Opening your home to the Lord
Each Advent, we hear reflections that remind us to make more room in our hearts for God. But do we have room for him in our homes?
A study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown found that while most Catholics pray individually, only 17% of Catholic families pray together.
As I was reflecting on the importance of this season in which we prepare for the Lord’s coming, it occurred to me that Jesus is standing at the door of 100% of our homes, but only a tiny percentage of Catholics households let him in. Perhaps, this Advent, Catholic families might make a little more room for Christ in our homes by learning to pray together and/or taking their family prayer life a little deeper. Here are some suggestions that are taken from our book, “Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids.”
1. Make God part of the family
Don’t just reserve family prayer for special times. Family prayer isn’t just part of Catholic family life. It’s the heart of Catholic family life. Think of God as if he was right there in the room with you wanting to be part of the conversation. Talk to him — out loud — all throughout the day with your spouse and kids. When something good happens, pause for a moment and say to whoever’s in the room, “Let’s just take a second to thank God for this.” And then do it. “Lord, thank you so much for letting us have such a good time together as a family!” When something frustrating happens, ask everyone to stop a second and ask for God’s help, “Lord, we’re all really getting on each other’s nerves. Please give us your peace and help us be kind to each other.” God wants to be part of your day. He is standing there in the corner of the room just waiting to be invited into your conversations. Let him in.
2. Morning prayer
Give each day to God as a family. I know mornings are crazy, but I promise you that every morning will go better if you take even a minute or two to gather all the kids together in one bed (doesn’t matter whose) cuddle up together, and pray some version of a “morning offering.” You can find traditional versions online, but many families get a lot out of using their own words to give their day to God. For instance, you might say something like, “Lord, thank you for another day together. Help us to love you first in everything we do today and help us to take care of each other so we can be the family you want us to be.” If you have even a little more time, ask the kids what they’re happiest about or most concerned about in the day. Help the little ones voice their praises and petitions for them but as your kids get older make sure to invite them to take the lead. Help them develop their own spiritual vocabulary.
Give your kids blessings. Before they head off to do anything that’s remotely important to them, pray over them. Put your hand on their head or shoulder and say something like, “Lord, let my son know how much you love him. Help him discover all the gifts you’ve given him and use them for your glory. And help him know how proud I am of him no matter what.” Then make the sign of the cross on his head. It’s only five seconds but makes a powerful, intimate connection between you, your kid and God. As your kids get used to you doing this for them, don’t forget to ask them to pray over you too!
4. Grace before meals
Everybody’s gotta eat. It’s a perfect time to pray. It literally takes eight seconds to say traditional grace-at-meals slowly. Want to go a little deeper? Ask everyone to thank God for the biggest blessing and/or ask for help with their biggest concern. Use these praises and petitions as a launching point for your family conversations.
5. Scripture reading
At bedtime, in addition to any other stories or songs, make a point of reading at least one Bible story and discussing how it relates to your lives as a family.
6. Family prayer time
Of course, it’s also important to get some special time with God every day. There are lots of meaningful ways to pray as a family from family praise and worship time to a family Rosary. God isn’t picky about what you do. He just loves your family and wants to spend time with you.
This Advent, won’t you let him in?
Dr. Greg Popcak is the author of many books and the director of CatholicCounselors.com.