Whatever we love, we hope to pass on to our children. We watch expectantly as they taste our favorite homemade lasagna; we give them games we remember enjoying as a child. As we deepen our prayer lives and reap the results of seeing God’s movement in our days, this too we want to share with our children.
But how? Many parents who now have rich prayer lives had few childhood experiences of prayer that were especially meaningful.
“When I went to church as a child, the only thing I remember thinking about was how beautiful the stained glass windows were,” says Monica, who now has an active prayer life that includes practicing centering prayer. “I may have said some of the prayers in church, but I had no real prayer life to speak of. So now, when I want to build a prayer life for my kids, I’m unsure of how to approach it. My own faith didn’t really begin to develop until adulthood.”
Prayer with kids is complicated by the fact that the stakes are so high—we don’t want to turn our kids off to church or to God by being too heavy-handed about it. Where “no dessert unless you finish your vegetables” may help them develop good eating habits, we are reluctant—for good reason—to build rules, rewards, or consequences around prayer.
Parents of faithful, prayerful kids say that a mix of talking about faith, establishing good prayer routines, and concentrating on their own spiritual growth has helped their children grow in their prayer life.
Don’t hold prayer apart from daily life. As adults, our prayer life is intertwined with the experiences of our day. The Jesuit practice of the examen, for example, is a meditative prayer that involves looking back at the day with an eye for God’s presence. Children can be taught to see that no aspect of their life is unimportant to God.
“When my 6-year-old was having a hard time with a grouchy music teacher at school, we started praying for the teacher at bedtime,” says Kate. “After a few weeks my son started coming home and saying, ‘Wow, mom, I wonder if it’s working! He didn’t yell as much today!’” …continued next week
—by Annemarie Scobey from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2012 Best in Class award from the Associated Church Press, as well as the 2010 and 2011 General Excellence awards from the Catholic Press Association. Here’s a sample issue.
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