Inside the Domestic Church Part 8: Family Prayer and Children
From the earliest days, Christians have prayed as a community, a practice from which our present services originate. Prayer should have a central, communal place in our domestic church as well. When the family gathers to eat in the evening may be the most appropriate time to introduce prayer into your domestic church.
Not only should family members pray before meals, but with the family gathered together the time after meals is ideal for praying together. Some helpful practices include ending meals with prayers provided by the family prayer book, a reading from Scripture (especially the one appointed for the day in the Church’s liturgical cycle), or a reading from the Fathers. All of these can be done, of course, but remember that especially in the beginning consistency should take priority over length of prayer. If you are struggling to incorporate these practices, choose one and then expand over time. Certain times of year, such as the Great Fast or the Christmas Fast, are ideal times to introduce new elements to the domestic church or to incorporate additional prayers appropriate to the season.
Our family prayer should include prayer for one another as well as praying in unison. Spouses can prayer for each other’s health and salvation, and of course for the health and salvation of their children. Similarly, children may prayer for one another and for their parents.
The communal prayer of the domestic church can also be an educational experience for children, and families are encouraged to use the time to teach their children prayers that children are learning in a church school or from the liturgical calendar, such as the troparia of feasts. Remember to tailor your prayer practices to the attention spans of your children, especially in the case of very young children. Allowing the children to pray certain parts of the services done in the home can help with children’s focus and aid in prayer becoming something children look forward to.
While it is tempting to teach children purely supplicatory prayer (in which we ask God to grant our requests), make sure to emphasize prayer for its own sake, so that your prayer time doesn’t simply become a “shopping list” of things you or your family desire.