Why I Pray With My Family—Despite My Doubts


Despite her doubts about faith, one woman prays with her children.

As I tucked our children into bed, my husband, Matt, asked, "Will you pray with them?" And, suddenly self-conscious, I paused. Was he talking to me? Because I’d given up praying a long time ago.

It wasn’t that I’d lost my faith. In fact, I liked to think I had found it. I talked to God, but it was more an act of penance, my chance to clear the air, to let him know I knew I was flawed, but felt grateful he loved me nonetheless. Why I Won't Date A Non-Christian

Yet that wasn’t enough for Matt. My closeted religion was too quiet for him. I could undress in front of him; why couldn't I pray in front of him? But prayers felt hollow to me. Because what I'd learned about religion I’d learned from priests, with a stab of judgment. And, after the Catholic sex abuse scandals, I didn’t want my voice mixed in with theirs.

Only for Matt, the bad doesn’t erase the good; they can exist separately in his mind. While we took our children to church, we couldn’t agree on how to introduce religion into their every day lives. How Did Marriage Become Religious?

I deferred to Matt that night. "Why don’t you say prayers?" I said, and he did. But later that month, while he was traveling for work, our 4-year-old propped himself up on one elbow during our bedtime routine and asked, "Will you say prayers with us?"

I blinked. He appeared so earnest, his chin dimpling, his brown eyes peering up at me. I couldn’t loosen his foundation by saying, "I don’t pray." And so I did what I knew Matt would appreciate; I bowed my head and said, "Dear Lord, please keep Daddy safe while he travels."

"Dear Lord, please keep Daddy safe while he travels," both boys said, and their unguarded response startled me. It gave an unexpected weight to what I’d said. 

Our boys waited for me to continue, their hands folded in prayer. I scrambled as to what to say next. I'd spent years in Catholic school, but wanted to offer our boys more than a recited prayer. I resorted to naming family members we wished to bless, and it was comforting to be reminded of the love we had surrounding us. As our children settled into their beds, I felt buoyed; we all did, I think. Want To Prevent Cheating? Try Prayer

Because what I want most in life is to keep our children safe. And sometimes what I think they want most in life is to feel safe. Shifting our focus off ourselves to a greater power gave those emotions that felt big inside us a chance to become small again. I left their room with a sense of peace, that I wouldn’t be alone in watching over them as they slept.

When Matt returned home, I sat in with him in our boys' darkened room while he prayed. His words brought on gratitude for what we'd been given. Here we had three perfect faces staring back at us; neither of us were exactly sure where the time had gone.

We all need help with the big things in life, including our marriages. And praying together brings on the sensation of flying in an airplane. There, up above the clouds, you have perspective on how small you are, on how small your life is relative the world below. It gives you context, proportion. Which helps you let go and focus on what does matter. Your family.