Our three youngest daughters are gathered with us in the Living Room. One is lounging on the sofa, one on the floor and the other is sitting next to Dad on the love seat. Dad asks, “How has God blessed you today?” and so our night time prayer begins. A tad bit unconventional in pose and practice but we have found using this first step of the Ignatian Examen (the part St. Ignatius identified as the most important) to be a good fit for the age and stage of our family.
Although its form has changed for our family throughout the years, family prayer time has been a blessing to us. When our children were little, it provided a time for us to pass on the traditions of our faith as we taught and prayed rote prayers. As our 5 children, now ages 23-12, grew, our prayer adjusted to the season of our life. We could have had a very hectic, trying day but when the alarm goes off signaling time for night prayer, all of that vanishes as we collectively take a breath, calm ourselves and reflect on the ways God has blessed us.
Often our present prayer time gets interrupted as we ask questions about the blessing being offered. But these interruptions provide a window into the souls of our girls, as we are able to hear how they reacted to a situation or learn how an area of struggle was overcome. A special treat is when one of our big kids calls and we can include them in our prayer time via speaker phone. With cultural values becoming more and more removed from Christian virtues, we are able to use this time to instill in our girls a better understanding of why we believe the way we do and how prayer can benefit us.
Some of the greatest struggle for us in establishing a consistent family prayer time has simply been to create the time. That is why my husband and I both have alarms set on our phones to remind us of it. Your children are also likely to become your reminder as they come to enjoy the routine of prayer and look forward to it.
A few of my friends have established the routine of spending an hour together in adoration. Wow, what a blessing to have an hour of peace and prayer in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament! One of my friends shared with me how she started taking the kids to the playground during her husband’s hour and then joining him for the last 20 mins when they would pray a rosary together as a family. Now that they’re older, they spend the hour together and if someone joins them in the chapel, they invite them to pray the rosary with them.
Whether you gather before bed to review the blessings of your day, say traditional prayers, spend time in adoration or choose from a myriad of other ideas, the important thing is to regularly spend time together praying as a family. It builds the bonds of affection between your family members and God, and helps to prepare your children for the world at large.
As we finish sharing our blessings, Dad says, “God is great!” and we respond, “All the time.” And He truly is.
By Christy Kitzhaber