Family Prayer, sometimes called Family Worship, is a cornerstone activity of the Christian family’s life. In it, we come together to sing, read Scripture, and pray. Yet, this activity can feel daunting and unfamiliar. What do we read? What do we pray? How long should it be? How often should we do Family Prayer?
My goal is to help you make Family Prayer a regular rhythm in your home. Let’s start by looking at the structure of Family Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer.
What is Family Prayer?
The Book of Common Prayer 2019 includes guides for Family Prayer (starting on page 66 in the Book of Common Prayer or you can access an online version of Family Prayer here) that give us the words to sing, read, and pray at four different times throughout the day. Let’s walk through their basic three-part structure.
Each order for Family Prayer starts with an introductory verse, then a brief selection from the Psalms. Read the Psalm as your family’s own prayer. You can read it in unison or responsively, as indicated by the asterisk.
Next is a verse or two of Scripture that is particularly appropriate for the time of day. Reading these verses daily will help you reflect on them repeatedly and commit them to memory. Several choices of Scripture are given for each time of day.
Last are the prayers. You can offer your own prayers or begin with the Lord’s Prayer. There’s always a short prayer called a Collect, which briefly thanks God and asks for his help in a specific way. Family Prayer ends with a blessing.
How to Make Family Prayer Work
I recommend you start by participating in Family Prayer together at bedtime every night. Ending your day in praise, Scripture reading, and prayer is a great way to instill a sacred rhythm in your home. Before too long, your whole family will memorize the prayers and Scripture and you’ll be able to start using new Psalm selections and Bible verses. After establishing this routine of ending your family’s day in prayer, consider beginning your day together in prayer as well.
(To learn more about creating a family prayer space at home, click here.)
Family Prayer should only last 5-7 minutes. This is the intent of the orders for Family Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. They were designed to accommodate families with young children, to make prayer accessible for all of us.
Sing as much as possible. There are some good resources available for learning how to sing different traditional canticles as well as how to chant the psalms. It might feel odd and intimidating at first. It certainly did for me! But as I committed to singing the Psalms and canticles, my daughter was more engaged and we began to learn them together much more quickly.
Lastly, don’t worry about how “neat” everything goes. Your children will be all over the place many nights. It might feel like they’re not paying attention. That’s okay! Make it a priority, and stick with it! Eventually, your children will become more and more involved, and you’ll be surprised at how much they’ve been soaking up all along.
Commit to regular Family Prayer and you’ll find that it reshapes your days. Your family will be changed for the better by the power of God’s word and prayer.