A few month’s ago, I was reading my Bible on the living room couch when my son approached me and asked, “What are you doing?” I told him I was praying. His response? Aren’t we supposed to pray in church? His question made me pause. I quickly reminded him that we regularly pray in places other than church- we pray before meals in the kitchen, we say bedtime prayers in the kids’ bedrooms, and we regularly pray in the car. Prayer wasn’t just for church. Yes, prayer is talking to God and God lives in the church, but He also lives in our hearts. He’s here in our home with us too. Wherever we are, God is there with us, so we can pray literally anywhere.
My son’s question made me think about our family’s approach to prayer. My eventual answer? We created a family prayer space in the living room. We cleared a corner of the room of all toys, and I set up a small altar with drawers for prayer materials. I decorated the top with a crucifix and statues of holy men and women who we admired. And then we started using our little prayer space together.
Here’s what we noticed.
Our family began to pray more. We built up deeper and longer prayer rituals together as a family. Now, after the kids are up and dressed, we gather in our prayer space for morning prayer before breakfast. Since our family homeschools, we return to our family altar before beginning the day’s school work. Then we gather in our prayer space again before the kids go to bed. During those times, we pray our daily prayers, meditate on the Scriptures, and learn more about the faith. Our altar has made us more intentional about our family prayer time.
Our children can now better see how their parents pray. Rather than sitting on the couch, I now go to our prayer space to journal and read the Bible. My husband has prayed his rosary there. Since we began using our prayer space, our children can better see the way we live out our faith. They can see that the faith is not just for children, or for women. It’s for everyone. Our children can also see how many different ways there are to pray, and trust me, there are a lot.
Our prayer space reflects our family. We named our children after holy men and women of the past, and now our altar is decorated with images of those holy namesakes. Our statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary came from Fatima, Portugal, when my sister-in-law visited a few years back. The angels that surround our space were gifts from my students over the years. Everything in our prayer space has a story and tells you something about our family. When it all came together in our prayer space, you could see where we had come from and where we were hoping to go.
Finally, our prayer space is a teaching tool. Just as our living room windows open onto the changing seasons, so too does our prayer space reflect the changing seasons in the Church. Its colors reflect the time of year- purple in seasons of repentance, white in times of celebration, and green during those periods that we consider “ordinary.” At Easter time, our altar is decorated with crosses and reminders of new life and empty tombs. At Christmas, we set up our family nativity set, complete with little sheep and cows. My children have become increasingly aware of the Church year as they have watched our prayer space change over time. They actually learn from our prayer space when we pray there.
Not everyone readily has the space for an altar, but my guess is that most people could fit it if they tried. You don’t need to have an entire room dedicated to prayer, a family chapel tucked away inside your home (though I would love that). Our prayer space is just a corner of our living room. We shuffled around a bunch of toys, and voila- an open corner to work with. Our altar was simple at first- we didn’t have much money to spend on it, so we purchased a cheap drawer set, and I decorated the top with every religious article I could find in our house. Since then it has changed and expanded, but it didn’t need to. Our family prayer space has always been sufficient. It has always been enough for us, but it has also been wonderful to watch it change with our family. It is a reflection of us, of what our family values most, and it tells everyone who walks into our house that “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).