Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Getting on track with family prayer
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the Sept. 9, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)
The start of the school year gives parents as well as kids a chance to make a new beginning. I look forward to a more structured routine in September, and try to refocus areas of family life that have drifted off course.
This summer we somehow slipped out of our habit of family prayer in the evenings. Planning fall schedules presents an opportunity to take a good look at our prayer practice, or lack there of, and make a new start.
Families can pray in countless ways, perhaps saying prayers like the Our Father, asking for our needs and the needs of others, singing our gratitude, or simply resting in silence in the loving gaze of God. Some families pray the rosary together. Others read and reflect on Scripture.
Here are some ideas to help make family prayer time easier.
Start simple. God does not have elaborate expectations for your family, but simply desires your time, attention and openness. Itís difficult to remain committed to family prayer that is too long or complicated. Young children especially need short prayer. As your children grow older, you can encourage them to take more time to pray on their own in addition to the family time.
Find a schedule that works for your family. The best time for prayer is the time that works best for you. For a number of years I drove my children to school every day and thatís when we prayed together. Choosing a regular time makes it easier to remember. Praying at bedtime has also worked well for us, although it became more difficult as our teenagers started staying our later. It may be that no time is perfect, and you just do the best you can.
Create a loose structure for prayer. Itís helpful if everyone knows going in about how long the prayer time will be and what it will include. Children are more apt to participate if they know what is expected of them. At the same time, be open to the Spirit and allow freedom within the structure.
Be creative. Itís important that children learn traditional prayers, but thereís more to prayer than reciting words. Model praying in your own words. Experiment with singing, hand movements, even dance can be a way to praise God. Listening in silence is also a crucial part of prayer.
As your family grows and changes, your prayer will change too. What worked last year may not work now. Ask God to show you how and when to pray. There are lots of books and pamphlets on prayer, even websites. One website started by two Jesuit priests offers a daily 10-minute prayer guide and Scripture reading which is so popular itís visited by someone every ten seconds. Check it out at www.sacredspace.ie.
Set a good example. Participate fully in your family prayer time. Children will know if you are just going through the motions. Commit to your own private prayer practice as well. Our personal prayer lives feed our family and community. We need face-to-face time with God to strengthen and deepen our faith.
In the years I had young children at home all day my personal prayer time was hit, miss and sometimes on long sabbatical. But I believe the care of young children, the sick or the elderly can itself be a form of contemplative prayer if approached with love and a spirit of being in the presence of God. One mother told me, ďSome days I lie on the floor in exhaustion next to my little ones and just say ďJesusĒ over and over.
Donít be hard on yourself if you miss a day of prayer or get out of the habit entirely. Itís never too late to start again. Godís not keeping score.
So as I try to figure time for my kidsí football practice, piano lessons, and homework this September, Iíll be trying to get back on track with family prayer, too.
© 2004, Mary Cronk Farrell
(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and
childrenís writer. She is a contributing author to the book Daughters of the Desert:
Stories of Remarkable Women from Christian, Jewish and Muslim Traditions, from
Skylight Paths Publishing.)
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