A family friend of ours, George, coached judo. George always taught that, whether throwing or defending a throw, you need a strong foundation. The best judoka constantly work on their footwork to establish that base.
It’s the same with prayer. More advanced forms of prayer are wonderful. But they only bear fruit if our foundation is solid.
This is part of why, when the disciples asked him how to pray, Jesus directed them away from complicated formulas or recitations: “Do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard by their many words” (Matthew 6:7). Simple prayers shift our focus away from our words and make space for God to speak to us.
The sign of the cross
St. John Vianney taught that “a Christian who makes the sign of the cross … fully aware of the action which he is performing, makes all hell tremble.” This prayer proclaims that our mind, heart and body belong to God as we pray.
Grace at meals
We are what we eat. When we say grace, we sanctify what we are about to eat, recognizing it as a gift from God.
Studies repeatedly demonstrate that children of families that eat dinner together are much more likely to thrive. We can claim the dinner table as a sacred space by keeping distractions like phones and tablets away from the table, taking the time to gather together and pausing to thank God for the gifts we receive. This prayer also creates an opening to share with our family the good (and bad) things that happened over the course of the day.
The Our Father
Catholics should pray this prayer that Jesus himself taught us at least once a day. Bedtime is a great time to repeat this prayer, and, as with dinnertime, we should create a sacred space by keeping distractions (especially electronics) away. Even better, avoid electronic distractions in the hour before prayer. This lets us quiet our hearts to pray. Parents will find this really helps children understand that God is our Father and will give us what we need. In this space, we give God room to work on hearts and minds in a way that will form the foundation of everything we do.
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - January/February 2020
Deacon Eric Paige is the Archdiocese of Seattle's executive director for evangelization, formation and discipleship. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
El Diácono Eric Paige es el Director para el Matrimonio, la Vida familiar y Formación en la Arquidiócesis de Seattle. Pueden contactarle en: email@example.com.