There is no miracle solution for a successful family evening prayer every time, but these three criteria should help parents to frame this delicate exercise a little better.
” It’s always the same “, grumble the children. It’s hard to find a family evening prayer that suits different ages… and that doesn’t get out of hand! Should we want at all costs to find an ideal evening prayer? No. Nevertheless, for parents who encounter difficulties, they can rely on these three basic criteria: an effective prayer must be brief, varied, regular.
Brief, so that no one can say: I do not have time ! You must not want to do more than what God gives. The little ones only have a few minutes of attention? Let’s pray for a few minutes. Five, six minutes tops. The big one won’t be too uninterested in it, and the little one won’t heckle too much. Anyone can take six minutes. Never forget : ” If two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst (Mt 18-20). Family prayer is the gathering of all around the real Presence of Christ!
It must change every day. The rite must not be crushed under the weight of “always the same thing”. Parents must constantly sense the moment of stalling when they need to take another step to maintain interest.
Family prayer is like personal prayer: we believe what we pray. But the less we pray, the less we want to pray. We put it off until the next day. Praying together only once in a while requires a much greater mobilization of energy than praying a little every day. Evening prayer should be part of family life, like dinner. Habit comes to the aid of the weakness of our wills.
We go to the prayer corner, and we start with a sign of the cross. We can continue with a hymn, chosen by a child – it is good to delegate the preparation of the prayer to the elders –, then a psalm, not too long, sung, said, or chanted. Each child can then repeat the sentence of the psalm which marked him in the grace of the Holy Spirit. There follows a time of intercession, where we “collect” the intentions of the whole family and of the world: the people who are suffering, the difficulties, the events, the professional concerns…
A primordial time to live or to rediscover is that of mutual forgiveness. ” May the sun not set on your anger recommends Scripture. We offer all this to Jesus. Not easy ! Forgiveness is sometimes a very hard fight. Modesty can hold back from saying it. We can then be reconciled internally with so and so, and make the decision to manifest this reconciliation later, by a gesture, a word. In any case, implore the Lord to help us make this gesture or this word that restores unity.
This time of forgiveness can be followed by a short time of silence – less than a minute – because the goal of prayer is the encounter with the Lord: “ What are we going to say to our Father in his heart? »
Then the Our Father, this prayer of the children of God; a final prayer to Mary; and the blessing of the father of the family. Finally, the children are offered a gesture of affection and veneration, a kiss at the cross or at the icon – you will notice that a baptized little child goes more naturally towards the Cross than towards the crib or another religious object!
What are the fruits of this family prayer?
Unity. Prayer creates unity, and constantly renews it. We hurt ourselves all the time, by words, gestures… Mother Teresa said: “ A family that prays is a family that stays together “. She also said: Better to spend five minutes in prayer every day than to pick up your children in the street “. Second fruit: healing. Our love constantly needs to be renewed. Third fruit: growth. God builds us from within. Family life will grow, without our realizing it. Marthe Robin said: My life will be worth what my prayer will be worth “. It is valid for our personal prayer, conjugal, as for our family prayer.
Is there a secret to grounded family prayer?
Yes. The example of parents. Family prayer is facilitated when it is part of the continuity of the prayer of the betrothed, of the conjugal prayer… The source of this family prayer is the personal prayer of the parents. Their living testimony. It’s absolute secrecy. Listen to Jean-Paul II: It is only by praying with their children that the father and the mother, while carrying out their royal priesthood, penetrate deeply into the hearts of their children, leaving traces there that the events of life will not succeed in erasing. » (Familiaris consortium).
And when we don’t?
Stay confident. You are clumsy, clumsy, but since baptism, it is the Holy Spirit who is your child’s pedagogue. He sculpts in himself the image of the Son. This is also why many vocations are born in the cradle: many little children feel called to prolong the mission of Christ in the Church.