8 Ideas for Family Prayer When You Don’t Know Where to Start
I’d never met them. They came in road weary and tired. We shook hands, talked about where they’d been, and where they were going.
We laughed as their youngest spoke in her matter of fact way and nodded with knowing as their preteen son answered questions as only a boy would.
When the water glasses were empty, it was time for bed. But not before family prayer. Not before they linked hands and hearts in thanksgiving to God for another day.
We were invited to join them in this tradition. In this nightly routine of family prayer.
As we each took our turn, I was amazed and humbled by the simplicity of it all. Each person had to say something and it didn’t have to be long. You just had to give thanks to God aloud for something. Together. With your family.
This family stayed with us for several days. I began to look forward to family prayer with them. I yearned for this union of hearts to never end.
They eventually left our home and headed back east, but their regular family prayer did not.
Together as a family, every night before bed, we link hands and hearts in prayer as a family. We give thanks with our whole hearts for the blessings of the day. We praise God together for the saving grace found in the Cross of Christ.
Before this fateful visit with new friends, we didn’t know where to start with family prayers. I’m not sure what we thought they were supposed to look like or whether we thought it wasn’t possible with a three year old and one year, but something clicked the last night we prayed together with our friends.
God, please, oh please, don’t let this time of prayer end here tonight. Jesus give us a yearning in the Dutton household for You and You alone. May we start and end our day with you. Fill our hearts. Fill this home. Overwhelm our desires to be only for You.
As we consider God’s desire for our homes to be a place of prayer, and as we seek to grow in our own personal supplications and thanksgiving before God, may we not neglect family prayer.
8 Ideas for Family Prayer When You Don’t Know Where to Start
Pray before meals
Giving thanks before meals is a great place to start with family prayer.
For us, this means our three old says a simple prayer while we all hold hands. When he was just shy of two years old, we taught him to say, “Thank you, Jesus, for this food. In Jesus name, Amen.”
Now that he’s older, and way too capable of this simple sentence, we need to teach him a new prayer. Why? Because it’s about training true gratitude. It’s not mere lip service we give so we can dig in to the meal.
Praying before meals is a great place to start family prayers.
Pray during family devotions
We’ve been doing family devotions for nearly two year. We always follow the same format, which you can read about here.
Through the months and years, we’ve changed how we pray at the end of family devotions. Right now, we pray “The Lord’s Prayer” together. Saying it aloud as a family has not only helped us pray together, but it’s teaching our son the words that Jesus taught us to pray.
Pray before bed
Some people call these popcorn prayers. This is a great time to pray together and let everyone pray aloud.
It’s simple: one person starts and when he or she is finished, he or she says another person’s name. Then that person goes. You keep calling names until everyone has prayed.
This is a wonderful way to minister to families and friends too!
We love doing these with dinner guests before our children go to bed, with family and friends when we visit them for an overnight stay, and with house guests who stay in our home.
Thanks to the family who taught us, we’ve carried this on and listened to men and women pray aloud who haven’t prayed to God in twenty or more years! What a witness!!!
Pray in the car
A dear friend of mine mentioned in passing that her family often prays together in the car.
Sometimes it’s hard to get everyone together in one place … and still! Praying in the car is a great way to connect with God and each other.
Pray before engaging in hospitality
We love hospitality. Sharing a simple meal with friends is one of our favorite family activities. Having people in our home is a joy and a gift!
We always gather together as a family before guests arrive to pray. We each take turns praying aloud for our friends, our hearts, and for Jesus to be in our midst, ministering to us and helping us extend His love to our friends.
We also pray in the car on the way to other people’s homes when they’ve asked us over for a meal or event!
Once when we were heading to someone’s home, my three year old asked, “Will they have toys for me to play with?” I responded, “I don’t know, Buddy. But if they don’t, you can find a stick to play with.”
During family prayers, he prayed, “…and God if they don’t have toys there, please help me happy with a stick to play with.”
Ahhh, the words of a child. The humbling of a mother.
Pray for others
Sometimes, we don’t know what to pray during family prayers, especially if we’re not used to praying together. Many people have formulas for praying that they follow. We don’t. Sometimes I wish we did, but we’re not that organized. I don’t like rules either. That could have something to do with it too.
Occasionally, we use the following to direct us in our prayers for others.
I created a simple prayer pot that we keep on our dining room table. We use this to pray together for others after dinner at least a few times a week.
All you need are some popsicle sticks (I used colored because I like color!), sharpie marker, and a pot to hold the sticks in. Then, write on the sticks names of government leaders, family, friends, pastor, missionaries, etc. Whoever you want wish you could remember to pray for regularly, but don’t. That was my formula. 😉
After dinner, each family member pulls a stick from the pot. Then, you take turns praying for the person on your stick.
This is great for taking family (or couple) walks around your neighborhood. We’ve done many prayer walks together as a couple.
One of our passions is getting to know our neighbors, but sometimes that’s hard. Then we also forget to pray for our neighbors.
Taking a family walk with the purpose to pray for each person (whether we know them by name or not) in the homes around us is a great way to pray for others and pray together as a family! As you walk by each home, take turns praying for the family that lives there.
Pray as critical needs arise
Sometimes the needs of this world seem overwhelming. When crisis comes: a family member suddenly falling ill, natural disasters, news of missionaries being persecuted, an Amber Alert, or whatever feels like a crisis to your family, pray together.
Share the burdens of this world together by taking it all to the throne of grace as a family.
Pray when sin is prevalent
This one is new to us, but this one should be ever with us. I don’t know about you, but I deal with temper tantrums more often than I care to admit. I also have conflict in my marriage from time to time. I’m impatient, selfish, and just ugly when I lose self control.
In those moments when sin is prevalent, we like to pray together as a family. It’s hard to stay mad at one another and stay in your sin when you pray to Jesus who died on the Cross for the very sin you cling to so dearly!
For example, when my son is struggling to obey, we like to walk him through praying to Jesus to help him. Because really? There’s nothing good in us. We can’t “be good” on our own! We need Jesus, and I want nothing more than to teach my son that he needs Jesus!
So we lead our son to cry out to Jesus, to confess his sin and ask for help to turn from his sin or strengthen him in his struggle against sin.
No child training method helps more than prayer.
Not to mention, when I’m losing control or struggling against the flesh, praying out loud to Jesus helps my children see that Mommy needs Jesus too. Too often, I pray my prayers silently, but for my kids’ sake, I think praying them aloud more often would hold me accountable and teach them that Mommy is no different than them.
Pray for each other
Make it a regular habit to pray for one another. Share prayer requests with one another regularly. Pray aloud together as a family for the requests and also purpose to pray individually at other times.
When you pray for one another on your own time, be sure to tell the person you prayed for them. It’s encouraging, and it helps remind them to be in prayer for their family members as well.
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