I felt guilty as I told my five-year old daughter that we weren’t going to pray the rosary one night. She had come to me after she had brushed her teeth, ready and excited to pray. But I was tired and overwhelmed from a day that just seemed to go on and on. All I really wanted was for my children to head to bed, and for me to have a little bit of quiet. Her smile disappeared from her face and her shoulders slumped over. She quietly whispered, “Ok, Mama. Goodnight. I love you.” and wrapped her thin arms around me, burying her face in my side. I stroked her head and told her to go get her siblings, and we would pray together. Her head snapped up and the joy written in her eyes was evident. “Oh, thank you, Mama!” she exclaimed as she ran off to gather up all the other children.
Each night, we sit as a family and pray together before bed. Our house is small and so as we sit together in our family room we have children sprawled all over the couch, the chair, the ottoman, and across every spare inch of floor space. It’s quite intimate and some of the kids might say “squishy”, but it is comforting at the same time. We begin with the Sign of the Cross and then each person gets to talk about who they are keeping close in prayer. Sometimes it takes a while to get through everyone. With eleven people who can talk (and two who can’t) and who have specific people they want to keep close in prayer, well, I dare say our prayer offerings often last longer than our actual prayers! Still, it is such an important part of our prayer life. I’m often overwhelmed at the sincerity and love that comes from my children’s hearts. Each night I come away proud that my children think so much of others that they are willing to bring their needs not only before God, but before everyone in our family, too.
After prayer intentions, we say the rosary. We first started out with me leading and the children answering, but now we have gotten to the point where some of the children love to lead, too. I have to say, I beam with pride as a hand shoots up and waves around in the air to let me know one of the children is anxious to be next. I also just love to hear the tiniest voices leading prayers… the tinkling of their high pitched voice saying the prayers sometimes with accuracy and sometimes substituting words they think are the right ones melts my heart! The way the mispronounce words makes a smile cross my lips and my heart. They are so proud of themselves, and so I allow the mistakes to go at that time making note to say the prayers correctly with them later.
When we are done with the rosary, there are times the children still want to say more prayers and so I ask them what they would like to pray. It depends greatly on the child asking and the prayers they know or if they are comfortable praying in their own words. Regardless, it makes me happy to see they are moved enough to want to continue to pray together. It truly is a highlight of their day!
There are so many nights that I am so tired and ready for kids to be in the bed so I can rejuvenate in my own way (reading or writing, watching a movie with my husband, or even just catching up with friends on the phone or online). I’m often tempted to skip prayer so that I can get them in the bed faster and get to my night time routine and wind down (and I justify it by telling myself we pray at all our meals and throughout the day at various times, we talk about our faith constantly and they are surrounded by reminders of our precious Lord). But, I always remember the disappointment in Caroline’s eye when I told her we weren’t going to pray; I remember the joy I myself receive by praying as a family; and I remember what Jesus tells us in Mark 10:14 “…Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” If I am not praying with my children I am hindering them from Jesus’ arms. Who am I to do such a thing?
Praying as a family has brought blessings to our family that I could not have imagined. We always said a few prayers before bed, but the way we pray now is more focused and more intimate. As we bring the needs of our family, our friends, strangers that we have met, and even the needs of our greater community and world to Christ’s feet and ask that He hear our prayers, we have grown closer to each other as well as to Christ. It is a time for our family to put aside their disagreements and arguments over who did what to whom, to forget that chores need to be done, to not worry about homeschooling or appointments or what needs to be done tomorrow. It is a time, instead, to focus on connecting once again with God and with one another.
At the conclusion of prayer time, everyone seems to be in a better mood and just happier in spirit. Making sure we set aside time to come together in prayer has become a central point in our day. I challenge you to do the same. Carve out a little time where your family can come together to pray for not only others, but for one another. It may seem awkward at first if you are not use to praying together, but I promise it is worth it. They say the family that prays together stays together, but I tell you this, the family that prays together is happier than families that don’t. They have a bond that is different from other families and they become closer because of it. Prayer holds us together. Take a few minutes to pray as a family. You won’t regret it.
© 2014. Michelle Fritz. All rights reserved.