“Some of it will fit your family while other parts may feel awkward and contrived. In the case of the latter, I encourage you to follow the monk’s counsel by praying what you can. In any case, to be genuine, family prayer and ritual must be your own.”
Family prayer at my own home was limited to reciting Grace around the Christmas or Thanksgiving meal, whenever our grandmother was visiting. We’d all sit around the table, eyes closed and hands folded, and either Nana or I would talk about our family and our home and world politics and our health and gratefulness while the turkey congealed.
The rest of my family has a comfortably hazy opinion of God that lets them sleep in on Sunday mornings. They’ve never, ever failed to be supportive of me getting up in mid-December, at seven o’clock a.m., to walk to the local church. Uphill. While the roads are still icy. And nobody salts their sidewalk. “You’re getting us into heaven, that’s your responsibility,” my mum has said cheerfully, leaving me with a mental image straight out of The Simpsons of slinging all my family over my shoulders fireman-style while rising up on a beam of light through the clouds.
The point being: prayer is always something I did alone, silently for a moment or two, usually in my bedroom before falling asleep. Occasionally I’ve lit a candle, but not often. A lot of the kids who went to our local elementary school also went to our local church, and I’ve been to bat mitzvahs and weddings and funerals—there’s never been a shortage of traditions—but faith itself has always personal and private.
So reading Prayers and Rituals for the Home was an odd experience. I can’t personally imagine reading the Bible out loud with my family, or raising my arms to pray like a revivalist preacher. And there’s the “prayer rock” on page 58:
Just put me on your pillow till the day is through. Then turn back the covers and climb into your bed and WHACK… your little prayer rock will hit you on the head. […] When you get up in the morning, CLUNK… I’ll stub your toe. So you will remember your prayers before you go.
Why are we getting hit with rocks? I don’t want to get hit with rocks. My brother and I haven’t been allowed to throw rocks since the incident of 1994.
But that’s just my own experience. Reading Prayers and Rituals for the Home makes me realize that one worldview can be limited—that everyone experiences faith differently, and finds their own meaning. What comes across as awkward and strange to one person can be a source of profound comfort and joy to another. And while some of the exercises Hendricks suggests are more conventional—writing in a journal, meditating, unplugging the TV and computer for an hour or so—every gesture and activity in Prayers and Rituals for the Home comes down to the simple act of spending time with your family. Talking, sharing your thoughts, putting something together: many being one.
If you have your own family rituals, please share them with us, through Facebook, Twitter, or replying to this blog post.
-Gillian Robinson, Sales and Marketing Assistant
If you like this book, we also have another book that will support the prayer life of parents. Pocket Prayers for Parents is a wonderful collection of inspiring prayers for every moment of parenthood.