Recently my family (Stacy and I, Mikey, Ben, Jo Jo, and Grace) started meeting at night for prayer. You could say it’s our version of the Ignatian daily examen: a type of reflective prayer which helps people do the following life changing things:
1. Become more aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay more attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
Here’s how our prayer goes: Each of us (Grace doesn’t really talk yet, but she listens) takes a turn telling the others (1) something good that happened during the day (2) something bad that we did or was done to us (3) something we are afraid of (4) and something we are hopeful for.
To connect our reflection to our faith, after one of us names a good thing that happened, we all say together “Thank you Jesus for that good thing!” After a bad thing is mentioned, we say together “Jesus, help me not to do this again” or “Jesus, help me to forgive others.” After someone says what they are afraid of, we say as a family “Jesus, help me not to be afraid.” And after someone says what they are hopeful for, we say together “Jesus, help me to wait in joyful hope.”
It’s a really simple activity that only takes 10 minutes–and that’s with young and “squirrely” kids!
And the fruit became obvious right away. There is a new depth of closeness, intimacy between family members. There is a growing feeling of solidarity: that “we are in this together,” which increases trust, confidence, and hope. After only a couple of weeks, my kids are now excited for “sharing time” because they are eager to let the rest of us to know who they are and what they are about. Our prayer time has truly become a time of closeness, joy, and gratitude. It’s actually fun! I wouldn’t have believed it had I not experienced it first hand.
Praying as a family offers the opportunity for closeness, solidarity, and the sharing of intergenerational wisdom. Stacy and I have learned much from our kids sharing their days and their faith with us. Likewise, we have offered the kids some of our own hard earned wisdom like “you can’t run from a problem; you have to face it head on” and “you only fail if you don’t try” and “true love (God’s love) will never disappoint.”
Our family is in the midst of a spiritual boon. There is so much to be thankful for. And, like so many folks who met Jesus in the Gospels, I couldn’t wait to tell everybody how the man from Galilee has changed our lives for the better.