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Prayer and Interchurch Families

There have been times when I’ve thought that spirituality might be different as part of an Interchurch family but in preparing to write this piece I have come to the conclusion that prayer is different for families whether they are same denomination or not.  My father regularly quoted that ‘the family who prays together, stays together’ but failed to demonstrate this in his daily living.  I personally believe more than that; a family who can pray together not only stay together but foster an atmosphere in which thoughts, feelings and actions are open, honest and focussed.  I also want to assure anyone that prayer within families can take many forms and does not have to include every member of the family.

In recent times there has been research into family spirituality.  In 2004 the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales undertook an exercise named ‘Listening 2004’ to try and understand how people experienced their faith.  They started several programmes including ‘Home is a Holy Place.’  This particular initiative was launched with a symposium in Durham which used a book of the same name by Mark Boyer, published by ACTA publications and now unfortunately out of print.

During the symposium I met David Thomas and read his book on family spirituality.  His research was down-to-earth and grounded in personal experience and reality.  He shared that a God-graced moment occurred whilst he was bathing his children.  In that activity he recognised the service he was giving; making him Christ-like in washing the disciples’ feet.

The Redemptorist Publications in the UK have recently published a book on family spirituality by Bairbre Cahill.  The title is simply “Family Spirituality” encouraging families to recognise God’s presence in their home.  I’m particularly impressed with the author’s choice of scripture readings which highlight families.  For example the blurb on the back of the book begins with a verse from Micah, ‘This is what the Lord asks of you, only this, that you act justly, that you love tenderly, that you walk humbly with your God.’

My deliberations have been grounded in personal experience.  Richard and I began using ‘Home is a Holy Place’ with Ruth when she was younger.  However, she is currently in a phase of finding prayer and church ‘boring’.  We have tried to pray together since then and recently completed a yearlong set of readings and decided that to wait until Advent before beginning a new regular book would be the ideal for us.  However, we didn’t want to find ourselves in a vacuum so we have revisited Mark Boyer’s book.

It has been ideal for us containing thirty seven scripture readings with reflections, meditations and prayers.  Each reading is focussed on an aspect of the home.  The only drawback for us is that it is oriented towards an American audience and is written within a Roman Catholic context.  However, it is still useful as it has the complete scripture reading written out saving us from looking it up and many of the themes are universal.

Another book which I found helpful is ‘The Heavenly Party’ by Michelle Guinness.  Michelle is an Anglican Jewish woman.  Whilst not being specifically on prayer Michelle looks at ways of rediscovering the Jewish traditions and celebrating them.  The recipes and reflections are taken from the Jewish tradition ‘but subjected to Messianic amendment in order to make it a mine of rich and relevant celebration’.  This provided a welcome contrast to some of the other books which I used.

At various times we have had no shared prayer at all but the best times in our family are definitely when our lives are grounded in some form of daily prayer.  About two years ago the annual conference of AIFGB looked closely at prayer and spirituality.  Three independent people with different worship backgrounds shared ideas on prayer.  We also had workshops on prayers and one of my personal favourites was lectio divina.  This is a combination of traditional and formal with free-flowing.

So, if you are wondering how you might pray within your family, my advice would be, is to experiment and find out what fits your family.  Don’t assume that what works now will always work: be open to change and go where God the Holy Spirit leads you.

Helen Connell
31st December 2012