Karen & Derek Boylen: Eternal dividend in teaching kids to pray

08 Apr 2009

By The Record

A family watches from a balcony as Pope Benedict XVI recites the Angelus prayer in a plaza in Valencia, Spain, July 8. The Pope, attending the Fifth World Meeting of Families, urged mothers and fathers to be open to life and to create a home based on love, acceptance and mercy. (CNS photo/Heino Kalis, Reuters) (July 10, 2006)

By Derek and Karen Boylen


A few weeks back Elijah, our eldest (age 7) told us: “I’m praying that I get some more money so I can buy a robot.” Each night we make the effort to pray with our children, one on one, just before bed. It’s become a special time in our daily routine. A time when we just stop, and be, and spend a moment with our children, and with God. A miniature Emmaus experience in our family.
Lent is a time when we are called to renew and deepen our prayer life with God. Hopefully though, it permeates through into the new Easter season and the rest of the year. It is a challenge for every member of the family. As parents, we are especially challenged to lead the way; to become more prayerful people not just for our own salvation but for the salvation of our children too.
Prayer should be a corner stone of every Christian spouse and parent. Make this your first prayer each morning: Lord, help me today to be a better wife/husband and Mum/Dad. If you’re the kind of person who’s likely to forget then put it on the bathroom mirror. Begin each day by inviting God into your family life; you’ll be surprised what a difference it will make.
Parents need to be leaders in prayer for their families. This means creating opportunities for prayer, being prayerful ourselves, and encouraging and supporting our children’s efforts at prayer. Prayer becomes a more natural and powerful part of our children’s lives when we incorporate it into their daily routine rather than adding it on as an optional extra. Powerful prayer experiences can be:
– At dinner.
– In the car.
– Praying for each other, extended family and
– An examination of conscience.
Prayer is meant to be a natural part of life. It is the way that we “connect” with God. When we teach and help our children to pray we are helping them to connect with God; to become aware of God’s presence within, active in their lives.
This season is an opportunity to expand and broaden our capacity for prayer and the capacity of our family for prayer. It’s a great time to introduce our families to different forms of prayer:
– Learn some of the significant prayers of our faith: the Our Father, Hail Mary, Hail Holy Queen, Angelus, Rosary etc. Especially if you have young children.
– Lectio Divina: meditating on scripture.
– Meditation.
– The Divine Office: you might just do Evening or Morning Prayer.
– Host a prayer group in your home.
– Praying through song.
Praying isn’t just talking. To pray effectively we need to do both talking and listening. Sometimes we can get caught up with our busy lives, we end up complaining to God about the bills, mortgage, kids playing up, grumpy spouse, annoying neighbours and extended family. We forget to spend time listening.
Sometimes the most powerful prayer experiences are when we find the time to be quiet and to sit with God. We can do this on our own but some of our most cherished memories have been doing this with our children; lying quietly on the back lawn watching the clouds or sitting quietly in the parish church on a weekday when it is empty. They are moments of quiet and peace when we open our hearts to God’s will; when we let Him do the talking.