Join us as we welcome the insightful Redemptorist priest, Fr David Hore, who returns to our podcast to illuminate the significance of family prayer in forging stronger bonds and inviting divine grace into our homes. In the hustle of modern life, families often find themselves gathered around the TV, but David challenges us to shift that focus towards a shared spiritual practice that can transform our relationships and enrich our daily lives.


The Prayer is Life podcast by Majellan Media with Redemptorist priest Fr David Hore CSsR 

In this podcast as part of the Prayer is Life series, Fr David discusses why families should pray together.


Praying as a family doesn’t always come easily to everyone or to every family. I saw some research recently that showed that in Catholic families, more than 70% of parents pray mostly as individuals rather than with the family, and that’s particularly interesting when taken with other findings that report about 85% of Catholic parents are likely to watch television with their family, while only 15% are more likely to watch alone. So, in short, families are more likely to watch television together than they are to pray together, and there’s good reason, I think, to put in the effort when it comes to family prayer. Not only does a rich faith and prayer life lead to happiness, but God wants to abundantly bless our families, and family prayer opens the family to the great graces that God has in store for all of us. And family prayer need not be difficult.


In addition to participating at the Sunday Eucharist, families can pray at mealtimes, for example, or they might use many of the other different forms of prayer. A family can pray simply by living charitably among one another. So when a family comes together for prayer, it always does something wonderful to strengthen the relationship and the bond between the members of the family, and it opens a family up to the importance of the love that sits at the heart of their family and it opens them up to the wider world also and to see the real needs where prayer is important. And so I like to encourage families as much as possible to try to find some time to pray and, as I said, it need not be difficult, it need not be long or overwhelming. It can be done simply, beautifully and powerfully and as a family gathers to pray to God. God will do extraordinary things in the life of the family.


Do you think mealtimes are particularly important for families to pray?

I think mealtimes are one of the best opportunities for families to pray. Prayer at mealtimes is one of the most accessible and brief forms of prayer and it’s a wonderful way to cultivate thanksgiving in families. And it might be as simple as making the sign of the cross and having the children to simply say thank you Jesus. Simply say thank you Jesus. Or you may use the familiar bless us, oh Lord. Prayer or whatever other words of thanks to God may be in your minds and hearts. And if we allow it, prayer at mealtimes can carry us far beyond gratitude for food.


In giving thanks for a meal, it can open us up to a bigger picture.


We might consider the natural resources that nurtured the food, the people who grew it, those who designed and operated the machines that harvested and transported it, those who sold it, those who designed and operated the machines that harvested and transported it, those who sold it.


The family’s gifts that enable us to earn resources to pay for it, those who prepared it, those who served it, the precious time to eat it, the body to enjoy and to be fueled by it, the presence of all others at the table or the peaceful solitude of eating alone.


So that’s what I was saying about family. Prayer can open us up to a bigger picture, a bigger world than just our own little family time or our own family needs, and so, if we’re willing to go further even, we can use it as an opportunity to recall the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. When we break bread together and share a blessing, we can spiritually commune with God for those few moments before enjoying the gifts of the earth the gifts of the earth. But we can also commune together at the table as a family, in union, in communion, learning about each other, talking to one another, growing in our relationships. It’s a most beautiful place around the table with God and the others who are with us, and it’s something that we need to really try to cultivate, I think, in our families.


Parents can offer a blessing to their children.

This is another way, I guess, for families to pray. Parents can offer a blessing by tracing the sign of the cross on their children’s foreheads, and the children can return the favour. That simple, small but powerful ritual can be a prayerful start to family celebrations such as a birthday or anniversaries, graduations or other achievements and special events. Parents might do it at bedtime perhaps. The simple practice welcomes God into our relationships and it reminds everyone that our family, each member of our family, belongs to God, and it’s recognizing the sacredness and the beauty of each member of our family, who is God’s work of art, who is created in God’s image and who is a reflection of God to us. So it’s a beautiful way, just simply tracing the sign of the cross around important events to help us not only acknowledge each member of the family, but to give thanks for them and their lives and to ask God to bless them and bless our families.


Other benefits of families praying together at lunch or dinner?


I think mealtimes can also be opportunities to reflect on the many people in Australia and across the world who have no daily bread, and so such awareness can lead a family to positive action, family to positive action.


These are great reminders for the whole family about where all good things ultimately come from and our reliance upon God as our loving creator.


But it also can begin to spark a consciousness within each member of the family, especially our young people, to try and help them and immerse them into the world and what’s being experienced by many other people in the world who have nothing to eat, and especially to give them that awareness, that social conscience of what we might be able to do to help those who are less fortunate.


It can teach us things about gratitude. It can teach us things about self-restraint and sacrifice. It can teach us things about how do we share, how do we become generous, how do we get up off our chair and do something to make a positive impact in the lives of others. So not only is it that chance for family to come together and share the beauty of food and the beauty of one another, but it can prompt us to look at a much bigger picture, us to look at a much bigger picture our world and there are many people who are suffering, there are many people who go without, and it’s an ideal opportunity to really teach and to educate our children and perhaps, bit by bit, we all might be able to make a bigger difference in our world and in the lives of people most in need.


Saying sorry and asking forgiveness leads to healthy relationships, while honesty and being open are powerful examples of family prayer.


All families find themselves in situations where relationships are strained or they’re fractured or when there’s disunity. So it’s important to be able to say sorry and to ask forgiveness for our own part in the particular situation, and it’s also an opportunity for us to seek God’s forgiveness for the ways we’ve failed to love. And so when a family opens themselves up to this kind of prayer, it can help the family to refocus their efforts on the need to promote and to nurture and to grow and develop healthy relationships and family union.


Honesty, openness and being big enough to take responsibility can be a powerful example of family prayer, and it can be an opportunity for people in the family to come together and ask forgiveness and for people to be honest and for there to be a reconciliation and a healing.


Now it won’t just happen like that, just quickly, with the click of a finger, but it can begin a process where a family can reconcile and bring healing if possible, if everyone opens themselves up to God’s grace and God’s power to try and bring that family into greater union. And families then might also use some kind of small ritual to celebrate and to mark the occasion of this healing and forgiveness. So it is important, I think, for families to be ready to say sorry, to be big enough to ask forgiveness and to acknowledge when I’ve done something wrong. And we can only do it for ourselves. We can’t force others, but if I can take responsibility for myself, I can take responsibility for myself, then I’m doing something in my own life and it can begin to open up myself and it can begin to help others in our relationships, in our families.


Praying as a family is not to mealtimes.


There are countless times when families can come together to pray. You’re right, mealtimes is just. It’s perhaps one of the easiest and it’s an opportune time to pray. But families can pray together in thanksgiving during times of blessing. For example, a new baby, a positive school report, a new job, a family holiday.


Families can pray for God’s help and grace in the difficult times when there’s illness or death or family problems. Praying through both the joys and the sorrows is a reminder to families of God’s enduring presence and strength. And one of the beautiful times for prayer is often again when a family member is coming to the end of their lives and a family might gather in the hospital room or the hospice room, gather around the bed of the family member who’s beginning that final journey to God. And it’s a wonderful, extraordinary and powerful moment of God’s presence. And it helps not only the person who’s making the journey, but it does something for those of us who are preparing to say goodbye or who are preparing to face reality of not having that loved one with us anymore the sorrow, the grief, and it can bring families together as well, but it’s a powerful moment, for example, where God’s grace and presence and strength can be found.


Another example would be to take children outside and help them to recognize and adore the glory of God in creation in the ocean, the night sky, the forest, the farm, the suburb, countless examples and places.


The awe that’s experienced through creation can really point families towards God and help to appreciate God’s power and goodness of love, as well as helping us to be ever grateful for the gifts of our world and the importance in responsibly caring for the earth. And the importance in responsibly caring for the earth, our common home. And I think opening our eyes to the wonder and beauty of creation is a great way to foster family prayer, to give thanks for this beautiful place that we live, or this beautiful experience that we’re having, or this glorious and wonderful ocean that we have where we, this beautiful experience that we’re having, or this glorious and wonderful ocean that we have where we’re swimming on our holiday. These are moments of teaching, of formation, when people can really begin to open themselves to gratitude and thanks to God for all that we’ve given and not to take things for granted and to use them wisely as good stewards, remembering that we need to share them with everyone.