Here's a recipe for success when it comes to getting the morning started off right with your kids.
In many families, the start of the day is a blurry-eyed marathon between the sleepy-heads you have to wake up, the littlest one desperately searching for his other sock, and the eldest who’s stubbornly refusing to eat her breakfast. In short, it’s a race to get everyone off on their daily round (school, work, daycare, the baby-sitter, etc.). Where does morning prayer fit into all this?
Morning prayer: Giving God pride of place
We’re all aware it would be good to find a little place for it, but we just don’t see how. From time to time, we make good resolutions that we stick to — more or less, for a time. And we remain amazed but discouraged by those who manage to pray faithfully every morning. So is morning prayer only possible for the early-birds? Is it really important to start our day with a prayer? Of course it is! Because prayer is vital. Morning prayer means giving pride of place to God in our day, because He holds pride of place in our life. It’s a way of giving him thanks for this day before us, for His life dwelling within us.
Morning prayer is also a way of placing all we will experience that day into the hands of God, of abandoning ourselves to Him in total confidence. It’s a way to offer up to Him our joys, our sorrows, our striving, and our shortcomings to give them their full meaning. It is to entrust to Him those whom we’ll encounter and to recommend to Him what seems to us difficult or important … whether it be a work meeting or a math test. In a way, it’s letting Him take the rudder for moment, which will set us on the right course for the whole day. If it’s really important for us to start our day with prayer, it’s possible — for God never asks the impossible of us. It’s all about finding out how to turn what’s possible into a reality.
From a simple sign of the cross to prayers posted in the bathroom
First of all, you have to start by knowing yourself, and taking a realistic look at your loved ones.
Being an early bird isn’t just a question of will-power; it’s also a question of temperament, of one’s physiological make-up, of upbringing, and of deeply seated habits. If you wait for an easy time to do it, you’ll have a long wait. Begin tomorrow …. without everyone being ready or everything in place.
There’s no one right way to pray in the morning. All that matters is that you do it and do it faithfully every day. Three minutes of daily prayer is better than an hour once a month. Of course, it’s up to each and every family to find the solution that suits them best. To this end, there are many ideas you might want to try:
- When you go to wake the youngest ones, make the sign of the cross on their foreheads, or get them to make a nice sign of the cross along with you.
- For children 8-10 and over, suggest that they make “Word of God” flash cards. It’s a simple question of copying out one or another passage from the Bible. These cards can be stored away in a box or an envelope, or in a drawer of the child’s bedside table. It’s easy for them on waking up to take one of them and read it so they can then meditate on this Word during the day. Such cards have other advantages: the simple fact of reading them will encourage a child to delve into Holy Scripture and familiarize themselves with passages that speak to them most. Then, the fact of copying them out and rereading them regularly helps to memorize and internalize Scripture. Finally, it’s easier to read a card of one verse than to look up and read the same verse in a book. Children can also of course keep on their bedside table a book of the Gospels, a missal, or their monthly issue of MagifiKid, for example.
- In the same way, a child or adolescent could collect “prayer cards” on which they copy down prayers they’ve especially noticed here and there, or his or her own prayers. Psalms can also figure among these texts: for example, Psalm 94 which opens the prayer of the Church every day.
- If the whole family gathers for breakfast, you can take two or three minutes to pray together before sitting down to eat.
- Since the bathroom is the most frequented room in the morning, some families choose to post a prayer, a verse from Scripture, or the “saint of the day” over the sink … all presented well enough to be easily read as you’re shaving or brushing your teeth.
But the best way to encourage your children to pray is to start by praying yourself, individually or as a couple. Some like to get up a little earlier in order to pray 15 minutes or a half hour or more in the silence of a still sleeping household. Morning prayer is accessible to all, provided one understands its importance and doesn’t make over-ambitious resolutions that won’t stand the test of time. As always, it’s not a question of seeking to do as well as or better than your neighbors; it’s all about doing the bestwe can.