Family prayer at home during Lent

Kids are more likely to feel at home at church if their home feels more like a church. While I am not suggesting that we walk slowly and use quiet voices at home, Lent is a great time to build your family icon corner, or come together before your icon corner in prayer. Mom and dad must be taking things seriously if they are lighting a candle before the icons and bowing their heads in prayer. If we are singing Church hymns at home, our kids will feel a familiarity when the hymns are sung at Church. Lent is a time to consider coming together as a family before the icons instead of before the television. If you don't think you know how to do this, talk to your Priest about how to start to pray or find people to teach you about this.

Consider specifically incorporating the Lenten Prayer of Saint Ephraim as a family. Each evening, following dinner, or before bedtime when everyone is together, gather at the family icon corner and say the prayer all together.

O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust for power, or idle talk. (prostration)

But grant me, your servant, the spirit of moderation, humility, patience, and love. (prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters. For you are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen (prostration)

After each verse, do a full prostration, or bow, in front of the icon of Christ. This is the same prostration the Priest does at the beginning of services. Nothing shifts a family prayer time like doing prostrations together. Christ is present as we gather, and through the icons. Bowing down to Him makes it real and requires a step in faith. Paradoxically, it strengthens our faith, which is what we need as we try to turn our lives towards Him.

So the Lenten buffet is laid out before us to nourish our souls and prepare us to receive Christ at Easter. We can partake of fasting, church services, and prayer in the home. I have not mentioned many of the other 'dishes' available like confession, forgiveness, almsgiving, reading the scriptures, pilgrimages, reading the lives of the Saints, or memorizing scripture or prayers. The banquet is set for us to partake as much as we desire.

The goal or purpose of Lent is not to fast or pray. The goal of Lent is to experience God directly. Helping our kids 'get more out of Church' means helping them experience God directly. Lent is a time for families to reorient ourselves towards God, but it takes a commitment to open our families to the life in Christ and open our homes to God's saving Grace. The feast is there for us to partake of, but we can also walk right by, grabbing a bowl of cold cereal. Remember, though, that after a bowl of cereal you will be hungry again in an hour. But God promises those who partake, that "Blessed our those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."

Philip Mamalakis, PhD, March 7, 2003

Source : Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America