By Angela Davis

Prayer can be challenging even for adults. Our family is called to be our “domestic church” but teaching children to pray can be challenging. Take a moment to think about how you learned to pray during your younger years. Did your family pray together? How did that look? How did it feel? In what ways did it build a foundation for a life of prayer? How do you want your children to answer these questions once they are adults? Here are three suggested areas to focus on if you’d like to increase the prayer in your Domestic Church. Every family / domestic church is different, but these practices have worked well in my family during this season of life.

Focus Area #1: Live a Life of Visible Prayer

Prayer should permeate our entire lives, and children learn best by following our example. So the first step is to model a life of prayer by living a life of prayer ourselves. Most of us could use some work in this area. Fortunately, accompanying my children in their prayer lives has helped elevate my own, but it takes intentional effort. 

Wherever we are on our personal journeys, we need to make sure our prayer lives are visible to our children. There is great value in finding quiet times away for prayer without children using your body as a jungle gym, but it shouldn't stop there. Our children need to be able to see and hear us pray. Personally, I find myself good at quick prayers, and I do it so regularly that I'm not always fully aware, but I've made an effort to say these prayers aloud more often, especially when my children are near. "God, thank You for this time with my kids. I'm really enjoying it." "Lord, we're running late; please help us stay calm and move quickly." "Jesus, I love you." Let your kids witness some of these moments, even your quiet, silent prayers. Let them see you pray with your spouse and witness you engaged in the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or Centering Prayer. Sometimes, invite them to join you and help them understand that prayer is something that you need and prioritize.

Focus Area #2: Frequent Prayer Interjections

It's important to expose kids to various forms of prayer from a young age. I'll talk about creating formal family prayer routines in a moment. Still, spontaneous, frequent, relatively unplanned, and unstructured prayer helps to remind us that God is with us always and should be a part of everything we do. 

Consider trying some of these times with your children throughout the day. Encourage them to add to the prayers and speak to God directly…

  • When leaving or entering the home, give thanks for your house, and pray for those who are homeless. Consider adding a holy water font to your entryway.
  • When starting the car, give thanks for your access to transportation. Be sure to pray for the safety of your family and the other vehicles on the road.
  • When you hear a siren or see an ambulance or fire truck, pray for the people who may be in danger or sick right now, and pray for the first responders in your community who help to keep people safe.
  • When frustrations and tempers run high in your home, pray for forgiveness, and ask for patience and understanding.
  • When things are going well, sing in Thanksgiving.
  • When cleaning or doing housework together, thank God for your able bodies and teamwork.
  • When struggling to learn something new or make a family decision, ask God for guidance.
  • Consider praying St. Francis de Sales' Direction of Intention when transitioning to new activities.

Focus Area #3: Creating Consistent Family Prayer Routines

Some periods of the day lend themselves well to formal prayer times. The most common are probably before meals and before bed. If you don't already, consider adding a morning prayer when you first wake up. These more formal prayer times are great opportunities to have various family members take turns leading the prayer. Try giving everyone a chance to speak about what they are thankful for, what they need help with, and who they want to pray for. These are also great times to teach essential Catholic prayers like the Sign of the Cross, the Our Father, and the Hail Mary.

What are you already doing for prayer that is working well in your family?
How will you increase the prayer in your Domestic Church?

Until next time, may the peace of Christ be with you and those you accompany in His name! Please pray for me. I will pray for all of you!