Help your kids develop a rich and varied prayer life by introducing them to the five basic forms of prayer.
This article is adapted from 77 Ways to Pray with Your Kids.
Nutritionists say a balanced diet is essential to kids’ health and development. The same could be said of their prayer life: all of us, including kids, need a varied “diet” in the way we pray.
One way to vary your family prayer is to practice praying the five forms of prayer listed in the Catechism: blessing and adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise.
Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers [Amazon] contains dozens of prayers in each of these categories, but here are some general ideas.
Blessing and Adoration
We are able to bless God because he has blessed us first (see CCC, 2645). The psalms offer many examples of blessing prayer: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits . . . who satisfies you with good as long as you live” (Psalm 103:2, 5). Blessing is closely related to adoration, which is an expression of love for God.
- Sing or pray the psalms. (See Sing Your Prayer.)
- Practice Eucharistic Adoration.
Petitionary prayer asks God to provide what we need. “Forgiveness, the quest for the Kingdom, and every true need are objects of the prayer of petition” (CCC, 2646).
- Pray the Our Father, which contains the fundamental elements of petitionary prayer in its requests for the coming of God’s kingdom, our daily needs, and the forgiveness of our sins.
- Do an Examination of Conscience, and then offer a general prayer asking God’s forgiveness.
- Encourage kids to place prayers of petition in God’s Mailbox, or to write them in a Prayer Journal.
Prayer of intercession asks God to provide what is good for other people, particularly our enemies (see CCC, 2647). The Universal Prayer (or General Intercessions) we say at Mass is an example of intercessory prayer.
- Keep a list of your prayer intentions on the refrigerator, or in some other public place. See List Your Prayer Intentions.
- Pray intercessory prayers in the responsorial style used during Mass: “For (intention), let us pray to the Lord; Lord, hear our prayer” (or another suitable response).
- Try to think of a broad range of intercessory prayers: for members of your family, friends and neighbors, community members, the sick and poor and lonely, those affected by conflict or unjust situations, the Church, and political leaders. You can find suggestions for intercessory prayers in Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers.
Prayer of thanksgiving flows from the recognition that everything is a gift from God. Nurturing an “attitude of gratitude” helps us see everything as gift—even our sorrows and suffering (see CCC, 2648).
- Try praying a family litany of thanks.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal (or a wall poster for posting “thankful thoughts”).
- Practice Highs and Lows or a Daily Examen in order to better recognize and name God’s gifts.
“Prayer of praise is entirely disinterested and rises to God, lauds him, and gives him glory for his own sake, quite beyond what he has done, but simply because HE IS” (CCC, 2649).
- Sing a song of praise; see Sing Your Prayer.
- Practice praising God spontaneously; invoke the help of the Holy Spirit to speak through your prayer.
- You can also listen to songs of praise while in the car or even around the house, letting your spirit silently join the words of the singer.
Activity: What Does Your “Prayer Plate” Look Like?
You can help your kids think about the five forms of prayer with this simple activity.
- Have your kids draw a circle on a piece of paper representing their “prayer plate.”
- Using the USDA MyPlate graphic (or the image accompanying this article), have your kids divide up their plate into five parts, making each part larger or smaller depending on how much they practice each form of prayer right now.
- Talk about how you might “balance out” your family prayer style this week.
- At the end of the week, revisit the plate. How have the “portions” changed in the past week?