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?
22 Replies to “The Family That Prays Together…”
We have done some of the very things you suggest, Michelle. At night, we started with one prayer, probably the Our Father, and said that each night until the kids knew it. Then we added another one. There are still more we could add, I’m sure but they have a really good handle on the most common basic prayers (and you’re right – it’s really easy that way!).
‘As St. Teresa of Avila said, “Our Lord walks among the pots and the pans.”’
LOVE this, Michelle! Thank you so much for the practical suggestions. What a great reminder!
P.S. That picture is TOO PRECIOUS! <3
Beautiful post, Michelle! Prayer should be woven through every part of our day and there is no better example in a family than a mother who prayers with her children.
Thanks Colleen! That is Ben when he was 2. It is one of my favorite pictures ever!
Thank you for the responses! We are always looking for ways to incorporate prayer into our lives.
A small thing, but it’s something I just did when I was a child, and I told my kids about it. Whenever I see an ambulance with lights on (or a firetruck, police car, life flight helicopter, etc.) I stop and say a quick prayer for those involved.
I’ve also always loved 1 Thessalonians 5:17. “Pray without ceasing.” Which I was taught means that you don’t have to continually stop, drop to your knees, and bow your head, but that you can have a constant internal dialogue with God.
I totally agree. I also love that verse and find that it guides me through my days as a stay at home mom. When doing the little things that serve my family, such as folding clothes or washing dishes, I find that having that internal dialogue with God helps me to find so much joy in these small mundane tasks that I’d sometimes rather not be doing.
I think this is a great piece that no matter where we are and how deep our faith runs, there is ALWAYS something more we can be doing in our prayer life. 🙂
Michelle, wonderful thoughts. I find that personally, teaching my children to pray comes naturally, but making time to pray together with my husband is something that we really have to remember to make time for. Praying together is definitely essential to a marriage! My husband always stops to say a family prayer together when we are all in the car and getting ready to go on a longer trip. One of my favorite parts of teaching my children to pray right now is teaching them how to ask the Saints for intercessions 🙂 My four year old is so fascinated with the lives of different saints right now!
Another one to add…my kids always want washing their hands to be “look, I got them wet”. I started having them say the Hail Mary and that is how long they are to spend rubbing soap around them before rinsing, and I’m usually saying it with them…I even do it myself, think of all the extra prayers said ever day 🙂
Great idea!! I love that!
If you don’t yet have children praying together as husband and wife is still an important thing. My husband and I don’t always physically pray together but we often have little novenas (and not so little rosary novenas) going on and we’ll agree to pray in the car during our drive or something along those lines.
You are absolutely right! Praying together as a couple is so important and I love the idea of praying in the car together. I hadn’t thought of that one before. I’ll have to try that the next time my husband and I are alone. Thank you!
We try to throw prayer randomly in throughout the day. We often say what we’ve nicknamed our “Family Prayer” (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and Angel of God)… in the car on the way to school/work in the morning, randomly if we drive by an ambulance or hear a sad story on the news, and of course at nighttime. We’ve also made it a habit to pray before each and every meal – including when we eat out at restaurants. We also “talk” about prayer on a regular basis with the kids – “Say a prayer for Daddy at work today!”, or “Say a prayer that your sister’s injury heals.”.
There are constant reminders in everyday life where we can throw out a prayer… we just have to get into the habit.
I like the premise of praying *with* someone, but I’m typically not comfortable with it. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but a lot of times when someone grabs me & says they want to pray w/ me I feel like its a show they’re putting on for me. However, I do try to pray as a family & its something that lately we’ve been working on as a family. I think part of my problem with someone grabbing me spontaneously to pray with me is that typically (in my experience) its an evangelical Protestant doing an ‘off-the cuff’ prayer while holding my hand or putting their hands on my head. The ‘off-the-cuff’ kind of prayers kind of blow my mind — sometimes they ramble on & on without much guidance & sometimes they sound like a laundry list of wants from God, but little (if any praise) for what we’ve already been given. Pre-written & passed from generations to generations prayers (to me) are typically more balance with wants, praise, thanks, honor, glory, and better phrasiology. Maybe eventually I’ll get more comfortable with someone praying with me spontaneously as I spend more time in prayer with my family. Thanks for the timely post! 🙂
I agree that I become uncomfortable when stopped that way (turn bright red and everything). We are also working on the family prayers (and man is my teenager dragging his heels). But I feel that the off-the-cuff prayers can in some ways be just as important. Our priest had a homily a while back that talked about prayer. He said that the pre-written, or traditional prayers, are formal prayers and very important, but as with any realtionship, our relationship with God should also include the informal conversations. They are a lot harder, but they help make it a relationship of love beyond (not excluding) the formality that can sometimes take over and make us forget (as I often do) that this is a very intimate relationship! 🙂
When I was teaching my son to water the plants, he asked me how long to water the plant and I told him to say a Hail Mary reverently at each plant and that should be just right.
Thank you all for your insights and your suggestions! I plan to put some them to use in our home! It’s wonderful to be surrounded by such wonderful women who treasure our faith in Christ as much as I do.
Recently had the idea to take a plastic rosary while shopping for groceries. Made the wait at checkout seem short, and purposeful. Also, don’t waste that wait time at the doctor or other places, bring a prayer book or rosary. The TV can be distracting, I sit as far from it as I can.
We are Nonoy and Del Tarrosa, a couple in the Philippines involved with the Worldwide marriage encounter in our Archdiocese. we found your article on praying as a family most fitting for our coming lenten recollection and would like to use the same to build up our activity. What we do is simply to copy the article and email it to individual couples of our community, of course with the proper acknowledgment. This will be the third time we have asked this from Catholic Sistas–of Martina and others… It’s truly a fountain of Catholic learnings and we hope many more souls get your message.
Thank you and may you be blessed for your kindness and generosity.
Nonoy & Del Tarrosa
Nonoy, I would be honored for you to use this article. Thank you so much for sharing not only our Catholic faith with others but for all you do to insure the sanctity of marriage as well! What a blessing your mission is! God bless!
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