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Parents teaching children to pray

By Sean Martin
John Paul II Generation

“A family that prays together stays together!” We have all heard this saying at some point (or many times) over our lives. I remember as a kid my parents repeating the phrase as they gathered my siblings and me together to pray the family Rosary. I can still remember gathering in a living room lit with only a candle in the middle and all of us sitting or laying in a circle around the light. I remember the wooden beads of my Dad’s Rosary that almost had a distinct smell to it as we prayed. These beads were worn as if they must have been prayed on thousands of times. I remember my parents teaching me my bed time prayers, of asking God to bless my family and friends. When I got older I continued these night prayers and added an Our Father and a Hail Mary. Even in high school, when I was not practicing my Catholic faith the way I should, I still prayed these prayers and kept a Rosary alongside my bed. I am a firm believer that weren’t it not for my parents teaching me how to pray and the joy of praying, I wouldn’t be striving for a deep relationship with the Lord today.

Are parents responsible to teach their children to pray?
Parents are responsible to care for every aspect of their children’s life: physical, psychological, moral, social, cultural, spiritual, and religious. Any good parent understands the need to care for his or her children in the physical sense by providing food, shelter, and clothing and even in the social sense by desiring good healthy friendships. But, how many parents really take seriously their call to teach their children how to pray and have a relationship with the God who created and redeemed them. “The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer. Based on the sacrament of marriage, the family is the ‘domestic church’ where God's children learn to pray ‘as the Church’ and to persevere in prayer. For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church's living memory as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2685).

Where do we find this call of parents to teach their children to pray?
One of the three questions asked to a man and woman in the Rite of the Sacrament of Marriage is “Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?” The question posed serves as an invitation to the couple to be open to procreation and to respond to their duty of the education of their children in the faith. This invitation is a reminder of the “call” charged to parents: parents must aid their children in fostering a relationship with Jesus Christ.
This call is again revisited in the Rite of Baptism when parents are again asked, “You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him/her in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him/her up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”

What type of prayers should we teach children?
Prayer is a relationship between God the Father and His children through Jesus Christ in the bonds of the Holy Spirit. It seems to me very important to teach our children the gems of our Catholic faith that will bring about this relationship with Our Heavenly Father. Some of these treasures of the Catholic faith are: the Sacraments (especially the Holy Eucharist and Confession), Eucharistic Adoration, Liturgy of the hours, Rosary, litanies, novenas, and devotions to Mary, the saints and angels.

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