12 Easy Ways to Reset Family Prayer
by Soren & Ever Johnson
Recently, some friends shared that their family prayer time had become so awful that they quit. And they’re certainly not alone.
Whatever the reason—a new baby, a summer or winter slump, a move, tough teens, screen addictions—we all need strategies to reboot family prayer from time to time.
“His mercies are new every morning,” and in this spirit of new beginnings for you and your family, we’d like to share 12 quick ways to hit “reset” on your family prayer times. These are the aides we’ve returned to over the years:
- Set the tone. If we parents are viewing family prayer as a burden or task, our kids will intuitively pick up on that. Instead, let’s set a joyful, peaceful, and confident tone as we convene our families in 5-15 minutes of daily prayer. People are attracted by a positive attitude. Let’s use that to our advantage!
- Never yell. If we’re becoming irritable or yelling to get the kids to family prayer, we need to take a deep breath. We don’t want our kids to associate prayer with strife. We catch more flies with honey, so for a teen or two who won’t come willingly, pause the Wi-Fi, and call them (but don’t insist) as you get started. And then make it the most fun time of day. Read more… Start with laughter or song, ease into prayer, and follow up with a sweet treat or fun activity. Once they sense that everyone is having fun without them, it won’t be long before they start showing up! This goes hand-in-hand with number #1. If we parents view prayer as a burden, we’re unlikely to make it a joyful activity, and the kids are less likely to be attracted to it. Think about it.
- Keep it simple. Take it from two people who always want to do more. Don’t overdo it with expectations. There are many seasons to family life, and less is (often) more.
- Schedule it—with flexibility. It takes a lot of energy to call kids from all corners of the house and pry them away from practicing their Bach preludes, sketching, and reading Aquinas and Shakespeare. Ha! Instead of putting so much work into making it come together, do family prayer when everyone is already together, such as right after dinner, right after you’ve cleaned up the kitchen, just before story-time and tuck-in, or on a regular drive. This type of habit-stacking makes it all so much more doable.
- Use incentives. That’s right. A little incentive—dessert, a walk or swim, a quick game in the yard—for after family prayer time might just be the ticket.
- Reduce friction for prayer and increase friction for distractions. What keeps us from family prayer? Do we need prayer aides, a home altar, a guide to praying the Rosary (there are great podcasts to pray along with!), or to sync schedules? Whatever it is, let’s invest time in solving those issues. If smartphones, chrome books, game stations, or anything else is an obstacle, let’s increase the friction to access those go-to distractions (set screen time limits, create media-free zones in the home, etc.).
- Delegate—and rotate—leadership. Mix it up with the kids. If they’re old enough to lead, keep prayer time fresh by asking them to lead part of it.
- Lighten it up. Recently before beginning our evening rosary, we went briefly around the circle and each shared a “high” and “low” from that day—it only took a few minutes, but we cracked up laughing a few times, and were able to bring those highs and lows as intentions directly into our time of prayer.
- Praise reports & prayer requests. Instead of jumping right into prayer, take a moment to ask two questions: “How are we seeing the Lord answer our prayers?” (praise reports) and “What are we bringing together before the Lord?” (prayer requests). This way, we experience answered prayers together as a family, and it’s great to mark those moments with gratitude.
- Mix it up. Instead of the same prayer format every day, consider alternating. We’ve enjoyed going back and forth over the years between the Magnificat evening prayer, the Rosary (or a Rosary walk or drive!), the Divine Mercy chaplet, or a novena. We’re embarrassed to admit it, but we even have a 3 Hail Mary per decade version of the Rosary for extra busy nights.
- Make it cozy. Pile onto the couch together, put one of your kids on your lap…whatever works best for your family to come together before the Lord.
- Sing. “The one who sings prays twice,” St. Augustine said. If you don’t already, sing a hymn together before or after family prayer. Or make your whole prayer time a hymn sing!
There are so many things that are competing for first place in our family life: sports, academics, work, media distractions, and other extracurriculars.
But we have to put first things first. And the first commandment is to love God above all else. So let’s demonstrate that love with a renewed commitment to putting God first in our family life.