A thriving domestic church — your family home and life of faith — is central to the faith formation of you, your spouse, and your children. One of the most important elements of family faith life is prayer. Family prayer time is the space where everyone in the home learns how to enter into the prayers of the whole church, and through this family ritual little children are exposed to “the Church’s living memory” (CCC 2685).
Perhaps prayer time has not been part of your family life; it’s never to late to start. You may be a young family with little ones, and you want to establish a growing family prayer routine. Or, you may be a family with older children who aren’t used to corporate prayer. As with various spiritual disciplines of the domestic church, many people are a bit overwhelmed about where to begin. It is easy to look at all the possible expressions of family prayer time and do one of two things: give up completely or try to do everything.
Resist the urge for both extremes. Prayer is a discipline, but it should be a life-giving discipline in your home, not stuffy or drudgery. Here are some guidelines that may help get you started; I share them humbly, as someone whose family prayer life is definitely a work-in-progress:
- Start small. Especially if you have young children, the act of praying as a family matters much more than the length of time you do it. Maybe you can start by teaching your kids the “Our Father” and just asking God to be present in your lives that day.
- No keeping up with the Jones’. Don’t compare your family’s prayer life to some other holy family in your church that prays for an hour together every night (or whatever). Just don’t do it. Let good examples be just that–points of inspiration, not opportunities to give in to spiritual comparison. When those families first started praying together it might have look quite different.
- Be authentic. Let your family prayer time be an expression of your family’s personality. There are many different styles and family dynamics that make each family unique, and your prayer life together should be an authentic expression of the personalities in your house. Don’t impose something that feels artificial to anyone–be it you, your spouse, or your kids.
- Have a goal. Imagine your family prayer life in the future and what you would like to work toward with your small start. For example, perhaps praying one Psalm together and mentioning some intentions would be a good way to build up to praying Morning Prayer together.
Above all, be led by the Holy Spirit. Even in matters pertaining to our prayer life, we can forget to pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in discerning how to build a life-giving family prayer time. God wants to draw your family into greater communion with Him, and He wants your domestic church to be the vessel that brings each member into the prayer life of the Church as a whole.