In the late 1970s, I was a childcare worker at a Catholic Home that provided care for physically and emotionally disturbed children, who followed a morning routine that started with a simple limit. After waking up, before they could leave their rooms, they had to make their beds and get dressed for school. They then called for a room check. Once those things were done, they would be allowed to leave their rooms and go on with their morning routine.
When it comes to making room for Christ in one’s busy family life, is there anything that can be learned from the above example when it comes to offering our prayers each day? What is the first thing you do when you get up? Is your first priority to pray, or do you need to brush your teeth, have coffee, make your beds (if that is a practice in one’s family) and then pray? If prayer is last on the list, what are the chances that there will be no time for prayer whatsoever? So when it comes to individual prayer, can a routine similar to that noted above be adopted among family members? How about no one leaves his or her room until morning prayers have been offered? This of course depends on age. But children who are seven and older can say the Trisagion Prayers and then the Prayer of the Hours. There are lots of prayer books available that are helpful. For children under seven years old, something simpler may be needed, and there are prayer books for young children. Ask your priest about them if you are not sure. For teens, this is a bit trickier. At what point does one allow them to take responsibility for their prayer rule without putting limits on them, as one would with those who are aged 13 and under?
My point is that if we are going to make room for Jesus in our busy family lives, it boils down to prioritizing our choices. If prayer to Him when we arise is not the first choice we make in our stewardship of time, chances are He will get lost in the sea of choices we make in the morning and throughout the rest of the day. But there are other ways to not let that happen. Hear the heart of the soul as prayed by the priest in the first of the twelve prayers of the Matins service:
We give thanks unto Thee, O Lord our God, Who has raised us up from our beds, and has put into our mouths the word of praise that we may worship and call upon Thy holy name. We pray, by Thy compassion, which Thou has always exercised in our life, send forth now also Thine aid upon those who stand before the presence of Thy holy glory, and await the rich mercy which is from Thee. And grant that they always with fear and love may adore, praise and hymn Thee, and worship Thine indescribable goodness.
More will follow on family prayer next week.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,
+Paul of Chicago
The habit I formed from upbringing was to say my prayers at the end of the day in private, before I went to sleep. But how many times am I so tired that sleep wins, or I lose my prayer to sleep shortly after it begins? This reflection rings so true in what we place first, and what we place last on our list of priorities.
It wasn’t until after I started a family, and grew more spiritually, that I realized the message in Bishop Paul’s reflection. I so wish I learned it as routine growing up, to pray when I first wake.
It is still not an inherent part of me, and I still struggle to incorporate this daily, especially since I am not fully awake when I rise from slumber each day. But I have found ways to be aware. When I walk out to get the newspaper every morning, God wishes me a good morning with the breath of His fresh air on my face when I step out my door. As soon as I feel that, I am aware of His presence and pray, thanking Him for another day.
I regret that I was late in the game spiritually to instill this valuable routine of morning prayer with my kids. I was humbled last year to walk in my son’s room one morning and see him praying on his own without parental influence. This reflection is a wonderful reminder that it is never too late to make this a valuable routine in our homes. I still struggle to be aware and consistent, and I am grateful for this reminder.
Thanks Stacy for sharing your thoughts. I shared that example from my child care working days as it seemed to simplify the matter. Having that structure helped the kids with getting started in the day. I recollect they responded well to that. Can we transfer that kind of thinking to the idea that no one leaves their room until they have prayed in the morning? It seems easy according to my brain. But ideas need to be fleshed out and become habits. I appreciate your honesty in expressing how it is hard to break certain habits. You are certainly not alone in this area. The Lord’s blessing be upon you. +Paul