The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Teaching kids it’s not “weird” to pray

When was the last time your kids saw you pray?

This columnist suggests it doesn’t happen often enough:

Years ago, well before I had children of my own, I was giving a talk to the parents’ Sunday school class at a church in downtown Memphis.

The topic was how to keep teens involved in church. I was a youth minister working with the high school youth group at our parish, so I guess that made me an expert. After what I’m sure was a less-than-life-altering presentation on my part, I began a conversation with a woman and her teenage daughter, who joined us after her class was dismissed.


While I remember nothing of what I said on that morning, I’ll never forget what the teenage girl told me.

We got into a conversation on prayer. The mother, who by all accounts was the proverbial pillar of the church, told me that she prayed every day. That was impressive, I thought, and important for her spiritual health.

What her daughter told me was even more impressive, though not nearly as happy. She admitted that she had never seen her mother pray, and that it would be “weird” to see her mother pray. Weird was the word she used.

In my years as a youth minister, teacher, even as a nurse, but especially as a parent, I’ve regularly encountered parents frustrated with their teen’s behavior. How to keep them on the straight and narrow? How to limit the influence of negative peers and social expectations? How to keep them coming to church?


My tendency is to encourage them to consider their own behavior and, from that, consider what message their behavior is sending their children. This seems like common sense, but it’s often lost in the challenges that accompany raising a child, especially a teenager.

We think they’ve stopped watching us, stopped paying any attention to us at all. In fact, it’s in the teen years that our kids are able to not only watch what we do, but to begin to make sense of it and to better discern the contradictions between what we say and what we do.

Check out the rest at the link. 

And pray about it.

Preferably, in front of your kids.

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posted May 31, 2010 at 12:35 pm

my children saw me pray at mass every sunday and before supper for grace. my husband was not religious but always supported me in my religious life and was respectful and participatory. also, i helped the children with their bedtime prayers every night. at a certain age i just reminded them to say their prayers.
we never prayed like evangelical people do when they gather in a circle or lay hands on a child and pray over them. i could sense when my children found something uncomfortable and weird and tried not to cross that line and turn them off. i helped many fundamentalist evangelical families as a homebirth midwife and they often prayed as a group whenever the spirit moved them. they always seemed very comfortable with it and nourished by it.
my grown children are not religious now and see me meditate and pray at church on the rare occasions they accompany me there. i don’t think they are embarrassed by it and accept it as part of who i am. i pray often during the day, but most people would see no outward sign of it. i am not uncomfortable when i see others pray in public or as a group.

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Padre Steve

posted May 31, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Thanks Deacon Greg! That is a great post!

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posted May 31, 2010 at 5:53 pm

People should not be afraid to pray at restaurants and such’ but it’s something you never see :/

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posted June 1, 2010 at 12:56 am

Actually, this is one thing that is not weird for my family and we’ve seriously ingrained it in all our friends and acquaintances :) We always prayed together, and still do, before and after meals, and before bed. My husband and I used to bless our sons before bed- just part of the tradition inherited from our parents. Our entire extended family hesitates at family gatherings (BBQ’s, parties, dinner at a restaurant) and they look at either my Mom (the matriarch) or my husband (the oldest male since my Dad is deceased) and they all chorus, ‘are you going to pray?’ It’s actually funny in a normal kind of way. We just had a huge college graduation party with all kinds of family and friends and everyone paused so Gwam (my Mom) could lead us in prayer before we started in on the Corned Beef Tacos and Jameson’s shooters :) It’s normal Catholic, or at least, it’s normal Catholic in my family!

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