“If we really want to love, we must pray.” Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Somewhere, amidst the tangled Glow-in-the-Dark rosaries, Great-Grandma’s St. Michael Chaplet, our stack of Holy Face Chaplets, my children’s adventurous holy card collection, our stash of Neumann Press gems, Seton Religion texts, a Mother Love prayer book that has seen its last, rosaries that are missing many of their beads, and the like… lives our family’s best friend – prayer.
Throughout my own life and the life of our family, prayer has never failed to be there for us. Prayer was my rock as a teenager when I dug myself out of the trenches of Calvinism and climbed into the loving arms of Holy Mother the Church. It has been my comrade in times of debilitating illness and loneliness, and has been my strength through trying pregnancies.
Our Journey with 10,000 Beads
Perhaps our family’s journey with prayer began when I started praying the Rosary in search of a husband. As I was praying Rosary novena after novena, my husband-to-be was over 1500 miles away, crafting a gorgeous wooden wall rosary with over 10,000 beads, and praying for a good wife.
That rosary now hangs in our home, and continually reminds us of the gift that we are to one another. Over the years, we have experienced remarkable peace from praying the Rosary every evening and wrapping Our Lady’s mantle around our family.
Throughout the years, prayer was our friend when we lost our full-term twins after birth; when we had financial needs; when we took a risk to move out into the country and begin life anew. Prayer has brought us healing and hope; it has revived our love as a family, and has given us the grace to homeschool our children.
All Christians have marvelous testimonies of the gift that prayer has been in their lives. True prayer always brings us close to the heart of Our Father. Time and time again, we will find that when life is tough, we must look up, and get a glimpse of what lies well beyond the sky – God.
As a mother, I know that if I teach my children to pray from the heart, they will be blessed beyond my imaginings. The moment we teach our little children to fold their hands in prayer is the moment we give them keys to open Heaven’s gates.
The moment we teach them to listen to Jesus is the moment we give them what they need to make it through dismal valleys on earth and sing praises for all eternity.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Bring prayer to your family, bring it to your little children. Teach them to pray. For a child that prays is a happy child. A family that prays is a united family. We hear of so many broken families. We examine them: Why are they broken? I think because they never pray together.”
A Profound Life of Family Prayer
As I look back, I see that the times we have abandoned prayer are the times we have met misery and confusion, while the times we have embraced it, we have flourished. A profound life of family prayer allows a family to rise to the heights of who they were divinely ordained to be.
This being said, how can we make prayer the centerpiece of our family life?
“In reality, there is only one true prayer, only one substantial prayer: Christ Himself,” Mother Teresa said. “There is only one voice that rises above the face of the earth: the voice of Christ. Perfect prayer does not consist in many words, but in the fervor of the desire which raises the heart to Jesus.”
Our effort to homeschool must be born from prayer, and it must be continually fed by this prayer. Our children must know that their lives as students must be rooted in prayer as firmly as possible. Whatever it takes, they must learn to open themselves directly to Jesus.
Mother Teresa also once said, “Prayer, to be fruitful, must come from the heart and must be able to touch the heart of God. I believe each time we say, ‘Our Father,’ God looks at His hands, where He has carved us… He looks at His hands and He sees us there.”
Our students must understand that when they open their school books, they should prayerfully open their minds to Jesus the Teacher. Prayer must be the foundation of our family and the pillar we lean on as we educate our young. It has helped the most frustrated homeschooling moms get through the school day and has lifted up downtrodden students. It has made the Saints who they are, and it wants to do the same with each member of our families.
Some Practical Ideas
That being said, some practical ways to make prayer your family’s “best friend” are:
- Let your children have a study break, and take them for a nature walk during which they pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
- Join the Prayer Chain at your local parish, if there is one. If there is not one already, ask your parish priest about starting one. When prayer requests come in, your family can make a special effort to intercede.
- Take advantage of all of the incredible religious books and prayer materials that Seton Educational Media and other Catholic companies have to offer. The homeschooling pioneers in our country would be totally amazed at all we have today! Have each child make up a basket of the prayer items that help him pray the best, and take this basket out during family “quiet hour.”
- Let those who have musical talent in your family play or write prayerful songs for the whole family to enjoy.
- Each year for Pentecost, let each member of your family choose a gift or fruit of the Holy Spirit to integrate into their spiritual lives in a special way until the next Pentecost. An easy way to do this is to put all of them in a hat and have each person draw one out. Similarly, on the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, let each family member choose another family member to pray for during the new year.
- Befriend monks, priests or nuns of local religious communities by making regular donations to them, or sending in prayer requests. If they offer religious services, go when you can.
- Have your children make creative, religious art projects on a regular basis, such as those suggested in Seton’s Art One, and by the company Illuminated Ink.
- Try to revive traditional prayers like the Holy Face Chaplet. This Chaplet is ideal for praying with children because it takes only five minutes, and comes with a picture of the Holy Face to contemplate.
- Have your teenage students research the lives and works of the Church’s mystics and share what they have learned with the rest of the family.