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Pray with Your Family

Welcome to the Man to Man column! In each issue, we will tackle an issue and present our thoughts as well as resources to use throughout the month. Feel free to contact us via to give us suggestions on topics of discussion. We look forward to hearing from you.

Just 1 percent of teens ages 15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid to late 20s. In contrast, 82 percent of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations and were themselves religiously active as young adults. (David Briggs, The Association of Religious Data Archives)

Derek: Handing on the faith isn’t just telling our children to pray, or teaching them how to pray; it means actually praying with them.
I have to be honest, “praying with them” doesn’t look as I once thought it would. Family prayer used to bring to mind images of children and parents quietly kneeling together, hands folded. More often, rosary beads in hand, I’m wondering which prayer I just said as I lunge to keep one toddler from bopping the other on the head with the remote. What’s your experience of family prayer been like, Seth?

Seth: Yeah, living with children makes prayer feel more like a wrestling match! In my immaturity as a dad, I tend to let (alarmingly loud) noises and frantic toddlers become roadblocks to a grace-filled home. I let these curious creatures I love so much become justifications for not praying with them. I’m tempted to put off prayer and wait for a “better time,” which rarely ever comes.

Derek: I think we’re all guilty of that at times. What would you say to a dad who can’t see past this roadblock, who feels overwhelmed by the busyness and chaos of family-life?

Seth: I’d say don’t believe the lie. These “distractions” are opportunities to grow interiorly. I want the pleasure of silence and reflection, but I need something deeper if I want to invite God’s grace into my home. In the throes of raising young children, I need patience, perseverance and, above all, trust. Those routinely chaotic moments are testing our reliance on the Lord.

Derek: We've got to learn to see God in the messiness of family-life. Got it! Any pointers?

Seth: Stay consistent. Pray with them anyway. And make time, right then and there. For our family, consistency has been easiest at bedtime. Yes, my toddler makes it chaotic, but he’s learning. I turn down the lights and invite them to open their hearts; then, usually to the sound of two-year-old chirpings, I thank Jesus for the day’s blessings, invite the Holy Spirit to be with my children, and ask his protection to come upon them. The duration varies; some nights we invoke saints; some nights we pray traditional prayers; some nights we pray with music – I mix it up, not just to keep their attention but also to expose them to different forms of prayer. I rarely “feel peaceful” when we gather, but knowing they feel incomplete without that time each night gives me a much deeper kind of peace.

Derek: That’s a beautiful example! What would you say to a dad struggling to find that deeper peace?

Seth: Trust. Trust in the Lord’s grace to sustain your family, even when his peace isn’t “felt.” Your kids are not distractions – as fathers, they’re our primary avenues to God! Loving our children, showing them patience, teaching them, these are powerful prayers, just as valuable as quiet moments of contemplation.
And praying with our children gives them the roots they need. It makes our witness a model of true faith, especially when we don’t give up on prayer in the stressful moments. Praying through the “messiness” teaches our children that the grace and peace of Christ will never leave them.

Take your family on A TRIP

A – Adoration
T – Thanksgiving
R – Repentance
I – Intercession
P – Petition

(Acronym from Peter Kreeft’s Catholic Christianity)

Prayer to the Holy Family

by Pope Francis from Amoris Laetitia

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour of true love;
to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again experience
violence, rejection and division;
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Graciously hear our prayer.

Derek McDonald (left) is the Director of Family Life Ministries for the Diocese of Manchester. He and his wife, Emily, have three children.

Seth Evangelho (right) is the Director of Lifelong Faith Formation at St. Andre Bessette Parish in Laconia. He and his wife, Christine, have four children.