Domestic Prayer

Andy Hawes 

Readers of this magazine will have benefited from receiving some excellent material produced by Catholic societies in the Church of England to enable worship and prayer at home. It is to be hoped and prayed that the homes of readers have become places of prayer. Some, of course, will have been, but it will be the case that for many regular, prime time prayer at home is a new experience. 

In many Christian traditions the home, rather than the church building have always been the spiritual centre of discipleship. Christianity has its origins as a house church movement and Christian worship and prayer finds a natural place in the home. The Book of Common Prayer provided (and still provides) all that a family needed to synchronise the life of the family through the days and weeks of the year, to the rhythm of the whole church at prayer. The heart of the Anglican tradition is in the family home. The Prayer Book society also produced some excellent material to encourage prayer at home. 

The Orthodox have the practice of the ‘icon corner’, usually in the main living space, where icons of the Lord, Our Lady and other saints hang with lamps opening up windows into heaven. It is certainly advisable to have a place set-aside for prayer. It needn’t be at all elaborate, For many years in our house we had an icon of Christ on the kitchen window sill and all that was required to create a prayer space was to light the candle in front of it and pull a chair up, the Bible and Prayer Book stayed in the kitchen along with recipe books and the daily post. There is no need to be too precious and pious about any of this.

Having the same place to use and perhaps a few visual prompts can help change the focus of the mind and heart to come into conscious communion with God. It also helps to have a regular pattern. Our home now is a quiet place but in the past decades we had five growing children tearing about at all times of the day and night. If a pattern is established that works family life dictates it may have to change, and change often, as circumstances change. Again there is no point in being overly scrupulous; prayer in the home won’t work if one imagines it can be as regulated as a monastery!

The real challenge is to try and integrate the whole family into this offering of prayer. This can be difficult to achieve, even if everyone is willing to join in. There are a few simple practices that can help. Saying Grace before meals is an obvious starting point and surprisingly rare these days. This Grace can be extended a little to include thanksgiving and intercession. Certainly on Sundays and Feast Days time at the table can include a short reading and a collect. Keeping the traditional weekly fasts from meat on a Wednesday and Friday can also help bind the kitchen to the life of the church. Most importantly, if in recent months you have begun praying in a more committed way at home, don’t stop!