Editor’s note: In our online book club, we’re reading Jane Knuth’s The Prayer List…and Other True Stories of How Families Pray. Each Tuesday through August 7, 2018, we’ll bring you Book Club Bonus Days—sharing additional stories of family prayer, continuing the weekly conversation, and more. Find all the book club posts here.
As we start our book club discussion of Jane Knuth’s The Prayer List, I’ve been invited to share my memories of family prayer.
I have to admit that, although I grew up in a very Catholic family, our experiences of family prayer were usually somewhat formal and perfunctory, consisting primarily of saying Grace before a meal, going to Mass together, or praying silently at the gravestone of a deceased relative. I don’t recall experiences of spontaneous prayer in which my parents or anyone else, for that matter, bowed their heads and prayed extemporaneously about a situation we were facing. Back in the day, most of us Catholics did not do that; we relied on traditional prayers such as the Hail, Mary or the Lord’s Prayer.
One formal experience that stands out, however, was when our parish was hosting a traveling statue of Mary, and my parents volunteered to host an evening at our home. I recall gathering with my family and several neighboring families and kneeling down in our living room to pray the Rosary in front of the statue of Mary. It struck me that we were experiencing church in our home!
As parents ourselves, my wife and I continued the formal prayer experiences with our kids—such as saying Grace before dinner each night and going to Mass on Sundays. However, I also began to offer spontaneous prayer at dinner on special occasions such as Christmas and Easter to model for my kids that we can and should speak to our Lord in our own words as well as relying on the traditional prayers of our Catholic faith. I also began the tradition of blessing our Easter foods at home instead of going to the parish to have that done. I wanted to show our kids that the home is a domestic church where some rituals and traditions can and should be performed by the family. To this day, I continue this tradition, sprinkling the various Easter foods with holy water from the church while offering prayers of blessing for the various food groups and what they represent.
In her book, Jane Knuth says that, “family prayer is a simple thing that is hard to do.” I know exactly what she means as I see my adult children and their spouses squirm in their seats, hoping that Dad doesn’t go on too long or embarrass them with this “prayer stuff.” When it comes to things like family prayer, rituals, and devotions, however, I remain steadfast and abide by the sentiment expressed by Joshua: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
If you missed it, read Jane’s reflection on the first chapters of The Prayer List and add your thoughts to the discussion. #prayerlist