I wrote the post below almost four years ago on my old blog. I thought you might enjoy seeing how we’ve evolved family prayers (not much, in fact) and how our 5 and 3 year old now join in so I’ve added a PS to this story of how we started praying as a family. Enjoy the post! And do comment here on how your family prays together or on what obstacles you face as you try to pray.
2010 Jennie writes….
Whenever I read the biographies of great spiritual people, they always mention having daily family prayers or family devotionals. (They also always seem to have a minimum of four children, something that would go down very badly with my husband! And, yes, probably with me too if these were actual real children as opposed to the angelic von Trapp like brood I always dreamed of having as a younger, more innocent woman.)
Even before becoming a Mum was an option, I knew I wanted to have a family that prayed together; naturally, regularly, at certain times of the day and in times of need without first resorting to running round in panicked circles screaming like a banshee. I would also love to have a family that had a great ministry although, for now, I’d settle for a family who could just get through the week without lurching from calamity to vomit/organisational/scraped-knee-related calamity.
The problem was, those “daily family devotionals” always sounded so, well….unrealistic. Dad would probably lead them, already shaved and dressed in suit and tie by 6 am. Mum would be up too, neatly scrubbed and probably wearing a ruffled apron. A minimum of seven beautiful Christian children would gather around Father’s feet, dutifully clasping their hands and screwing their eyes shut, their faces shining with soap and sanctity. The reading would have to be from the King James and prayers would be long and heartfelt…, even from the lisping two year old . It all sounds so exhaustingly perfect and unachievable, doesn’t it?
The one beauty of being a fairly new Mummy with just one child of 18 months, is that you can try a few things out. One day a few months ago, I finally decided that I would leave the von Trapp meets Billy Graham vision behind and we’d just get on with it.
We’ve been “doing” family prayers for several months now. I won’t put you off by saying it’s a “precious moment of the day” (although, to be honest it is). I just want to tell you what it looks like in our house. My hope is that there will be nothing aspirational in this post…that you’d just realise that if we can do it, your family could maybe find a way of praying together at some point in the day too.
Here’s what we’ve found works for us:
- It’s flexible. We might still be in bed if one of us is getting out of the house fast. We often pray in the living room over a post-breakfast coffee (we’re lucky that my husband has a very short commute so there’s a bit of give between our daughter waking and him leaving the house) or standing up in the kitchen just before Daddy leaves for the day. We’re not always dressed and my husband doesn’t shave anyway. Frankly we often look a sight but He doesn’t mind. God, that is. My husband is wise enough not to comment on my appearance that early in the day. We don’t insist on my daughter sitting still either. We’d have about as much luck as King Kanut with that tide.
- It’s short – rarely over three or four minutes.
- We keep our eyes open. We have a toddler. She says Amen enthusiastically at the end of each prayer, even if she’s been playing with bricks or teddies on the floor but she may equally have tried to empty the clothes hamper or shred a box of tissues during these few moments so keeping our eyes open is crucial! We keep praying as we haul her out of trouble (again!).
- We pray in simple language for the benefit of parents who are barely awake and for a little girl who’s slowly starting to understand. “Please God keep Daddy safe on his bike and help him to use his talents to serve you at work today. Amen”.
- We pray first and foremost for blessing and protection on each other. We then pray for good relationships within our family and with those we meet. If we have time and remember, we pray for pressing concerns of friends and relatives. We don’t try to hit every prayer need we’re aware of.
- We always include a few thank yous. especially if we’ve had a full night’s sleep.
- We’re realistic. If we’ve had an irritable pre-coffee moment that morning, we pray anyway and just try to keep it civil in front of the Almighty. We usually feel a lot more forgiving by the end of it. Sometimes one of us needs to pray for the other if there is something too painful for them to ask for themselves.
- We only pray like this on work days. Prayer sometimes arises at the weekends but our morning time routine is different and we don’t beat ourselves up over it.
That’s it. There’s really no secret to it. It’s easy to include small children as they are rarely embarrassed by anything new, even if you find it a bit awkward at first. If you still have the ‘luxury’ of adaptable tiny people and want to end up with a family who prays then grab the opportunity now to create a pattern that works for your family while it’s still easy to introduce. Try different things out to see what works and don’t be afraid to adapt. Be practical. Everyone still ideally needs to leave the house fully-clothed and fed!
I don’t know how you might introduce morning prayers with older kids but I still urge you to try it if you can (they might even have some creative ideas about it), or just to pray with your spouse at the beginning of each day if that would work better. If your spouse doesn’t share your faith or finds praying out loud excruciating, maybe praying with your kids as you help them get dressed or briefly before they leave the door would be easier but make a decision to do something. It quickly becomes something that you miss, like going out the door without cleaning your teeth.
The 2014 update:
It’s interesting reading this post again. Many things we started with our then tiny daughter we had no idea if we’d continue but we wanted to establish patterns that we could build on and evolve. But we still do pray almost every work day. We still call it “Flambily prayers” although Pigwig is way past mispronouncing it (sigh!). Here are the main differences to family prayers now.
We have two kids now! My son has just turned three. He usually plays or cuddles while we pray but usually says Amen to each prayer and we often cuddle each child as we pray for their days. Sometimes, to aid their involvement, we ask a child to give a parent a “prayer cuddle” while the other parent prays for them. Tintin occasionally adds a prayer. We encourage a thank you prayer and he often says “Thank you for our cats”. That’s fine. If he says something goofy like “Thank you for poo poo” (He’s at that age – we’re keeping it real here, people!), then we ignore it or gently reprimand him and move on.
Pigwig is a smart 5 year old now so if she joins in with the sillies, we talk about respect and love towards Father God. She doesn’t always pray enthusiastically and has gone through stages of finding FP plain boring but now joins in with good grace. She is good at suggesting people we need to remember in prayer and seems to like knowing we are praying for her during her school day.
For us adults, the rest still stands. Totally. Mornings are just as crazy and we are a very normal family under plenty of daily stresses but this is too important to us to give up on so we allow the time in our morning routine. Usually. If things were totally wild, I pray with the children on the school run as I push the buggy or drive the car.
I’ll be interested to see how this habit develops as the kids grow. I’d love to know of families praying with older kids….will we still? I really hope so!
Here’s to a real-life vision for family prayers.