When my children were about 6 months and 18 months old, we started a tradition together. It began as an accident of sorts. My husband and I were both pastors of churches at the time and therefore received a ton of catalogs and church resource promos in the mail. It so happened that one of us got a packet of advent materials that included a really fun devotional for kids. There was a Bible verse for each day that had a corresponding cut-out symbol that got attached to a mobile. Each night at dinner we would read the day’s verse and hang the symbol on the mobile dangling above our kitchen table.
We did this for a month or so and then Christmas was over and the devotional was finished. We took down the mobile with all the other decorations and moved on with our busy life. But the next night at dinner, our daughter looked up at us with her deeply curious eyes and asked, “Bible?” It seemed this toddler under two was giving us a lesson on our need for a rhythm of prayer. We scrambled a bit to come up with something on our own since the pre-formulated devotional was gone. It is a scramble that has gone on to this day.
Over the years we have worked ourselves into a modified version of praying the hours, an ancient monastic tradition that observes several set prayer times during the course of a day. Now we don’t do all the prayers and we don’t do them every single day, but we do try which I think counts for a lot. Most days we do practice morning prayer together over breakfast and sometimes add evening prayer if we are all together at dinner. We’ve used many prayer books over the years such as Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours series and Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. When the kids were really small we had this adorable book called Give Me Grace that had a simple prayer for each day with illustrations. We’ve often thought about actually writing a prayer book to be used with children since it always seemed like the books we used were either a little over their heads or not engaging enough. But again, the trying is better than the perfection, right?
More than anything else we observe Compline while tucking the kids in. Compline, which I still often call “night night prayers” is such a comforting way to bring an end to the hustle and bustle of the day. Kneeling around one of the kid’s beds we lift up the struggles of our day and others we know of that need blessing. We pray over the coming day with all its excitement and worry. And then there is this sense of letting go of it all as we ease towards sleep.
Overall, these rhythms bring us both a comforting stability and a bit of a kick in the tail. Each morning we greet the day remembering that our lips should open to proclaim God’s praises (not to whine about how tired we are) and each night we remember to give the hardships of each day and worries for tomorrow over to God. It seems to help us make it from day to day.
As I’ve mentioned before, we are big on eating together so morning prayer over breakfast works for us. I also have friends that work these moments in on rides to school and other creative places. Really if some majority of your family or circle of friends are together on certain moments regularly it could become a time for prayer. There are seasons when everyone is coming and going and there is no good time to pray together. If this happens occasionally, we give ourselves a break. However if this becomes a habit we sit down together and look at the places we might need to shift and adjust so that we will all have more time together again. Because if we’re too busy to pray together it might be a sign that we’re a bit overstretched overall.
So, this is our story of how we find time to pray together. I’d love to hear other examples of bringing a rhythm of prayer into the common life you share with those closest to you. There’s surely no perfect answer. But I’m also sure each of us has something that the rest of us can learn from. Together maybe we can find a way to live into the blessing of our days instead of just stressing through them.