Family Prayer

One of the real challenges that we too often find in our contemporary, busy lives is finding time to be together as a family.  It is especially difficult to find opportunities to pray together.  And, if prayer, other than going to church on Sunday, hasn't been a family tradition, it can seem very "unnatural" to introduce it as something we might do together as family.   Here are a few possibilities - call them dreams - for ways we might pray as a family, during Lent, or at any time of the year.

Prayer Before Meals

One of the most natural times to pray, is as we sit down to eat.  We can begin, or "break the ice," by simply saying, Let's pray or Let's just pause for a minute to give thanks.  One of the challenges of doing this prayer well, is that we don't want our food to get cold.  This leads us to do the prayer quickly.  Brief prayer doesn't have to be without substance or power.  And, it doesn't always have to be after the food is on the table.  For a change of pattern, we could gather everyone to the table for prayer, and then bring the food to the table.

We begin with a prayer of thanksgiving: 
 

Lord, we thank you for the blessings of this day 
and for this time together as family.

We thank you
for this wonderful meal

and for this hour we can share it.

  We always begin with thanksgiving.  The "reasons" we give for our gratitude can be very specific, and draw us into this prayer from our "real" place we are in this day.  So, we can say that we are grateful for this Lenten journey, which offers us renewal and prepares us to celebrate Easter with greater freedom.  We might say, We thank you for being with us each of us today, while we were apart, and for  being with us tonight.  Perhaps we will thank God for some special grace that has occurred today.  We may want to take time to let each person name one or two things for which he or she is grateful.

We then turn to God and ask for what we need.

Help us to remember those who have so much less than we do.

Bless us as a family.
Help us to grow in love and care for each other.

We ask you to comfort and give strength and peace
to those who are sick or struggling in any way.

  This, too, should be very specific to us as a family.  We all have family and friends who are sick or in need.  Perhaps there is a special challenge or difficulty that one of us is going through.  We can turn to God with our concerns about a crisis that is going on in our city or country or some part of the world.  With practice, this brief moment will help us be mindful of our desire to turn to God in all our needs.  It will help us grow in a sense of compassion and care for so many people.  Again, we may want to take time to let each person name one or two prayers of petition.

We can conclude with, We ask this through Christ our Lord or with a traditional table prayer, which we could say together.

Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts,
which we are about to receive
from your bounty
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.
These options are from the Book of Common Prayer.

Give us grateful hearts, our Father, for all thy mercies, 
and make us mindful of the needs of others; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bless, O Lord, thy gifts to our use and us to thy service; 
for Christ's sake. Amen.

Blessed are you, O Lord God, King of the Universe, 
for you give us food to sustain our lives and make our hearts glad;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For these and all his mercies, 
God's holy Name be blessed and praised; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 

Praying at Other Times

There are many other times or occasions when we can develop the habit of praying together.  These examples might inspire our own creative or spontaneous prayer.

In the Morning:
It can be quite transformative of our family bonds, in faith, to pause very briefly to pray together.  This might be a spontaneous prayer, while we are laying in bed with our spouse, Lord, be with us today, or Dear, I ask the Lord to give you strength and peace today at your meeting.  Perhaps we are rushing around each other in the kitchen, grabbing breakfast.  It can be wonderful to pause to pray, simply asking the Lord to be with each of us in what we are about to do.

In the Car:
So many of us spend a fair amount of time in the car, often with other members of our family.  These can be nice times to begin or end the trip, with a very brief prayer.  Bless our shopping tonight.  Help us be grateful for the gifts you give us.  May this food/these clothes help us be mindful of those who have so much less than we do. Or, Bless Ann at practice today.  Give her gratitude and delight in the gifts you give her.  Help her to do her best, to encourage others, and to learn what you offer her today.  Or, Lord, as we go to Bill and Ann's for dinner, we thank you for our friendship with them, and we ask you to bless this night with all the graces you might offer us in the care we have for one another; we ask this in Jesus' name.  Or, Lord, as we drive to church, we thank you for our faith and for this chance to be together with our parish community; please allow us to hear your Word, to give you thanks and praise, and to be nourished for the mission you give us this week.

Over the Weekend:
Often the weekend offers some special moments together that can be wonderful times of prayer.

Other Times:
We can say brief prayers like this at so many special times.  It can be very important to pray together, while cleaning up, in preparation for guests coming for dinner, or an overnight slumber party.  We might share the responsibility for "designing" the family prayer for special occasions:  Birthdays, Anniversaries, the beginning and ending of a school year, when one of us is beginning any new endeavor.  We may want to add some special prayer time if one of us is experiencing a personally anxious time or crisis.  For example, if one of us has to wait for an appointment for a biopsy, and then wait for the results, we might place a special candle on our dining room table, and light it each evening as we remember that person in our prayer. 

Simple Rituals:
It can be so easy to add gestures that bring powerful prayer to our family life.  One of the simplest and most natural is to trace a cross on a loved one's forehead.  It can speak volumes to a young child, if his or her parents were to give them this gesture of love and prayer.  This ritual can be done everyday, when we part for the day, or at bed time, or it can be reserved for special prayers of blessing before a big event.  And, it can be a powerful, faith-filled ritual for a husband and wife, as part of an every day pattern, or at times of great intimacy, to touch each other in blessing.

Any of the "symbols" that we refer to in our page, "Symbols in Our Home" can be a source of family ritual.   Perhaps we have our own family gesture or ritual that speaks of our faith or draws us into prayer.

Praying for Each Other:
The most important part of family prayer is perhaps the easiest to overlook - how we hold each other up to the Lord.  Even when we are not physically together, as a praying family, we want to pray for each other.  In reality this means that I have a pattern of talking with the Lord about the people I love most dearly, each and every day.  They become part of my very relationship with God.  Whether we are a married couple with young children, or I am a single parent, or if my children have grown up and begun lives of their own, this aspect of family prayer is so important.   My spouse and I may not share our faith; perhaps my spouse doesn't pray at all; but I can talk with the Lord about my spouse every day - sometimes asking for help, sometimes just expressing my gratitude, sometimes begging for the gift of faith for my spouse.

May our Lord bless our praying, in the community of our family, these days of Lent.


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