About this time last year, we started working on family prayers at mealtime and before bed. By nature I’m not one to pray aloud; I prefer to pray silently in private manner. When I pray aloud, I’m typically most comfortable reciting memorized prayers because that’s what my family did.
When we began introducing prayer to the babies, I attempted to adopt my cousin’s child-friendly mealtime prayer. I remember her children reciting it when they were young and I’ve always loved it. Ironically, since it was similar to my parent’s mealtime prayer, but not exactly the same I had a hard time recalling it despite it’s simplicity. Plus, it proved a bit wordy for very young toddlers. A year ago, they were working on signing “thank you”. Yet, I wanted mealtime prayers and gratitude to be part of our family meals. I abandoned the memorized prayer (at least at temporarily) and simplified things significantly for all of us. Prayer needed to be something everyone could do and would become a ritual.
I started just teaching the quads to say, “Thank you, God for….”, and I’d model a few things to list (e.g. our food, family, home). A few months ago, they picked up this simple prayer starter and began generating their own lists of things they are thankful for. I think rice makes it atop their list at least once daily. Other items they are thankful for include anything and everything that makes up their world from caretakers to toys. One evening, I overheard Rylin independently reciting her own bedtime prayer and she said, “Thank you, God for…. a bobcat.” I was quite puzzled and couldn’t recall ever discussing bobcats. She repeated, “Thank you, God for Bobcat.” then added, “and Billie”, which put it into context. She was expressing gratitude for our dear family friends Billie and Bob whose nickname is “Bobcat”. Oh how she melted my heart! Hearing toddlers pray is music to my ears.
After the quads mastered the concept of list making items, I added a few other aspects to our prayer including, “Please God, help me….” (e.g. be generous, kind) and “Please, God help others….” (e.g. to heal, find comfort). While the concept of seeking help and guidance is a bit more abstract, it is a work in progress, and in time they’ll learn. Even though we are still learning to pray, making it a family ritual is mastered. If we are ever in a hurry, even at snack time, someone will proclaim, “But Mom, we forgot to pray!” There are also times we did pray and someone insists we forgot, so we pray again.
This particular evening, we forgot to pray before we began eating and Rylin kindly reminded us-
As I was scrolling through old pictures, I found snapshots of Rylin and Mason as infants with their hands clasped as if praying. Perhaps they’ve been working on this longer than I thought.
Does your family pray before meals? If so, do you have a memorized prayer? We will likely revisit a memorized mealtime prayer in the foreseeable future, but for now I’m enjoying our simple list-like prayers.