Life with Lots of Littles: Family Prayer Time

This post is part of a series; for a list of other topics covered, please click on the image below.

For my second topic, I would like to write about the importance of dispersing prayer times for our family throughout our daily routineBefore we had children, my husband and I would try to pray the Liturgy of the Hours together whenever we could.  Whenever we were not at work, we would try to pray:

  • Morning Prayer after breakfast
  • Daytime Prayer after lunch
  • Evening Prayer before or after dinner
  • Night Prayer before bed. 

We did not always succeed in praying all four Hours, but we tried; occasionally we were able to pray the Office of Readings in the mornings.

Prayer Times with Kids

After the arrival of our first living child, it took several months for us to get back into a habit of having three or four prayer times together during the day (Daytime prayer was often overlooked).  When we had two kids under age 1 1/2, once again, our family prayer schedule was hit or miss at the beginning, very often with one parent praying with the toddler while the other took care of the baby.  After a while we were able to regain a prayer routine of four times a day. 

An important thing to note is that back then our prayer times were generally AFTER meals, not before. 

When we were dealing with 4 under 3, family prayer times throughout the day were no longer a top priority.  Once again, it was often a matter of one parent praying with the toddlers while the other took care of the babies, or just skipping Daytime Prayer or Night Prayer altogether.  After the youngest were a few months old, we reintroduced family prayer times, bringing the babies into the prayer space with everyone else after meals. While Dad was at work, Mom would (attempt to) pray the Liturgy of the Hours with the four kids.

Over the next several months, I noticed something very important: when I just went directly from play time to meal time with the kids, the mess and stress of meals resulted in me snapping and yelling at my children too much and too often.  When our youngest were about a year and a half old, we changed the prayer times to BEFORE meals instead of after.  Now, the kids clean up their toys, then we make sure to have prayer time in a separate room before going back to the kitchen/dining area to eat the next meal.  This small change gets me refocused to tackle the next chunk of the day, and it gets my kids to settle down a little. 

What do the kids do?

  • We have some religious board books in a basket that are just for prayer times
  • We also have a basket of toys just for prayer times, which rotate every four weeks so that they either have  a Little People Noah’s Ark set or their Shining Light Dolls to play with
  • They join in with prayers they can recite: the beginning/closing prayer responses; the Glory Be at the end of psalms and canticles; the Canticles of Zechariah, Mary & Simeon; the Our Fathers; the Night Prayer responsory and Marian antiphon
  • For Morning and Evening prayer, they take turns coming up with and announcing prayer intentions, which we add in between the written intentions and the Our Father: “I would like to pray for Auntie, we pray to the Lord…”

Are the kids able to keep quiet?  Are you actually praying?

No, the kids are not quiet – sometimes there is a lot of discipline during prayer time because our rule is they have to whisper.  However, some days, the kids are quite behaved.  They have learned by repetition so that they now know the rules of prayer time and what is expected.

Are you actually praying, and is this even worth it at their age?

For me, it depends on the day – some are just better than others.  Stopping to recenter my thoughts on Christ, though, even for the tiniest spell, does help me refocus my attitude for the next part of the day. 

For my children, I can already see dividends.  They think of others to pray for.  They are learning the prayers of the Church.  They are learning lyrics to meaningful hymns that they then sing bits of at other times.  This year, my oldest two (age 4 & 5) have even begun to recite chunks of Psalms and different Readings they have heard over and over from their earliest months.

What about the Rosary?

We do incorporate the Rosary into our family’s prayer life, but it is not the lynch pin of daily life that the Liturgy of the Hours is.  We figure that the Liturgy of the Hours is liturgical, and thus takes precedence over the tradition of the family rosary.  Our children will grow up with the rosary, yes, as well as the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Angelus, etc.  However, the Liturgy of the Hours will have precedence in their formation.  We would not make it with four young children if our only prayer focus was a daily rosary at night.  I, and the kids, need set aside times throughout the day to pray something that they are now quite familiar with.

Whichever prayer you choose, I hope it is one that brings your family a time of peace and grace to help you make it through the day!

May God bless your family’s spiritual life abundantly!