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Catholic Parents Guide: 10 Family Prayer Time Ideas Throughout the Day and Year

Father Patrick Peyton was known for the saying, "The Family That Prays Together, Stays Together." So how can you make that happen? How can you get started on family prayer time? Or expand on family prayer time?

"Pray without ceasing." St. Paul tells us, not only to pray, but to pray without ceasing. This is the ideal of monks and monasteries, but can a family do this, too? 

That's what I've been working on ...


Slow and steady wins the race. My wife and I have been slowly adding family prayer times throughout our day. We started with a nightly Rosary or just a decade of the Rosary. Then we added a Morning Offering to our breakfast time together. I recently added the noon Angelus while we were on our family vacation. 

Next steps? Annual consecration to Jesus through Mary or St. Joseph? Daily recitation of The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary? More on all this below ...   

If these family prayers and family prayer times don't work for your family, don't worry. I have provided 10 Family Prayer Ideas below, so there is something that's sure to fit your family.


10 Family Prayer Ideas Table of Contents


Want a book with guides for saying all the following prayers? Here is the Catholic handbook for men I published: The Catholic ManBook!


Why is Family Prayer Time so Important?

The studies on family prayer time are compelling. Here is a selection of quotes from Catholic studies on family prayer. From these, I draw this simple conclusion: If I want my kids to get to Heaven, I need to pray with them. And - not that we need to be told this - getting our kids to Heaven is our primary responsibility as parents. 

The Faith is not transmitted to our kids through a series of logical, reasoned arguments. A Report on American Catholic Religious Parenting by Justin Bartkus and Christian Smith provides the following: 

One of the most basic suggestions of our findings is that young adults arrive at a sense of their fundamental identity and worldview not by weighing all possible intellectual arguments for and against a proposed way of life, but rather by roughly adopting the worldview of those mentors who left the deepest impression upon them—and who loved them and cared for them the most. It should come as no surprise, then, that the emergence of the new generation of dedicated young Catholics will rise and fall with the choices of their parents.[1]

 

What is the single most powerful force in a child’s religious formation? 

What has the most powerful on the Catholic formation of our kids? Is it providing them with a Catholic education? Is it a charismatic youth minister and well-funded youth group? Is it the parish priest? No and no and no. 

It's you! The parents. The single most powerful force in a child’s religious formation is the spiritual personality of the parent. Young people’s religious outcomes are decided, not in the parish or in Catholic school, but in the home. 

Fathers. Dads. You have an especially important role in all this. Studies have shown that a father's faith, even more than the mother's, plays the critical role in the transmission of the faith to the next generation. You can read more on this here:

 

According to Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations, the parental factors that make the most significant difference in promoting faith in youth are the following, in no particular order:[2] 

  • Parents’ personal faith and practice 
  • A close and warm parent-child relationship 
  • Parent modeling and teaching a religious faith 
  • Parent involvement in church life and Sunday worship 
  • Grandparent religious influence and relationship 

According to Bartkus and Smith, the primary way to root catholic identity in children’s lives are "the day-to-day religious practices of the family and the ways parents model their faith and share it in conversation, collaboration, and exposure to outside religious opportunities."[1]   

For more on these topics, here is a great article from the USCCB.

Here are some great ways to model your faith to your children, and maybe to enhance your faith, as well:


Bedtime Prayer for Family: What is a Good Prayer to Say Before Bed?

In the Top 10 list of family prayer time ideas, you will find several notes on good prayers to say as a family before bedtime. Here's a brief guide before we get to the list.

What makes a good bedtime prayer? What are the components of a good bedtime prayer? Afterwards, I'll share with you the bedtime prayer that works great for us and hits all the marks ...  
  • The prayer should calm the children down before bed. Bedtime prayer is good to situate right before bed. Or even when the kids are already in bed. After story time. This is a good way to transition into bedtime, if you have trouble with bedtime anxiety. 
  • Everybody should be able to participate. Everybody should be able to contribute somehow. A good way to do this is to add intentions at the end. What or who do your little ones want to pray for?
  • Flexibility! You should be able to continue the family tradition of prayer wherever you go, whatever you are doing (see consistency below). Bedtime prayer should be simple enough to continue while on vacation. In the car. Even on a plane!   
  • Consistency. Bedtime prayer should be short enough that you will say it every night. Bedtime prayer should not be too burdensome that kids dread it. Hopefully, after the first nights or weeks of a new family prayer tradition, the kids will enjoy it or at least stop groaning. In our family, it's the kids that start reminding us, the parents, that it's prayer time. That's how you know the flame of tradition is burning on its own!      

So what does our family do? What bedtime prayer is simple, short, easy to participate in, not too burdensome, and super flexible?  

Rosary Bedtime Prayer

The Rosary! We will say either a single decade or a full rosary before bedtime every night. The parents say the first half of the "Our Father" or "Hail Mary" and the kids say the second half. 

Each child takes a turn saying the second half of the "Hail Mary". This is how the kids learn their prayers in our house. You would be amazed how quickly they pick it up ... or just say a super-fast imitation of what the prayer sounds like. They get it eventually!   

At the end of our Rosary Bedtime Prayer, each child says their own little litany of saints, whoever they choose. We say a round of litanies and then a second round of intentions. Otherwise, the saints and intentions get all jumbled together. 
 

1. The Mass, Attending Mass as a Family

Before we get started, the Mass is the highest and greatest of all the prayers of the Church. It is not just a family prayer, but the foundation of all Christian families. 

Fight like hell to bring your family to Mass every Sunday, because that's exactly what you're doing. As parents, fighting hell is in the job description.


Like your own family, probably, we could talk forever about how to handle kids in Mass and teach them to be quiet and reverent. Just some quick notes on this, as it is worthy of a longer treatment:
  • Sit as close to the altar as possible. The altar is visually stunning, full of light and spectacle. This is the best way to capture your children's attention. 
  • Don't use toys to distract your kids at Mass; let the Mass capture your kids' attention. As toys go, less is more. A chewable Rosary or a knotted Rosary is really all you need. Knotted Rosaries are good because (a) they survive teething, despite getting soggy, and (b) they don't CRASH when they hit the floor. When they get older, give your kids a children's missal/missalette.
  • If you're really struggling with Sunday Mass, get your kids some extra practice. Try to go to a daily Mass, once-a-week (or month), as well.  
Know this. Your exhaustion after Mass is holy exhaustion. You have just poured yourself out in the most Christ-like of ways. Mission accomplished! Go have a coffee date with your wife :) 

2. Meal Blessings, or Grace Before Meals

This is always a great place to start. You gotta eat, right? 

As I mentioned above, Father Patrick Peyton of the Family Rosary Crusade gave us the saying, "The Family That Prays Together, Stays Together." 


[For more on Father Peyton and his cause for sainthood, check out this site.]

Those were the good ol' days, right? Family meals were much more commonplace. Today, that same saying has shifted to "The Family That Eats Together, Stays Together." 

It's understandable. Sports and other extracurriculars are destroying our kids' schedules. It gets hard to find a time for everybody to eat together. Nevertheless, fight to eat together.  

Fight to eat together, even if you have to eat out together. Making the Sign of the Cross and praying the blessing together in public and at restaurants is a great way to evangelize. Just look at Saying Grace, the Norman Rockwell painting below:


You probably already have the traditional Catholic blessing memorized:

Bless us, O Lord,
And these, Thy gifts,
which we are about to receive,
from Thy bounty,
through Christ Our Lord.
Amen. 


This is also a good opportunity to teach your kids the Sign of the Cross. More on that below. 

After our family meal blessing, the kids usually add little litanies to their favorite saints. My boys usually fight over who says "St. John the Baptist, pray for us" first. Some saints just get repeated. 
 

3. The Sign of the Cross

This is the first prayer we learn as children. The Sign of the Cross is it's own prayer. The Sign of the Cross is also a deceptively difficult prayer. You might do it without thinking now. But - at least for my kids - getting the Sign of the Cross right has taken a lot of practice.

Let's start with the right way: 



Error #1: The Backwards Sign of the Cross

It's your left shoulder to your right shoulder. But here's the problem. Your kids imitate you as a mirror image. You may actually want to do the Sign of the Cross right shoulder to left shoulder to help your kids get it right. 

Your kids will quickly show you all the ways you can mess up the Sign of the Cross. But! This is a great opportunity to teach them reverence. 

NOTE: Reddit user u/iambdwill reminded me that "the backwards sign of the Cross" isn't technically wrong. The "backwards practice" is the correct practice for the Eastern Catholic Churches. There are 23 Eastern Catholic rites, including the Alexandrian Rite, Armenian Rite, Byzantine Rite, East Syriac Rite, and the West Syriac Rite. 

Error #2: The Muddled Sign of the Cross

Big surprise! Our friend from the Superstore show gets it all kinds of wrong. Is that cross? 


For starters, it looks like he's only hitting 3 of the 4 points of the Cross. 

Error #3: The Lazy Sign of the Cross

The real problem, above and below, is the lazy hand. My kids will do this, and it drives me a little crazy. They just flick their hand towards the last three points of the Cross. 

Here is another, unfortunate example of the lazy Sign of the Cross:


We need to move our hands across our chests. Let's look again at our rock star exemplar: 
 

Feel free to incorporate a sword, as well :) 

Add a Kiss to the Sign of the Cross?

You might notice this little addition, too. You see this in a lot of Spanish-speaking countries.    


Sorry for the UFC/MMA example ... 

What is happening here? They are forming the Cross with their fingers and kissing it. It's like venerating the Cross after making the Sign of the Cross. 

Here is what you do with your fingers. You make a little cross with your thumb and forefinger:


Do that, then kiss the knuckle of your thumb. 

4. Morning Offering

St. (Padre) Pio said "Undertake nothing, without first offering it to God." This is especially true of each new day. We need to offer all of our days to God.   

That's why we add the Morning Offering at the end of our blessing at breakfast. 

There are many variations on the Morning Offering. Here is a popular version invoking the Sacred Heart of Jesus: "My God, I offer you all my prayers, works, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Most Sacred Heart. Amen." 


My family says a prayer we adapted from my father-in-law, so it has become a family tradition. Here is the Morning Offering prayer that we say: 

Lord, we lift up this day to you, all of our thoughts, words, actions, and deeds, all of our joys, trials, and sorrows, all of our work and play; and we ask you Lord to open our hearts and minds to receive the graces needed to do Your Will this day, to bring you glory and honor and growth to Your Kingdom. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Toddler Version of the Morning Offering 

Here is a simplified version of the Morning Offering prayer for younger kids:  

All my thoughts, all my words, all my actions of this day I offer to You Lord, and all out of love.

The above prayer was provided and recommended by Reddit u/messdnys, who believes it originated from St. Josemaría Escrivá. You can check out some more great quotes from St. Josemaría Escrivá here

Craft Your Own Family Version of the Morning Offering

You can craft your own family's version of the Morning Offering, too. Hand it down through the generations. Can you think of a better family heirloom? That's exactly what Jesus did with the "Our Father," our family prayer as Christians.
 

5. Daily Examination (Examen)

The Examen is a great prayer to add to midday or evening prayer, because it involves a review of your day. It's a matter of recognizing God's grace acting on you during the day. 

The Daily Examination (Examen) is basically praying through a series of questions and questions are a great way to interact with your kids: 
  • Put yourself in God's presence. Ask God to draw near. 
  • Thank God. In your day, what are you thankful for? 
  • Ask God to show you your day. Sort of like a Magic 8-Ball, moments from your day will bubble up. Why is God showing you this moment? Where is God's grace in this moment? 
  • In your day, where did you mess up? Where did you fail to accept God's grace? How will you do better next time?
  • What are you looking forward to in the coming day?  
Here is a great prayer card for the Examen prayer (you can follow this link for a printable PDF version):


This may be a prayer to incorporate into your family prayer life when the kids get a little older. Kids of all ages can understand this prayer, though. 

The Daily Examination may also be good for one-on-one situations with your kids, for husband and wife prayer ... or for your own personal review of your day. 

6. Angelus

Pray the Angelus at noon with your family. It so short and simple and impactful. It's a great way to break up and refresh your day. The Angelus is also a good bedtime prayer for the family.  

Here is the text of the Angelus prayer: 


The Regina Caeli Prayer

Funny story ...

I had been planning to start saying the Angelus for years. I finally set an alarm on my phone to remind myself to pray the Angelus, and success! I finally remembered to say the Angelus for a whole week. I was feeling pretty good about myself ... then I had lunch with a priest friend of mine. 

He told me, "but it's Eastertide, you're supposed to switch to the Regina Caeli Prayer." Doh.  

So, don't make the same mistake I did. For Eastertide (Easter day through Pentecost), here is the link for the Regina Caeli (Queen of Heaven) Prayer.


7. Family Rosary & Family Divine Mercy Chaplet

We have a lot of little kids, so a single decade is about enough. We plan to expand to a full Rosary as the kids get older. 

My kids also love singing the Rosary. Reddit user u/kmeem5 adds "I noticed [the kids] zone out if we just 'say' it but when we sing it they’re more engaged and focused." This is terrific advice, and I agree. It's a beautiful thing to sing the Rosary as a family. 

>> Don't know how to sing the Rosary? Here's a helpful video to teach you how to sing the Rosary.

>> Don't know how to pray the Rosary? Check out the helpful guide below ...


Family Divine Mercy Chaplet - Great Afternoon Family Prayer

This is a great prayer to recite in the afternoon. The Divine Mercy Chaplet is typically prayed at 3:00pm as a memorial to Christ's death on Good Friday. 

The Divine Mercy Chaplet is also a shorter prayer than the Rosary. This might help the kids catch on easier.

Like the Rosary, you can sing the Divine Mercy Chaplet, too. Reddit user u/kmeem5 adds that "my kids learned the Divine Mercy Chaplet from a song. They sing it all the time while they play or just walking around the house (they’re 4 and 7)." 

>> Don't know how to sing the Divine Mercy Chaplet? Here's a helpful video to teach you how to sing the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

>> Don't know how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet? Check out the helpful guide below ...


How to Pray the Rosary Guide

Do you know one of the main reasons people give for not praying the Rosary? Too long? Too old-school? Nope. The main reason is they don't know how to pray the Rosary. If you need help reciting the Rosary, here is a quick guide to praying the Rosary:


How to Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy Guide

I didn't learn to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy until far too late in life. I actually first learned to pray it at 40 Days for Life. Yet another great fruit of 40 Days for Life!



8. Family Entrustment or Consecration to Jesus through Mary or St. Joseph

We pray a 33-Day Family Consecration together every Advent. We do this sort of in conjunction with our Advent calendar. 

This is a big commitment! It's not easy. Quite often, it's not the Holy Spirit flying around us, but peas and carrots whizzing past our faces. The trick is this: we do it every year. The kids learn a little more every year. The kids are a little more engaged every year. In this way, family prayer becomes family tradition and family tradition enflames Catholic tradition.    

You may be asking yourself, what is a Marian Consecration? I have written a whole article focusing on just this question:


If we prayed a normal Marian Consecration, like St. Louis de Montfort's, my kids would be totally lost. Thankfully, Dr. Carrie Gress has published a Marian Consecration for Children:


Plus! Fr. Donald Calloway, who gave us the Consecration to St. Joseph, and I have teamed up to write the Consecration to St. Joseph for Children and Families. This will be out in a matter of months! It will be a real game-changer for families. 

These consecrations teach children (and parents) about the virtues and holiness of Mary and St. Joseph in ways the kids (and parents) will understand. The consecrations for children teach these lessons using classic children's stories and movies. There are also discussion questions and family activities to help keep the children engaged. 

Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. You may want to work up to these full 33-day consecrations. This 33-day family prayer commitment is like a nine-day Novena on steroids. 

And speaking of Novenas ... 

9. Novenas: Family Prayer for Strength During Difficult Times

Is your family going through an especially difficult time? Do you need some concentrated prayer power? Pray a nine-day Novena together. 

Do you where and when the Novena came from? It's Biblical! 

The first Novena was the nine days from Jesus' Ascension to Pentecost that the Apostles prayed with the Blessed Mother in the Upper Room. The Church still prays the Novena to the Holy Spirit every year between Ascension and Pentecost.  


The family prayer of Novenas may not be an everyday prayer. Novenas are still great to incorporate into your family's prayer time during special seasons or events, like between Ascension and Pentecost, OR during difficult times ... 

Novenas in Time of Need: Novenas to St. Joseph and St. Jude



Novenas for the Church Calendar and Liturgical Seasons: Novenas to the Holy Spirit and the Archangels

There may also be liturgical reasons to pray Novenas. The Novena to the Holy Spirit is a great way to mark the span between Jesus' Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

10. The Liturgy of the Hours Lite: The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Ultimately, I am working towards praying the Liturgy of the Hours with my family. But this is pretty advanced for our little ones. So many bookmarks! 

The main idea behind the Liturgy of the Hours is to pray the Psalms. The Psalms are beautiful. This practice predates the Church by at least one thousand years. The Jews prayed the Psalms during the hours of the day, as well.  

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary is much easier for family prayer time. Like many of the prayers recommended in this article, it's short and sweet. Well, short and sweet compared to the full blown Divine Office.  

Amazon sells copies of The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but I would rather support the Carmelite sisters through their website.

Did you know either the daily Rosary or The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary is required for investiture with the scapular? 

I highly recommend investing your children with the scapular when they're ready. My older kids love it. They also wear their scapulars out, so buy durable scapulars. 



 

Bonus: Saint of the Day

Every day, we add the saint of the day to the litanies at the end of our prayers. We use this opportunity to teach the kids about this saint.  

There are plenty of ways to go about this. I subscribe to an email service, so every morning I receive a short write-up on the Saint of the Day. You can also use the free Laudate app or other Catholic apps.  

Footnotes on Catholic Family Prayer:

[1] Bartkus, Justin and Christian Smith. A Report on American Catholic Religious Parenting. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame, 2017.

[2] Bengston, Vern, et al. Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.  

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