with praying like the sign of the cross, praying hands, bowed head. And also focus on simple words like “Jesus,” “God,” “Thank you,” “Mary,” “Amen.”
1.When will family prayer time be?
Goal-We are usually all together for dinner time. So after we eat and clear the dishes from the table.
Backup Plan-Sometimes dinner doesn’t happen together, so maybe a backup plan would be right before we put everyone down for bed. Since my husband and I split up to put the 8, 6, and 2-yr.-old down, before bedtime not right at bedtime would work best.
2. Where will we gather?
In our living/family room. I am undecided on whether we should sit in a circle on the floor or if it would be okay for each person to sit on sofa, chair, ottomans. Our furniture arrangement is pretty spread out and typically the kids fight over space when sitting on the sofa. I will try different options out to see what works best.
3. How long will we pray together?
I am going to try 5 minutes. I would love to do a solid 15 minutes but I think it is better to start with a small time frame but consistently do it every day. Also, as my kids get older I would like us to work up to praying a full rosary together each time.
4. What role will each of us play in our family prayer time?
Based on the ages and needs of each of our children, I will assign them each a role to play every time.
I will have my 6-year-old (who is the most uncomfortable with prayer) lead the sign of the cross and have him focus on going through the motions slowly to help our 2-year-old learn it. The rest of us will follow along and say the parts of the sign of the cross slowly so the 6-year-old can learn the words associated with the actions.
My 8-year-old likes to organize and do teacher-like tasks. She is also dyslexic and has a hard time reading.
Prayer is about RELATIONSHIP with GOD.
Relationships cannot be forced. Therefore, each of your family members will develop a relationship with God through prayer at their own pace. Strong relationships take time, effort, and nurturing. So remember that your focus is to help your child begin a relationship with Jesus and family prayer helps to nurture that relationship.
Also, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to pray. There are many different forms of prayer, i.e. formal, spontaneous, contemplative, and simply having a conversation with God. The type of prayer that may appeal or come naturally to each child will vary because of individual personalities and maturity levels. During your family prayer time, explore the different forms of prayer so that you can expose your children to the different possibilities. Allow them to pursue the form that feels most comfortable for them.