I’m a firm believer in the old saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Not only does family prayer bring graces for the entire family – it also brings the family together in the middle of a busy life to focus on what’s important together. It’s a natural way for parents to introduce children to their faith, and gives all family members, parents and children alike, the opportunity to share what they care about, what they hope for, what they are grateful for, as they pray to God together.
It’s never too early to start including your kids in family prayer time. Even though toddlers might not be able to fully understand or talk about what you are praying for or about, but they are able to start participating. Our 2 ½ year old participates in bedtime prayers – he starts it with the Sign of the Cross, followed by “God Bless Mommy, Daddy, Charbel and Paul”, and I take it from there. He also knows to say grace before meals, and understands that we go to Church to “talk to Jesus”. Paul (1 ½) has been trying to bless himself and joining in the “Amens” since he was about a year. Nothing sophisticated, but active participation.
I didn’t realize how important our prayer routines had become for Charbel until one night when I was distracted while putting him to bed. After I left the room, he started crying. I went back in to see what was wrong. He sniffled: Mommy, pray with Charbel. Bless Charbel, please.” He was right – I had forgotten to say his night prayers with him and bless his forehead as usual. Of course, it melted my heart. But it also affirmed for me the importance of praying with our kids, even from a very young age.
Charbel and Paul are still too young to understand who Jesus is, but they already know about him. They might not understand what prayer is about, but they have already found a sense of security in it. Also, it has “normalized” God for them. God and prayer will be a normal experience for them growing up, going back as far as they remember and before. I pray that, as they grow up, these basic experiences of prayer will mature into a personal and active faith.