In the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday, Our Lord asked his Apostles to stay awake and pray with Him. He wanted them to be near Him - to go through His Agony along with Him. Instead, they fell asleep - all, that is, except Judas.
This Lent, we have a chance to do just as Jesus asked - and we can do it together as a family. Many families have already successfully incorporated a daily family prayer time. Others have tried, perhaps several times, and have watched it slip away. Some have yet to try. Lent is the perfect time to bring back - or begin - family prayer. It is a time we are asked to do more - not just give up things like chocolate or Facebook - but to take on more.
Why family prayer? What’s wrong with just praying by myself - or with my spouse?
Personal prayer and having quiet time to listen to the voice of God is imperative. Praying as a couple will certainly strengthen a marriage, but coming together as a family to pray is critical as well. Why? Because the devil is working overtime to destroy the family and the last thing he wants is for us to be holy.
In a world of broken and suffering families, coming together for daily prayer is the surest way to stay vigilant and strengthen our families. Praying allows us to give glory to
God, to thank Him for all He has done for our family, and to ask for His mercy. And best of all, Our Lord promises He will be there with us: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt. 18:20).
Bring your children on board!
Padre Pio said, “The world will be saved by the prayers and sacrifices of little children.” Before you decide to begin daily prayer, talk to your children. Get them excited about making this Lenten journey together as a family and ask for their help to make it happen. There will be times when you will be tempted to skip prayer time, and just put your kids to bed after a long, exhausting day. Do not be surprised if your three-year old says, “But Daddy, we haven’t said our prayers yet!”, or if you see your son, in the hustle and bustle of the evening, kneeling down in the living room waiting for you. Children can be very humbling!
Where do we begin?
We should begin by looking to the Holy Family as the perfect model. If you don’t already have one, you can make a family altar in their honor. This could be a simple table set up in a prominent place in your home, decorated with a crucifix, statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, a painting of the Sacred Heart, or anything that is special to your family. Children love to make it beautiful by adding candles and fresh flowers.
Prayer time, ideally at the same time each day, could be as short as five minutes or as long as you wish (or as long as the children can handle). It helps to have set prayers so that you are not “reinventing the wheel” each night. The Church gives us so many beautiful prayers to choose from!
In our family, we come together in the evening right before our two youngest go to bed. We kneel and begin each prayer time with a silent examination of conscience. When we had very small children, my husband helped them by asking simple questions (Did I obey Mommy and Daddy today? Was I loving to my brothers and sisters?). This is followed by an Act of Contrition, three Hail Marys, the Glory Be, and other prayers such as the Guardian Angel prayer and the prayer to St. Michael. Then we ask for the intercession of our family’s special saints - especially for one or two particular petitions. The kids love this because they can always think of someone for whom to pray. Finally, we stand and end with the beautiful hymn to Our Blessed Mother, the Salve Regina. Then kisses, blessings, and off to bed for the youngest!
We already have family prayer time.... what now?
Other than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the rosary is the most powerful, efficacious prayer we have. If you as a family are already saying prayers together, perhaps taking on one (or both) of these every day would be the next step this Lent. We have found that praying the rosary at night (as part of our family prayers) is too much. Instead, the children and I pray the rosary in the morning, along with our Morning Offering, on the way to Mass. My husband attends a very early Mass before work and prays the rosary during his lunch break as he takes a walk. Evening prayers, then, with my husband home, are very special because we are all together as a family. On weekends, the whole family comes together for Mass and the rosary.
This Lent, be vigilant, stay awake and pray with Our Lord as a family. Accompany Him on His journey - you can be assured He will be there on yours. And when Lent is over.... stay vigilant and keep praying together.
“The family that prays together, stays together.”
- Servant of God Fr. Patrick Peyton
Cheryl Hernandez and her husband of 30 years, Kevin, live in Florida. They have nine children, including a daughter who is a Servant Sister. They are lay members of the Home of the Mother.