Prayer and Family Life

My dear friends,

We have all heard the saying, “a family that prays together, stays together.” I personally don’t think this is always necessarily the case, for obviously it depends on how a family prays. Prayer, as Jesus said, needs to come from the heart, and not just recited with the lips.

Prayer is as necessary for the soul as breathing is for the body. But what if I do not know how to speak with God? What if I never learned how to pray beyond the few formulas I learned as a child? What if prayer was missing altogether in my family, beyond an occasional meal-time prayer?

I remember my first heart-felt prayer. I was 19 and it was simply a cry to God at a moment of personal crisis, nothing polished or impressive, but very honest and sincere. Soon afterward, as I began to turn my whole life over to God, the Lord put a woman in my family’s life who taught each of us how to pray. She knew that we needed something simple, and so she passed onto us what the Lord had given her many years earlier. The prayer she taught us had 4 simple steps, which she encouraged us to pray sincerely at least 3 times a day: 1. Call to mind the presence of God. 2. Ask for the meekness and humility of Jesus. 3. Surrender our entire will to God. And 4. ask for God’s will to be done in return.

Before the 3rd time at the end of the day, this same Christian woman encouraged us to examine our conscience and ask God’s forgiveness for any sins we were aware of, any failures to love. As I began to take up this practice of talking with God and surrendering my will to Him, it made me realize why I was so lost before and so unhappy. I was trying to figure life out on my own, while leaning on my own fallen, frail, weak little self. Prayer opened my heart to a much larger, more hopeful vision of life, while linking me to the strength, wisdom and grace that I did not have on my own. Prayer made me more aware of the presence of God, I could see blessings that I formerly missed. I found courage and strength to face life’s troubles. How did I live without prayer before? The truth is, I wasn’t living, I was barely surviving.

About 10 years ago I came across another simple approach to prayer of the heart that was very similar to the one offered to me and my family, but filled in with a little more explanation. I offer this for anyone who, like me, may have never been taught how to pray, or anyone who may feel lost or stuck in their prayer life. It’s important, as I said in the beginning, that spouses and families also pray together, but it is equally important that each family member has their own personal prayer life as well. Many people like myself, have found meal prayers inadequate to sustain a healthy relationship with God. They cannot carry us through life. They are not able to equip us for the daily trials and hardship. We need something more, like the prayer below, or something similar.

This prayer need only take 5 or 10 minutes, though one is certainly free to take more time if needed or desired. The prayer can be addressed to God the Father, to Jesus, or to the Holy Spirit. Go where your heart is naturally drawn. Here are the steps:

Find a quiet place and be still. It may help to close your eyes. Ask the Lord to quiet your mind and heart, and make a simple act of faith in God’s presence, like, “I believe Lord that you are here with me, that you are listening to me, and that you have been waiting in love for this special time with me.”

  1. Talk to God about your day, about anything, in a simple, child-like manner. Thank Him for a special moment, ask for help with a decision you need to make or something you are struggling with, a concern you have for someone or something that has hurt you.
  2. Trustful Surrender to God: Place the difficulty, the problem or hurt into your hands and surrender this to God, surrendering also yourself, your whole life, all the persons involved in your life. Surrender all this with your heart to God and ask God for His perfect Will to be done in your Life. Be sure to ask Him for anything special you need, like patience, or courage, or forgiveness.
  3. Listen to God: Prayer is a two-way conversation. We also need to listen. Rest in the silence of God’s presence, in the embrace of His peace and love, and listen. Be still and be ready and open to receive God’s light and grace. They may be unfelt and imperceptible but that’s OK. You will still notice wonderful changes in your life.
  4. Finally, thank God for this time with Him and for at least one blessing of that day.

 There are slips of paper at the back of the Church on the choir side with this prayer, be sure to take some for your family and friends. God will certainly bless abundantly any efforts we make to spend time with Him and open our hearts to His love.

God love you,

Fr. Steven

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