“Why do we have to say the Rosary every night?” Imagine this being said in the whiniest of five year old boys whines.
Now, imagine it being repeated, every night, for about five minutes before the Rosary. It’s enough to drive me crazy.
It doesn’t matter when we start, whether or not the kids have had a long day or are well rested, sick or well. This little boy just does not like saying the family Rosary before bed. He also used to throw a fit when we refused to feed him if he refused to say grace with us. Oh, and he still doesn’t participate much at Mass. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a pretty good kid; he just doesn’t “like” praying.
Every night, when he starts in with his chant, I feel like dropping those beads and giving up. It’s hard, after all, trying to get five kids to sit quietly for fifteen minutes without the use of the TV; even harder is getting any of them to actually join in with the prayers. When that defeated feeling starts to wash over me though, I know I need to fight it and keep praying. I am not some kind of saint, far from it, and am speaking purely out of experience here. What I’ve found from making my children pray with me and my husband everyday is that the rewards far outweigh the hassle. I fight the urge to give up not because I’m holy, but I like the rewards.
The Benefits of Praying as a Family (Even with Small Children):
- All well intentioned prayer is beneficial to the person praying. As C. S. Lewis said of praying, “It doesn’t change God; it changes me.”
- Praying daily builds stamina. Just as with exercising one’s body, we need to build stamina before attempting any serious feat. The child who finds it difficult to pray one Hail Mary without becoming distracted will eventually become one who prays a full five decades attentively if only he is made to keep at it. Helping [read: making] a child pray daily builds the stamina needed to not only “get through” Mass or a holy hour, but actually fully enter into those moments.
- Family prayer is habit forming. Children are more likely to continue praying the Rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet or attending Adoration or any other prayer if they have begin the practice early and it is reinforced daily. I credit my mother and father and our family Rosary with my habit and am hoping to pass it along to my own children. In fact, of my siblings who participated in our nightly Rosary, all of us are still praying it every day, years later.
- Practice makes perfect. With prayer, as with anything else, we need ample time and chances to practice if we are to improve. We wouldn’t give up on teaching a child to read if he protested enough each time we opened the book. It should be no different with prayer. Knowing how to pray is as essential a life skill as reading, if not more so. We owe it to our children to be sure they are equipped to face all challenges. It might start out difficult, but it will get easier.
- Group prayer has a calming effect. At least on my kids. Most of the time, by the end of the Rosary, three out of the four older children are sound asleep, so, bonus.
- Parents set a concrete example. Telling children to pray and praying with them are two different things. Both serve a purpose, but praying with their parents gives the children a concrete example that prayer is and should be a part of life at all stages, not just something we tell children to do.
- Family prayer really does help unify a family. Every day, pray together, for each other. Knowing that every person in a family needs help can have quite a unifying effect, forming a kind of solidarity amongst its members that few things can duplicate.
That old adage, about the family praying together, is still true. Having time for family prayer each day may be hard, especially with young ones, but the rewards are great and can be reaped for years to come.