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Catholic Prayer for Catholic Familieshelps adults and children understand the concept of prayer and learn how to pray. This excellent family resource contains all of the traditional Catholic prayers, including the Rosary, the Our Father, the Doxology, and many others.
As a parent, you have a very special and unique relationship with your child. In order for this relationship to continue growing and developing, you and your child need to keep the lines of communication open. Without communication, relationships suffer. God wants to be in communication with his children, just as any parent does. Our relationship with God, just as our other relationships, requires communication to remain healthy. Another word for this communication with God is prayer. God is always with us, inviting us to build a relationship with him through prayer. Although this book contains many prayers, it is not primarily a prayer book. Rather, it is a guide to prayer. We need guides for many things in life. Maps, tour guides, and study guides provide direction in our everyday lives. Catholic Prayer for Catholic Families provides direction for you and your child as you develop and maintain a relationship with God through a life of prayer. This resource will provide you with direction as you accompany your child on a faith journey with the Lord. To help your child develop a lifelong practice of prayer, it is important to set an example through your own prayer life. For this reason it is helpful for you to nourish and strengthen your own relationship with God through a life of prayer. Then you can more confidently assist your child as he or she enters into a deeper relationship with God through his or her own prayer life. This guide is designed first and foremost to assist you as a parent in your own prayer life.
Catholic Prayer for Catholic Families offers some ideas to help you understand what prayer is.
It provides you with practical information that can help you to find the types of prayer that you can practice by yourself as well as with your child. Many of these suggestions are based on an approach to prayer called the Ignatian method, named after the style of prayer taught by Saint Ignatius of Loyola.
It serves as a valuable and convenient source of traditional Catholic prayers and devotions.
Part One Understanding Prayer
Keep It Simple After dinner one night, Amy, a freshman at a Catholic high school, asked her dad, “Can you help me with an assignment? I’m supposed to write a prayer for religion class.” “Sure, I’ll help,” her dad replied, “but I’m not going to help you write the prayer. I’m going to teach you how to pray.” “OK, if you say so,” responded Amy, looking somewhat puzzled but intrigued. Dad explained, “The most important thing to remember about prayer is that God always makes the first move. God is always reaching out to us and inviting us to come to know him. When we pray, we are responding to God. Here are a number of ways we can respond to God in prayer. First, thank God for all the blessings you have and for all the good that you’ve experienced recently. Second, tell God what your needs are. Third, tell God that you are sorry for the times that you haven’t acted the way God would want you to. You can pray for the needs of others. You can pray with praise and adoration recognizing just how wonderful God is as our creator. If you remember these things, you’ll always be able to talk with God in prayer. The nice thing is, you don’t always have to do everything at once and they don’t have to be in a specific order. Just keep it simple.” Amy smiled as she took some notes. “That sounds easy,” she replied. “Thanks.” Dad wished Amy well with her assignment and walked away thinking his work was done. Ten minutes later, however, Amy returned and said, “I understand what you told me, but I don’t know how to put my thoughts into words. I’m not sure of what I would say.” Dad replied, “Just talk to God as if you were talking with a friend. If God walked into the room right now, and you wanted to begin by saying ‘thank you,’ what would you say ‘thank you’ for? Just write the way you would talk. Don’t try to write poetry. Just keep it simple.” Amy responded, a surprised look on her face, “That’s all there is to it? I thought it was more complicated than that.” “Talking with a friend is not complicated. Neither is talking to God,” replied Dad. Later, Amy returned with a prayer that she had written. Dad looked it over and congratulated her for doing such a fine job. “So, did you learn something about prayer from all of this?” he asked. “Yeah . . . keep it simple!” she replied. What Is Prayer? As a parent you want your child to know that he or she can always come to you to talk, to ask for help, to thank you for the help you’ve given them, or to honor you for being a good mother or father. In the same way, God invites you to come to him with your thoughts and needs. The time that you spend aware of God’s presence is called prayer. By taking time to become aware of God’s presence, you can be open and talk with him about whatever is on your mind and in your heart. You don’t need special words to talk with God. As the dad told his daughter in the story, “Keep it simple.” In fact a great teacher of prayer, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, taught that conversation with God should resemble the way that one friend speaks with another; God knows you and understands. He listens to you because he loves you as a parent loves a child. Prayer is more than simply talking with God, however. In Saint Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he advises us to “pray constantly.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) If prayer were simply understood as “talking to God,” then it might seem as though Saint Paul gave us the impossible task of talking constantly to God. If we understand prayer as the time we spend aware of God’s presence, however, it is indeed possible to pray constantly because God is with us at all times. Prayer is a gift from God. When you respond by accepting this gift, prayer nourishes your personal relationship with God and does the same for your child. Through daily prayer you develop the practice of acknowledging God’s presence in every aspect of your life. You experience the joy of loving communion with God.
Praying in Many Ways Today you have so many ways to communicate with others. You can send and receive e-mails, faxes, phone calls, text messages, and letters, or, you can do it the old-fashioned way and talk to someone face to face! You can communicate with God in many ways as well. Because prayer is vital to anyone’s relationship with God, the Church teaches us to pray often and in many ways. There is no one way to pray. Just as you relate in various ways to your friends, you relate in many ways to God. You can use different ways of praying at different times. The important thing is to pray regularly and in a way that you are comfortable with. For Catholics, traditional prayers and Sunday Mass are the most familiar forms of prayer. The traditional prayers of our Catholic heritage provide us with a vocabulary for prayer. The traditional prayer moments such as morning prayer, evening prayer, and grace before and after meals. Likewise, Sunday Mass is a form of communal prayer that is at the very heart of Catholic prayer life. In addition to these forms of prayer, the Church also teaches a wide variety of ways to pray and prayer forms.
Ways to Pray You can pray alone. Just as you talk with your best friends and share what is going on in your life, so too can you talk to God. Just as you listen to your friends, so too can you listen to God. You can pray to God in your own words. You can pray with others in communal prayer. When you pray with others, you may rely on the traditional prayers that unite us in our Catholic way of life. You can pray silently or aloud. You can pray using different postures and gestures: genuflecting, kneeling, standing, bowing, folding your hands, and praying the Sign of the Cross. There are many options to choose from. You can pray anytime—while you are relaxing, working, walking, or playing.
Forms of Prayer Sometimes you might bless or adore God for his greatness (prayer of blessing and adoration). Other times you might ask God for something for yourself, asking God’s forgiveness for your sins or asking him to grant your needs (prayer of petition). Sometimes you might pray for others (prayers of intercession). When you ask on behalf of another, you pray as Jesus did when he interceded with God for all of us in the words of the Lord’s Prayer. You might also thank God in prayer for his gifts to you (prayer of thanksgiving). Finally, you might give praise to God (prayer of praise), recognizing that God is God and giving him glory for his being.
Reflective Prayer—Meditation With so many distractions in your busy life, it can be difficult to remain focused on God’s presence. To help you focus on God’s presence, the Church teaches meditation, which is also known as reflective prayer. To meditate is to reflect on or think about God. When we meditate, we keep our attention and focus on God so that we can recognize his presence in our daily lives and respond to what he is asking of us. Scripture, prayer books, or religious images can help you concentrate. They can also spark your imagination so that you can recognize God’s presence in your daily life and respond to what he’s asking of you. Meditation leads you to a conversation with God and to placing yourself in his presence where you can listen to him speak to you. You can enter into God’s sacred time and space and know that he is with you at all times and wherever you are.
Resting in God’s Presence—Contemplation Some of the most cherished moments you share with your child are when you simply hold him or her in your arms and no words need to be spoken. You can enjoy this same experience with God. When you rest quietly in God’s presence, you engage in the form of prayer called contemplation. In contemplation you can spend time with God in silence, being aware that he is with you. Contemplation might be better understood by thinking of how you feel when you look at a beautiful sunset or a treasured possession. You are conscious of its meaning, but your response is wordless. In the same way, when you experience God, you feel his love and wait for him to speak to you in his own way. The key is to make time to relax and be attentive to God’s presence, to seek union with God who loves you.
Making Prayer a Practice—For Yourself and for Your Family As enthusiastically as you respond to a close friend’s invitation to spend time together, you can respond to God’s invitation to share yourself with him in prayer. God is with you always and everywhere; you can pray whenever you want and wherever you are. If you pray daily, whatever kind of prayer you like, you will build the practice of prayer for your own life and set an example for your child to follow. How do you build a practice into your life? We build practices simply by doing something over and over again until they become second nature. The regularity of your prayer is more important than the length of your prayers. Setting aside a certain time in your day and a special place where others will respect your space and silence will encourage daily prayer. Prayer is not a chore that you have to complete. Rather it is a gift—an opportunity to bask in the presence of God. The practice of prayer will be easier to build if you approach it as time set aside for indulging in God’s abundant grace as opposed to completing a required task. The practice of prayer is also easier to build if you remind yourself that you are the one who needs prayer, not God. Like a plant that needs sunshine and water, you need the spiritual enrichment that comes from a life of prayer. Designating a special time and place is also helpful for building the practice of prayer. Think of this place as your oasis or your sacred space. Make this space special by placing a Bible, a candle, and a crucifix or other sacred image on a small table near wherever you plan to make yourself comfortable for prayer. Finally, build the practice of prayer by removing the pressure of trying to impress God with the right words. You do not have to prove yourself to God. God is simply looking for you to seek him so that you can come to recognize the gift of grace that he offers you. Just be present to God and allow him to do the “work” of prayer. Children learn from their parents. One of the best practices we can teach our children is the practice of prayer. The family is the first place where children learn to pray, to worship God, to love, to forgive, and to work together. Because of this special role that the family plays in forming the faith of children, Christianity thinks of the family as the domestic church. This description suggests that the Christian family is a community of grace and prayer—a “school” of human virtues and charity. Significant family events, both joyful and sad, can be occasions for family prayer: a birthday, the birth of a new baby, an illness in the family, or the loss of a pet. How often you pray together as a family is not as important as the regularity with which you pray together. The important thing is to make the prayers your own. Allow your prayers to reflect what’s important to you and what concerns you and your family. Traditional prayers can be combined with spontaneous prayer of your own, thanking God for various blessings, asking God’s blessings on family members or on the events of the day, or asking for help to face challenges. Praying as a family not only will draw you closer as a family but will also emphasize to your child the importance of being constantly aware of God’s presence. A family commitment to prayer will help your child develop a lifelong habit of prayer. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) When we gather as a family in prayer, we draw attention to the presence of Jesus in the home. Praying together strengthens the bonds of family life. The more a family community gathers in prayer, the more children will see prayer as an important part of their lives.