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When I Find it Hard to Pray as a Family....

Have you ever met a family that you are just in awe of? That seem to radiate Jesus? I know some of them--chief among them my friend Ann Voskamp, author of the Amazon bestseller 1000 Gifts, who would be so embarrassed at being described that way.

I love God. My children love God. My husband loves God. We talk about Him a ton. We talk about missions, and about purpose, and about the Bible. We memorize Scripture together. We think through theological doctrine. But one thing we struggle with is prayer.

Everytime I go to a conference, or speak at a marriage conference, my husband and I come away with the same conviction: we need to pray more as a family. I firmly believe that victory comes only through prayer, and that we cannot do anything in our own strength well.

And yet, perhaps because I am more of a logical/intellectual person, I struggle with prayer. Interestingly, my younger daughter, who is the only one in the family who tends towards the touchy/feely side of the spectrum, has less trouble praying out loud and for an extended period of time than the rest of us. I wonder if it's the difference between logic/feely type people?

It is not that I DON'T pray. Indeed, I often think of Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God, about how we need to capture every thought and take it captive to Christ, and try to focus on God throughout the day, claiming every part of our lives for His kingdom, rather than just the "Sacred" times. I often think I spend hours in prayer everyday, but that's because my whole life is like one big, endless prayer to God. As I'm writing, I'm asking, "is this true, Lord?" "Is this what you want me to say?"

So it's not conversing with the Almighty that is awkward; it's that sitting around, all four of us, holding hands, closing eyes, and talking all together.

Yet why is it awkward? And is this a condemnation of us?

I know my oldest daughter prays a ton on her own, too. She has a prayer diary she keeps, and she writes in it at least 15 minutes a day, writing out her prayers. She also spends other time just talking to God. She has blogged about it and talked to me about it. Here's a post where my analytical daughter, for instance, talks about how God is not only an emotion.

So why do 4 people who all pray quite a bit individually have difficulty praying together? I do not know. And I'm confessing this because I want you to know that I am not perfect. I, of course, do not assume that you think I am. I probably frequently write things you disagree with. But I want to be transparent, and tell you I struggle, too, and this is an area where we are struggling.

I want to change it. I want to pray meaningful prayers, and not just go around the circle and pray for friends who need God, or the things that we often fill our prayers with. But I know that my kids will only learn to feel comfortable doing this by example, not just because I lecture to them that it's important.

And that means it has to start with me, and with my husband. I have no problem praying in public; I do it often when I speak. But somehow prayer has become something very private to me, that I have difficulty sharing with others. But it's important to me that we pray as a family. It's important to me because I think that's when God works best. And so we will try a little more.

I brought this up with my husband tonight, and he agrees that we need to emphasize this more, though he's like me: he doesn't know why it's so hard for us. God doesn't need specific words or formulas, after all. He just wants us to talk to Him.

So I'm going to suggest this method for our family:

1. Read a Scripture passage or two.
2. Pray short prayers focusing on who God is.
3. Asking for specific things for people we know.
4. Asking for specific things for ourselves.
5. Thanking God for what He's done.

It doesn't have to take long, but it should be heartfelt. And we need to pray more.

I remember when the girls were young, and I vowed that I would make sure they grew up to feel that prayer was natural. I don't feel as if I've done that, and my one daughter is within two years of leaving home. I have more to do in this area.

And so I want to know: do you struggle with prayer as a family? What do you do to help? Does it come naturally to you? I want to know!

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At 8:43 AM , Blogger shale said…

Yes! Same here. We are 'special occasion' family pray-ers in our family, like some people are special occasion church-goers. I want more, too. Specifically I want to incorporate something at night - even if it's just 5 minutes after the TV is off and before everyone goes to bed, reading scripture and praying together. I think it would meet several things at once...Deuteronomy's "talk of these things in the morning when you get up and at night when you go to sleep" mandate, my desire that we connect more as a family (too many electronics here and I'm having trouble separating us all from them), and just in general leave everyone with something better to think on when going to bed than the last TV program. Why is doing that one simple thing so very difficult?


At 8:46 AM , Blogger Teri Lynne Underwood said…

Love this post, Sheila. This is something we struggle with as well. My daughter and I pray together regularly but it's hard to find a time for us all three to pray together due to husband's erratic schedule (as a pastor). Making that happen is a priority for us.

{And, just a quick note, Brother Lawrence wrote "The Practice of the Presence of God."}


At 8:49 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Thanks, Teri! I fixed that :)!

And I appreciate your comments, both of you. I'm glad I'm not alone.


At 9:38 AM , Blogger hothoney said…

This is a very appropriate post for our family right now. Actually, many of your posts are what I need to hear when you post them!

At my husbands prompting, we have started to gather the kids (ages, 8, 7 and 3) before school to have a family prayer. It's short and sweet, but everyone has the opportunity to participate. It's our hope that this creates a habit that we all need to start our day on the right foot and to keep us bonded as a family in Christ. I hope to add your 50 top scriptures to part of the routine so we can start memorizing scripture together as well.



At 9:43 AM , Blogger Sheila said…


That's awesome! I wish we had been that deliberate when the kids were younger. I think it is easier when they're younger, so good for you!


At 10:15 AM , Blogger Rachel said…

i'm completely the same way... probably worse. i have no problem praying on my own, or before meals as a family, but just gathering to pray together... geez. my husband and i can't even do that together. it just feels so weird. i know i remember my mom wanting to do this when i was a kid and i HATED it. it was so awkward and that was when my mom would bust out all the 'churchy words' and sound all strange... that's probably what ruined it for me, i don't know. but i know i have a major block about it and (other than prayer, ironically enough) i'm not really sure what to do about it. i'd love to pray with and for my children individually, and i do, sometimes with my younger ones, but i'm afraid my 11 year old would think i was off my rocker, yet he's probably the one who would benefit most from it. ::sigh::


At 5:10 PM , Anonymous jrmiss86 said…

A few months ago we started reading a kids devotional book and then praying with each of our kids. It has done wonders for them and us, My daughter (who is a very bad sleeper, and has frequent nightmares) has been sleeping through the night and my son's ADHD behavior has improved sooo much. Now if we miss a day due to illness, or being out too late, I can tell in both their behavior and sleeping patterns the next couple of days, and they get very concerned and upset if we don't do it.


At 6:05 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Jr. Miss, what a great testimony! Okay, now you've inspired me. We have something big to pray about now together, anyway. We've been talking about adoption, and just heard about a few girls who may be up for adoption soon. So we really do need to pray as a family!


At 9:39 PM , Anonymous Miss Leslie said…

Hi Sheila. I thought this was such a neat post. We have said prayers daily as a family for most of our married life. Now my daughter, husband, and 4 children also say family prayers on a daily basis. It it kind of habit-forming, I guess. I'm actually much worse about personal prayers than I am about family prayer. We don't hold hands, though, and to be honest, I hate to pray with people who insist on holding hands. That's just a personal thing. We just fold our arms and bow our heads. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

Wishing you a song in your heart,
Miss Leslie @ Music with Miss

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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