While we’re all considering our health goals (like improving digestion or losing weight) for the new year, it’s also important to take some time to think about our spiritual health. What steps can we take to bring life to our faith this year?
I’ve always had a hard time maintaining any kind of consistent prayer routine. I typically start every year with an abstract desire to pray more, but without much result. However, my prayer life is something I really tried to work on in 2014 and while I am certainly no bastion of expert prayer wisdom, I’ve learned a lot.
Here’s what I think I missed for years and years of my spiritual journey: we are physical as well as spiritual beings and instead of ignoring the physical, we can engage it to help us grow in faith.
You know how the scent of evergreen needles from the Christmas tree and the sight of the lights really bring us into a festive mindset? Sure, we could celebrate Christmas without a tree, but the physical reminder helps us enter the season.
This carries over into our spiritual life, as well. We are sensory creatures (just think about how we use our bodies to pray as we often close our eyes, kneel, or clasp our hands together to focus spiritually). But we can also anchor our homes in prayer by giving ourselves physical reminders that we can see, smell, and touch to point us to God.
Ways to Center Our Homes in Prayer Through Physical Reminders
- Light a candle as a reminder that when we pray, the Holy Spirit is present. If your family or friends have a pressing prayer intention/request, having a candle lit can remind you to pray for that situation throughout the day.
- Hang up a printable of the Our Father or another beloved family prayer. The Our Father, or Lord’s Prayer as it’s often called, is straight from the Bible and Jesus himself shared it with us, so it’s a great place to start.When my family is learning a new prayer together, I try to find or make a nice printable and frame it so that we have a reminder right before our eyes. I love these printables of the prayer for before and after meals created by Kendra Tierney.
- Set up a corner of your home for religious art such as icons, crosses, crucifixes, religious statues. You’ll be reminded to pray when you walk by and it’s a great place to gather for family prayer. If religious art isn’t a comfortable part of your faith tradition (it wasn’t for me! I grew up Presbyterian) the Nativity Scene is a familiar way to explain how such images can help lead us to prayer.Many families set out Nativity Scenes during Advent and Christmas, not because they are worshipping the little statues of the Christ Child, The Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph, of course, but because they want to be reminded of the truth of the Incarnation. Icons, statues, and other religious images are similar physical cues to help center our home spiritually.
- For more guidance about setting up a corner or shelf in your home as a “little oratory” or prayer space, I highly recommend Leila Lawler’s fantastic book The Little Oratory (found on Amazon). It’s a fantastic resource from the theoretical to the practical aspects of centering your home in prayer and it really inspired me! We have a corner of our living room where we hang some of our religious art and our rosaries and it’s where we gather for family prayer time.
Attaching Spiritual Disciplines to Mealtimes
While time around the table is sacred in its own way, we can use our physical need to eat to remind ourselves to stop and pray. Saying grace in thanksgiving for a meal is a common way to do this and we can add onto that by reading Scripture as a family or learning a new prayer together over a meal.
We’ve discovered that at our house with three young children, dinnertime through bedtime is usually not a great time to have attentive listeners. The kids are tired at the end of the day and I’m often running out of patience myself. So we’ve gotten into the habit of reading Scripture over the breakfast table instead. But if you’re rushed during your morning routine, perhaps evening will work best for your family to read Scripture together.
During some seasons of life it feels like mealtimes are the only consistent times we are praying together, but as we continue making prayer part of our daily routine, the daily habits of prayer grow and develop. Here’s a simple daily prayer schedule that we aspire to (but by no means have we fully developed this at our home, yet, so don’t get intimidated!):
- Prayer upon waking: The one thing that seems just crucial to centering our day in prayer seems to be the very hardest for me to be consistent about–getting up before the kids to spend time in prayer. When I do it, I’m better equipped to face the day with patience and gratitude.
- Morning Offering: Spend a moment in prayer to offer the day to God once everyone is up. The times we have been most successful at this is by praying just before we sit down to breakfast.
- Breakfast: Say Grace and read from the Bible. My husband typically reads Scripture out loud while the kids are still finishing their meal.
- Lunch: Say Grace. A friend of mine always prays the Angelus while she prepares lunch for her little ones. It’s traditionally prayed at noon and is drawn from the Gospel of Luke. This is definitely a prayer I want to make part of our daily routine this year as lunchtime is usually chaos!
- Dinner: Say Grace and learn one new prayer at a time. During the season of Advent we might learn the St. Andrew Christmas Novena (see a free printable here), for instance. If we repeat the new prayer before we start eating each night, the kids have it memorized within a week! Another thing we sometimes do is sing a hymn together while we’re setting the table and lighting the candles. There’s so many hymns I love but don’t know all the words to and this has been a great way to learn them!
- Bedtime: If kids are being on the less wild side of wild, we’ll pray a few decades of the Rosary before the bedtime scramble. If they’re on the more wild side, we just say bedtime prayers when everyone’s tucked in tight!
What ways of centering your home in prayer have you found to bring life to your family’s faith?