I've been thinking about prayer a lot lately.
Growing up, my experiences with prayer were:
1) Saying, "Bless this food O Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen." as quickly as possible before digging into dinner.
2) Going to my grandparents' house when they were in the middle of saying the Rosary (they said it at a certain time every day--3pm?). We would sit quietly and listen. I can still hear their voices in my head to this day. My grandmother would speak slowly and quietly, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus." Then my grandfather's voice would gush in, "HolyMarymotherofGodprayforussinnersnowandatthehourofourdeath, Amen!"
3) My dad would pray the Rosary, too. We never saw him hold a Rosary, but we'd see his lips moving in prayer.
I didn't really have many experiences with personal prayer. Rote prayers were what I was exposed to most, but they didn't really mean much to me. I felt like I was reciting something that I didn't feel.
When I was in high school I spent a week at something called Christian Leadership Institute. During that week we spent a whole day focused on different types of prayer--not just the rote prayers! Prayers of intercession, praying through music, meditation on Scripture, reading the Bible. I remember thinking, Wow! There's a whole other world of prayer out there!
Journaling is my absolute favorite form of prayer. In fact, about 2 months ago I started keeping a "prayer journal" again, and that has been the driving force behind this renewed enthusiasm for my faith.
One thing I've really struggled with, though, is sharing prayer with Bebe and Dois. D is a very private person with prayer--he says the Rosary and reads the Bible nightly, but the kids are in bed and don't witness that. He prays in the morning, too, but well before they're awake. When he's home, we do say grace before meals, but when it's just me and the kids I usually forget.
I feel very rushed at night. We walk in the door at 6pm and Dois starts whining right away because he's hungry. It's a mad dash to get dinner cooked, get the kids fed, get him ready for bed... he's usually crashed out by 7:30pm. It feels SO chaotic. And once he's asleep my mind focuses on chores and all that needs to be done, so I occupy myself with those things until it's time for Bebe to go to bed. Then I rush, rush, rush her to get to sleep so I can go back to the chores. It feels chaotic and awful, and I feel like I don't get time to spend with the kids...
Tonight I tried something different, though. I tried to let it all go, go with the flow, and intentionally include prayer where I could. Dois begged for dinner, so I settled him in while I made Bebe a grilled cheese. When her dinner was ready and mine was warmed up, I put Dois down to play and Bebe and I sat down together to eat (this is rare). I asked her if she wanted to say grace and she said no, so I said grace for us, and we talked about her day at camp. Dinner was barely over when Dois was begging for bed (earlier than usual!), so I walked him upstairs. As I laid him in the crib and changed his diaper, I sang to him. I made up my own tune to the Our Father--it was pretty good!
I went about my chores until 7:30pm when I called Bebe to me. I told her I wanted to try something new. We sat down with her Rosary and mine and we prayed one decade together. It's a beginning! She seemed to like it as we went prayer by prayer. It made me sad, though, that she still doesn't know the Hail Mary by heart. She will soon, though! I asked her who she wanted to offer up our prayers for and she said D's father, who passed away when I was pregnant with her.
All in all it was a good experience. It felt nice. I didn't feel rushed tonight, I got everything done that I wanted to, and I managed to pray with both of my children. God is good! (All the time!)