Prayer with the Family

November’s tool in the Family Faith Formation Toolkit is prayer! Pop over to the RE news page and read about the importance of prayer (even when you’re not cozy with the idea of God), a short and easy formula for prayer (in case you’re feeling rusty), and links to inspiring resources, all to help you grow in strength as the spiritual leader of your family!

Prayer can feel like a loaded word, especially if you have an itchy relationship with the term “god.” Still, children have an innate desire to connect with something bigger than themselves, and parents and grandparents are their best spiritual guides. Even if you’re not a fan of the G word, you can teach your child how to pray.

Why pray? Many studies by secular scientists find that prayer can result in reduced anxiety and increased calm and well-being. It’s a great tool to have in your family’s spiritual toolbox!

Not sure how to get started with prayer? Back in the Summer, Reverend Jill McAllister gave us a simple formula for prayer that anyone can use.

  • address your source of strength
  • name your complaint
  • confess your trust
  • add a petition
  • express praise & gratitude

EX: Dear Spirit of Love, this world & it news cycles are too much to bear! Love is the only thing I know that can fix this. Please blanket this world in your healing power. Thank you for being a force for good that’s always available.

“I’d go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky…up…up…up into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness and then I’d just feel a prayer.”

That’s just one way to pray. I was twelve the first time I heard Anne Shirley’s ideas about prayer. I knew immediately, “That’s the right way to pray!” For me, anyway.

Some people like to pray with ancient language written in far away places. Some prefer to chant prayers or sing them out loud. Some people like blessings, like those written by Kate Bowler in her book Bless the Lives We Actually Have.

Do you remember how you learned to pray? Who taught you? How did you feel? Consider sharing that experience with your children or grandchildren. Remember, there’s no wrong way to connect with the sacred.

A member of our recent Spiritual Practices workshop found their way to my inbox with a request. “Can we take the word sacred out of the workshop so that people who don’t believe in God will feel welcome?” I want to share with you what I shared with this kind-hearted soul. One definition for “the Sacred” is God. Yes. But another definition I’ve seen used is that sacred refers to anything worthy of awe and wonder. You don’t have to believe in God to experience things that are larger than yourself and inspire a sense of awe. Awe is part of the human experience, and prayer is a way to commune with that. What better gift could we give our families than a framework they can use to regularly connect with the sacred?

Homework for Caregivers

If it’s been a while since you prayed, try out Jill’s 5-step plan for prayer and see how it goes. Pay attention to how you feel in your body when you practice prayer. Do you feel tense? Do scratchy feelings well up reminding you of ways that prayer has been weaponized against you in the past? Are you reminded of people who treat prayer like a divine vending machine, always asking for things to be just the way they want them? Or maybe you feel a melting sense of relief when you connect to something that makes you feel small. Maybe it’s comforting to be reminded that you’re not responsible for everything. That something or someone else can handle some of the care of the world and its people.

As you weigh how things are within you, consider your hopes for the children in your life. Are you hopeful that they can connect with their smallness as well as their power? Are there ways you can help your child voice their needs and wants without the entitlement that comes from the ATM-style prayer? Is there a value, to you, in this kind of practice?

These big questions are best when explored with a parenting partner, a friend, or a mentor. Consider calling up someone in your circle of support and asking them to discuss them with you. When you feel ready, discuss them with your kiddos. You might be surprised what you learn.

And, as always, if you want to pop in and discuss prayer or anything else, my door is always open!