As a young school student, maybe around the age of 11, I often wondered what I was supposed to think about when I prayed. I thought of asking a priest if I should picture the words of the prayers, as if I was imagining them written across a chalkboard . . . or, should I be thinking of something else? Jesus’ face perhaps?
What strikes me about this memory the most are not the questions I had, but the fact that I did not think of asking my parents those questions. My faith is the greatest gift my parents gave me. They taught me to pray before meals, before I went to sleep at night, to go to Mass every Sunday, to pray the Rosary, participate in the Sacraments, and so on. Yet, I did not think of asking them how to pray. Perhaps if I saw a book laying around called “77 Ways to Pray with Your Kids“, it would have hit me – hey, ask mom or dad, she (or he) bought that book! Maybe.
Praying with a 3 year old
At this point in my life, I a am still in motherhood bootcamp. My oldest and only (so far) is a very active 3 year old. He is starting to say the prayers he hears my husband and I pray, but I use the term “say” loosely. When he prays “Bless Us, O Lord” or the “Our Father” I think we can identify about five English (or any human language) words. In short, he has absolutely no idea what he is saying.
How 77 Ways to Pray helps
By page 19 of “77 Ways to Pray . . .” the author, Jerry Windley-Daoust, had both assured me that I was doing some things right and gave me a handful of ideas that would help me work with the Holy Spirit and guide my son to a closer relationship with Jesus. Windley-Daoust also provides awesome ideas including craft or craft-like projects (table triangles, placemats, paper prayer chains and thanksgiving murals to name a few) and really provides approaches for all age groups and attention spans. The book focuses on three main age groups (3+, 7+ and 13+) but also includes baby prayers and really enriches the reader as well. When I almost drew pictures of hearts on the page that collaborated prayer and chore time, I knew he had walked a mile in my shoes. As a stay-at-home parent, the author experienced the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention” and came up with many ways to truly be his children’s first teacher. The brevity of the book makes it easy to use as a reference, but also recommends other works to refer to on the journey to nourish your child’s soul.
As a practicing Catholic I found the book to even provide a few new lessons on my own spiritual journey. Even though I was educated in Catholic schools from first grade to graduate school, I had never heard the term Lectio Divina and was compelled to look it up. I was also extremely impressed with how rooted in Scripture so many activities were. I found myself visualizing ways to incorporate short prayers found in the Bible to connect with a teenager. For example, as a runner, I know a cross country race is extremely nerve wracking. How awesome would it be to find “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13 left by your mom or dad in your lunch or sports bag before a meet. My point is, the book not only offers great ideas, but also stimulates more ideas in the reader.
Although the work gives great advice for any Christian family to use, the work stresses the importance of the Sacraments and the challenges that come along with them. Although I am sure many Christian families have to find a way to reach the teen that no longer wants to go to church on Sunday, Catholics have the added challenge of, “why can’t I just ask God for forgiveness directly”. 77 Ways gives suggestions on how to deal with these unique, but common, questions.
There are also small pieces of advice that I absolutely love in this book. For example, “walk to Mass”. I remember complaining when we walked as a family growing up. But, how much does a walk calm a soul – or allow a little one to burn off energy? It’s meditative. Another reminder that Eucharistic adoration is better to attend for ten minutes than no minutes at all. From “God’s mailbox” to a prayer journal, having this book is just one tool that will help parents who truly desire to nurture the souls in which God has entrusted them.
Now that I have read the book . . .
I’m excited to make a visit to adoration today (although it will only be 10 minutes), look into the prayer apps that “77 Ways to Pray . . .” recommends, and really start considering the prayer rug suggestion for my “constant ants-in-pants” son! Having this book as a reference will really help our family through the years.