Prayer and Family

April 24, 1994
Brother John Raymond

	Pope John Paul II has called this year the "Year of the Family."
 A good beginning for this family year would be to read the Holy
 Father's Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris Consortio," The Role of
 the Christian Family in the Modern World. I would highly recommend
 that every family obtain a copy of this great work of the Holy
 Father. (It can be ordered from the Daughters of St. Paul, 50 St.
 Pauls Ave., Boston, MA. 02130 [1-800-876-4463] for $3.25 + $2.00
 S&H) Part of this document focuses on the serious obligation parents
 have to ensure the Christian formation of their children. Under this
 section is mentioned the parent's role of teaching prayer to the
 children, assisting them to grow in holiness and enabling them to
 receive the Sacraments at the proper times. I would like to focus on
 the prayer aspect.
	There is no doubt that the parent's example is a far more
 important method of instruction for children than the words they say
 to them. I heard one young mother tell a story that clearly brings
 out this point. One day she was in the living room with her five
 year old son. Her son was busy playing like most children his age.
 The mother decided to kneel down and say some prayers. She closed
 her eyes and was praying. After a short time had elapsed she felt
 somebody next to her. She opened her eyes to find her little son
 kneeling next to her in imitation. This story is one small example
 of the influence parents can play on the prayer formation of their
	A more powerful example comes from a 21-year-old I recently
 talked to. He and his father went to a retreat. At the retreat the
 priest challenged everybody to pray 15 Mysteries of the Rosary every
 day and fast on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays. The
 father and son returned home and put this into practice. At first
 they were the only two doing it. Within a short time the mother and
 other children all joined in. It became the family practice without
 any coercion of the father and son. Both these stories bring out the
 important obligation parents have of setting an example of prayer.
	Parents cannot rely totally on the sisters (if there are any) at
 the Catholic school or CCD classes to teach their children how to
 pray. Religious instruction at the school or catechism classes can
 be totally futile without the reinforcement of the parent's example
 at home.
	It is very important to instruct one's children in the habit of
 daily prayer while they are still young. Adapt the amount and type
 of prayer to the children. Emphasize both memorized prayers and just
 plain talking to God. Little children have an amazing ability to
 open up to God - they just need some encouragement. Do not
 underestimate your children's prayer potential or the power of their
 prayers. Children by their innocence captivate the Heart of God. I
 have talked to very young children who have already had mystical
 experiences of God and the spiritual world. A mother told me the
 story of her little boy (I met him and he was little!) one day
 telling her to stop for gas, otherwise the car would soon run out.
 Sure enough when the mother looked at the gas gauge it was almost on
 empty. What is so amazing about that? Well, the boy mentioned to her
 that he had been told this by Uncle Henry. Uncle Henry had been dead
 for over two years and the boy had never met him!
	With teenagers getting them to pray requires a little more tact.
 Some teenagers need motivation for why they need to pray. Share your
 experiences with them. Challenge them to try it and find out for
 themselves. At times teenagers really do like to pray but are afraid
 to express it. They may be embarrassed to let their parents or
 friends know they like it. Don't go by appearances. Be encouraging
 to teenagers and not too forceful - at times reasoning with them is
 much better. Force can alienate them further from prayer and God.
 Sometimes Catholic teenage religious groups or activities such as
 "Teen Encounter Weekends" can help them to get interested in God and
 prayer. I know that a week for boys spent at a seminary during the
 summer when I was in 7th and 8th grade had a profound effect on me.
	Bring prayer into your families. Remember, Jesus said that where
 two or three are gathered in His Name He is present. Bring Jesus
 into your home by praying and teaching your children to pray!