Families benefit from routine. If adding more spirituality into your family is important to you, implementing a daily routine of prayer and scripture study is one thing you can do. It may take some time to establish this new habit, but the rewards of more peace and love at home, as well as protection throughout the day, are worth the effort. I’m offering seven ideas to get you started.
Sit down with your family and discuss your plan to start a regular family prayer and scripture study habit. Be prepared with your ideas, but also be willing to hear your family’s concerns and ideas. Be sure to point out the positive changes you hope to see in your family as well as how important each family member is to the plan’s success.
Find the best time
When will you hold your scripture study? Will it be in the morning, at the dinner table or at bedtime? Although no time will be perfect, choose the time that fits your family’s schedule and needs. My family studies in the evening before the youngest members go to bed, but we also have a morning prayer together at breakfast which usually includes most family members.
Don’t expect small children to sit for more than a few minutes or older children to understand everything they read. If it is hard to get the habit going, start with once a week and add in days as your family becomes more accustomed to studying.
Even the smallest children can participate in reading from sacred or inspirational books. When our children are old enough to talk, we have them repeat a short verse as they follow along with the rest of the family. As they become better readers, they take on a verse or two on their own. Even when sullen teens aren’t happy about family scripture time, their voices are important. Encourage everyone to read and participate.
To get us into the habit of daily reading, we’ve used charts and calendars as incentives. One year we got to choose a family activity for every month we read at least 29 days. Another year we earned a special treat every time we finished a book of scripture in the Bible. The rewards can be simple, like a family game night or ice cream party. Now we rarely miss a day and don’t need to use incentives as often.
As your family grows, be flexible with your plans for family prayer and scripture study. Young children may only sit for five minutes and may need pictures or objects to keep them focused. Older children can read, ask questions and discuss what is being read. You may read in the morning for a few years and then decide that dinnertime is the best time to get everyone together. Some family members might miss study occasionally, but the majority of the family should be together to study.
Parents can set an example for the kind of behavior expected during family study. Praying together can bring strength and unity to a family. When it’s my turn to pray, I often take time to pray for each individual in our family. I thank God for each person's strengths and talents, and ask for help with the specific needs he or she has. I try to welcome each person to our family time and make it a peaceful, loving experience. You can do the same as you exemplify the feelings you want your family to have as you study together.
Even though my family’s scripture and prayer study time isn’t always calm and thoughtful, it is an important part of our day. I enjoy coming together to sit and read. We are inspired on how to better our lives and our family as we learn from holy scripture and pray together. You too can feel nourished as you make family scripture study and prayer a part of your daily routine.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.