For the past 10 years, I have led our two boys in prayers at the end of their days, every Sun - Thur. Fri and Sat are a bit scattershot due to various whimsical distractions that will keep us up. The boys are now 11 and 13 and it is deeply ingrained into their bedtime routine.
When it began it was a whimsical, wild and wooly adventure – Sidd was just under two years old, and thrilled in crawling off (I’d grabbed one of his legs and dragged him back to the routine). Meanwhile Paul liked to just snuggle, not caring if he had his hands together or what we were supposed to say. (I have a video I can post later.)
“Is this worth the hassle?” was a common question to myself.
But humans are creatures of habit, and the power of reflecting is not lost to us, even as toddlers. What started as a simple set of blessings to the family evolved to more introspection and gratitude. I am pretty elated of where this the investment has landed to date.
The prayer routine has settled into a set of recurring components:
- Family: Pray for our immediate and extended family - now very routinized
- Thanks: Call out at least 3 things to be thankful for - for me this is THE single most important part as I do feel people just don't take the time to appreciate the +100,000 things that are going not just well, but fantastically, in their lives relative to 99% of the rest of humanity. I do want our boys to have DEEP appreciation of their blessings.
- One Ask: Think forward to tomorrow, this week, even this month and clarify one place where you want help
- Health: Pray that people who are sick will get better
- Death: Pray for people who have died & their grieving families
- Closing prayers: Say a few standard prayers - - in our case, the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and Angel of God
Here is a sample of the typical run down from a few years ago. These are all in the Catholic tradition – a habit of prayer is the larger point.
"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Please bless Mommy, Daddy, Paul and Siddo.
Please bless Ava, Audrey, Nancy-Auntie, Tony-Uncle, Geoji-Uncle, Pappa, Momma, Amma, Appa, Cindy-Auntie, Susie-Auntie, Momma, and everybody else.
Thank you God for the son, the moon, the stars, the trees, the plants, the mountains and the flowers.
Dad: Sidd, what do you want to say thank you for?
Sidd: Ummm, thank you God for playing soccer with some 5th Graders and scoring on them, and for the sunshine and for mom making pork chops. And for tomorrow, I want help to read a lot in my book challenge.
Paul: Thank you God for the BigHistoryProject and helping me answer what agriculture is, and for not raining when I walked to school, and that tomorrow is Friday so we can see Merlin. And help me not get so annoyed at the ways kids in class keep talking.
Dad: Thank you God for a good boss, for my health and that of my parents and mom's parents, for the stupid funny videos of Key and Peele, for the great view I get from work everyday, for the 100% match that Microsoft makes when we donate to a charity. For tomorrow, please help me listen closely in a meeting that I think will be pretty stressful.
Help sick people get better, like: Appa's cancer; Laurie's cancer; mom's foot; mama's foot; Father Fabian's knee; Father Tom's nerve problem; all the people hurt in the Nairobi attack; Ellis Uncle, Samson Uncle, Davis Uncle, Roms Uncle and baby Rafael.
Help people go to heaven, including: Johnny Uncle; Father Phil; Sam's dad, Pat's dad, Sarah-Auntie's mom; Essie Auntie; Marimma Auntie; Joe Uncle; Appu Uncle; Thomas Uncle; Sister Angle Mary; Daisy Auntie; Hirana Auntie; Abey Chayan; Ackey Chayan; the people who have died in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan, and everyone else.
Dad: Sidd can you lead Our Father?
Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Dad: Paul, can you lead the Hail Mary?
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.
Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
and ever shall be,
world without end.
Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
To whom God's love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
On the suggestion of a friend, after the boys are tucked in, I will give a blessing. "Pray that God will give you a deep and relaxing sleep." This has become an **absolute** requirement that lauches them into the mystical land of dreams.
- - -
Now the real litmus test is if they will continue this when they are "on their own" be it a sleepover, camp, college, etc. I think a foundation is set, in addition to a force of habit, and a sense that the reflection closes out the day and sets up the next one. Time will tell, no?