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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Family Prayer

Family prayer started for us by chance. As I began my marriage and started having children, praying together was not something I thought about much and we did not have any regular routines. When my oldest daughter was preparing for First Reconciliation and First Communion, she was supposed to memorize some prayers. I knew that one of the best ways to do so would be for her to hear them frequently. I decided to say prayers in bed in the mornings and at night. At the time, my girls were eight and five.

We would pray in different ways - in the beginning, sometimes I would say the prayers and sometimes I would say the prayers line by line and they would repeat. As they got more familiar with the prayers, sometimes we would pray together, and other times they wanted to alternate lines. Regardless, they came to appreciate the prayers, and we enjoyed the time together. 

When it was time for my second daughter to prepare for her First Reconciliation and First Communion, she already knew the prayers, except for some new ones that were added. Four years later we often pray together in the mornings right when they wake up or before going to bed. In the mornings these days, my 12 year old will sometimes ask me, "Can you say some prayers?" before rolling back over, resisting getting out of bed in the morning. 

Reflecting over time, I have come to realize that whether my girls are actively engaged in praying or whether they want to hear me pray as they wake up for the morning, a big part of it is the bonding. As they grow, there will be a connection between bonding as mother-daughters and the prayers. There will be reminders of calm, unhurried starts together. Other aspects of our morning routines can be stressful, depending on the day and how things progress, but when we pray, time stops for a bit and it is about the bonding and peace. 

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In December, I asked my priest more about the family prayer routines for him growing up. He had briefly mentioned something about it as an anecdote earlier in the fall and over time I started to have more curiosity about it, thinking about what it was like for his family and his context and what might translate for my family in our context. 

I asked a range of questions about the logistics and cultural differences, hearing about his experiences, getting his opinion and asking for advice. Through our conversations I formulated a plan in my mind. As a family, we would pray the Angelus, a decade of the Rosary, and read from The Bible nightly. Then, we would also read from Living Faith for Kids

The first step was to talk to my husband about the plan, and it was easy to get him onboard with the idea. We started and had consecutive nights. We realized that upon sitting together and praying, we then would stay together, spending time disconnected with technology. Both my husband and I really appreciated that aspect. Nonetheless, after a seemingly solid routine was established, it seemed like it quickly broke down when we missed a night and then another and then another. 

***

Through these experiences, there is no doubt in the power of family prayer and the benefits of prioritizing prayer. And yet, I know that the common thread between both in this moment is that there is a need to focus on consistency. As with many things in life, there is an on-going reflection on putting first things first and figuring out how to do so when life gets busy. With waking up and bed time routines, it is all about needing to make sure I minimize aspects that make the routines feel rushed as well as some type of reminder to do so. I read the daily readings every morning, so it should be a natural extension to move on to praying with my girls, and yet... For our family prayer, it worked best when we said we would do it right as we all arrived home for the day. It seemed to break down when we said we would do it later in the evening, but then we often get going in different directions. 

It's time to re-calibrate and refocus - time to prioritize family prayer. 

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