Daily family prayer is designed to foster a deeper participation in the daily liturgical, devotional, and sacramental prayer life of the Church in order to open our hearts to our heavenly Father: "An important purpose of the prayer of the domestic church is to serve as the natural introduction for the children to the liturgical prayer of the whole Church, both in the sense of preparing for it and of extending it into personal, family and social life" (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, On the Family (Nov. 22, 1981), 61). And "in family prayer the basic notions of the faith are communicated and hearts are opened to the Fatherhood of God" (Pontifical Council for the Family, Symposium of the College of Cardinals, Intervention by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, The Family in the Pontificate of John Paul II (October 18, 2003), 1).
Daily family prayer also includes the devotional prayer life of the Church, and some practices are expressly recommended such as: “reading and meditation of the Word of God, preparation for the reception of the Sacraments, devotion and consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the various forms of veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grace before and after meals and observance of popular devotions.”
The time-honored tradition of praying the family Rosary after dinner is especially recommended as “there is no doubt that, after the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, the high point which family prayer can reach, the Rosary should be considered as one of the best and most efficacious prayers in common that the Christian family is invited to recite.” The hour after dinner is often prime time for television in many families, and many families are devoted to their favorite programs. But if a family is serious about becoming chaste and holy, then this prime time should be devoted to contemplation of the mysteries of the Rosary rather than absorbing irreverent and unholy images from the television.
Another element of family devotional prayer involves transforming the home into a sacred place conducive to prayer. A home altar with a crucifix, Bible, vigil candles, statues, or blessed images is a great help. Playing music and singing together; blessing and praying for one another; using holy water; consecration to the hearts of Jesus and Mary; wearing a scapular; praying with the saints and for the souls in purgatory; reflections and sharing of personal memories of the spouses, grandparents, ancestors, and children; and praying for future spouses and children, yet to be born, all create a holy atmosphere. Devotions like the Angelus, the Way of the Cross, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and others, which reflect the various hours of the day, holy days, and seasons of the Church year, all bring the real presence of God into the hearts of all within the family home.
Overcoming Obstacles to Family Prayer
Often, it is precisely over parents requiring daily participation in family prayer and the family dinner that conflicts arise. As Pope Paul VI observed, “We are well aware that the changed conditions of life today do not make family gatherings easy, and that even when such a gathering is possible many circumstances make it difficult to turn it in to an occasion of prayer. There is no doubt of the difficulty. But it is characteristic of the Christian in his manner of life not to give in to circumstances but to overcome them, not to succumb but to make an effort. Families which want to live in full measure the vocation and spirituality proper to the Christian family must therefore devote all their energies to overcoming the pressures that hinder family gatherings and prayer in common.”
Dispelling the Argument, “I Just Don’t Have Time”
Some people will argue that there is not enough time or that there are too many activities going on to pray together daily as family. Not true. A simple example can clear up this misunderstanding or way of reasoning. Think about a day that was so demanding you could not have done one more thing. Now, revisit that day, only this time picture your husband, wife, mother, father, or child being hit by a car. Would you clear your schedule to help them? Certainly. So it really is not about having enough time, or having too many activities; it is about priorities. If something is important to you, you will make time to do it – if someone is important to you, you will make time to be with them.
Start Today Not Tomorrow!
If that is not the case, the next best time to start daily family prayer is right now! It makes no difference whether you are young or old, single or married. Make daily family prayer the norm within your home, with your special friend during courtship and engagement, and pray together as a couple and family throughout your married life.
Parents who place a high value on daily family prayer will train their children to respect family prayer as a sacred time by being on time and properly disposed to pray. Eventually, children will come to know why it is so important to pray together every day; together, parents and children will learn to protect family prayer time from outside pressures by making it their highest mutual priority. Decisions about participating in outside sports and extracurricular activities will then be easier to make because everyone will find ways to protect family prayer time from outside distractions and influences.