By Fr Hervé Morissette, CSC –
Introduce variety into your family prayer, especially when you gather for prayer every day. You may pray together on the occasion of family feasts/events or other special occasions, but prayer should always be a moment of peace that everyone enjoys.
Most of the time, family prayer is done in the evening, before or after supper. However, it need not be limited to an evening prayer. Other moments can be chosen to do it. For example, during the Christmas season, it is easier for the family to pray before a crib.
This book contains a variety of prayers that can be used in different circumstances. The father, the mother or a teenager in the family should take care of selecting the prayer/s most suited to the occasion, avoiding routine and improvisation. Refer to the Index to select the prayer most suitably adapted to the circumstances (liturgical season, the age of the children, the family events, the coming Sunday liturgy, the feasts of saints, an illness in the family, an unexpected problem, a baptism, a marriage or a death in the family, etc.)
In some instances, a reading from Sacred Scripture is proposed. Have a child read that passage from the Bible. Then the father or the mother may share a few insights on the Word of God and relate it to certain life situations.
Finally, the family prays the rosary (or a few decades) together for special intentions. These intentions of prayer, voiced spontaneously by any family member, open the hearts to a wider circle of people. They take us out of ourselves and make the whole world our extended family!
The time spent in prayer should be proportionate to the age of the children and their ability to remain attentive. When the children are young, when they are tired or nervous, the family prayer should be brief. Two minutes in prayer is better than five minutes in distractions.
The family members should not allow disturbances such as phone calls, TV programs, etc. to distract them during prayer. To pray is to devote time to the Lord. The rest can wait.
Then, enter into the presence of God
Prayer is a special time we spend with God. That is why we must become aware of his presence in our lives. In other words, a time of awareness is needed. Moments of silence are indispensable to create an atmosphere conducive to prayer. Before you start praying, you need to keep your usual concerns at a distance and allow free space for God. This habit of silence may seem difficult in the beginning, but don’t do away with it, because you may be distracted afterwards during the family prayer. A short mental prayer to the Holy Spirit will help you to find that silence.
If a child is very agitated and uncooperative, do not get annoyed. The effect of your own excitement would be disastrous. Simply stand up and, without a word, quietly bring the child out to calm him/her down, while the others can start the prayer. However, this moment of silence is the one that is found most difficult to establish by some parents.
THE ROLES OF FAMILY MEMBERS
Each family should create its own style of prayer based on its own history. However, family prayer will also change over time depending on the age of the children. Yet there are a few constants that have to be respected.
The father and the mother
It is advisable to have the father lead the prayer, because the mother will often be busy holding a child or paying special attention to him/her. If the father cannot join the family for one reason or another, an older brother/sister can lead the prayer. Family prayer depends very much on the customs that have been prevailing at home for a certain length of time. However, it is recommended that the father, the mother or the whole family say a short prayer before and after meals.
As children of 10 to 12 years read well, they can be entrusted with the responsibility of reading the prayers or the scriptural text in the name of the family.
When a child or two are very young, it is often difficult to have them remain silent. In such cases, it is preferable to put them to bed or have another brother/sister take care of them.