Praying together as a family is hard. Older kids don't feel like joining in, younger kids are hard to keep still, babies cry, parents are ready to collapse at the end of a long day. There are so many excuses we can make. But we all know how important it is to pray together as a family. We neglected this for way too long in our family, but were finally convicted that we had to do this, no matter what. But then we weren't sure where to start. What would work well for all the different ages of children? We had a few ideas, and just gave it a go. And it worked so well! The children all loved it, which completely surprised us. It is rare that they complain during prayer night (but not rare that the baby cries, or the toddler has a tantrum, or there is a lack of concentration, or the giggles, or some arguing over where to sit, which is just part of family life).
We have now been praying together like this every night for well over a year, and have only missed a handful of times (usually because of a late mass like the Easter vigil, or Christmas Eve). I will share with you how our family prays, and hopefully this will be an encouragement for you to start with your family, if you don't already. Maybe you could use some of our ideas if you think they will work for you.
We start with the sign of the cross, then my husband begins his prayer. He prays whatever is on his heart, thanking God for the blessings and challenges of the day, asking God to be with the people he loves, asking for help with any struggles, etc. When he has finished, the next person prays in the same way, and so on around the circle. Sometimes our 3yo and 6yo join in, but sometimes they don't want to pray, and that is okay. We try to encourage, but not force; we don't want to turn prayer into something they dread.
After everyone has prayed, our daughter reads a mystery of the rosary. We begin at the joyful mysteries, and each night pray just one mystery, using a book or prayer sheet to take us deeper into the mystery. There are some nice children's rosary books that we use. Then we pray a decade of the rosary (a pocket rosary is useful for this). Praying only a decade of the rosary ensures prayer time doesn't last too long and helps introduce the rosary to the younger children. We then pray the St. Michael prayer together, and a Hail Mary for our priest.
The last thing we do is go around the circle and ask our patron saints to pray for us. Sometimes we only ask one saint, other times five or six saints, depending on what is going on with our lives. Sometimes one of the children will choose a saint from a book, in the hope that no one has heard of them yet. When everyone has asked their saint(s) to pray for them, we ask All Holy Men and Women of God to pray for us, then end with the Sign of the Cross.
We find this way of praying with our family works so well because there is something for everyone. Some of us prefer to pray by saying what is on our hearts, others like the rosary. So this includes everyone and I think this is why we don't have complaints when it is prayer time. This format of prayer also seems to work well when there are visitors. Because prayer time is such a habit now and so important to us, we don't neglect it when we have guests. They are always welcome to join us, and they usually do.
Do you have a regular family prayer time? How do you make it work for your family?
Would you like a glimpse into the life of our family? We were filmed for an episode of Joyfully Big by Shalom World a year ago. Enjoy!
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