Creating a rhythm of prayer for your family

Written by Kayla Craig
Published on September 01, 2023

Life is loud. You’re bombarded with demands and needs at home, at work, and in your community. A child cries, laundry overflows, and dishes pile up. Your boss is waiting for an email from you, and the world news highlights another global crisis.

How do you stay awake to the presence of God if you can barely hear yourself think?

We don’t get awarded honorary theological degrees when we become parents. And yet, suddenly, we have this child to nurture, protect, and guide as they have their own wonderings about the life of faith. Most of us don’t have the privilege of embarking on yearlong pilgrimages to hear God. (It feels like a silent retreat when I can run to the post office alone.)

So how do overwhelmed parents like us nourish our souls in order to help our families live out a flourishing faith?

In Matthew 11, Jesus tells people to get away with him so they can learn to live freely and lightly. He shares that if they follow him this way, he will teach them “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28 MSG). That opportunity is still available to us today.

At the end of the day, once my kids are in bed and the house is quiet, my brain often feels overloaded. Instead of sitting in the stillness, I attempt to relax by scrolling on my phone or streaming a show on TV. But instead of feeling refreshed as a result, I feel more overwhelmed than ever.

How might we experience more peace if we took time to reflect rather than add to the noise at the end of the day, the week, the month, the season, or the year?

The Examen is a way of getting quiet inside. It’s a rhythm of prayer that Christians have used throughout centuries (popularized by Saint Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises) to help us examine where, how, and when we experience God’s presence in our lives.

I think of the Examen as a guide to help me stay awake to God’s presence and promptings. 

I’ll be honest, sometimes praying the Examen feels like more work on my to-do list at the end of a long day. But when I take time to prayerfully be still, I never regret it. This prayer time brings me closer to myself and to the One who made me.

As I play back my comings and goings—the beautiful moments and the heartbreaking ones too—I experience glimmers of clarity and comfort. I feel more rooted in the past, more peaceful in the present, and more energized for the future.

There are several types of Examen prayers:

daily

weekly

monthly

seasonal

annual

When I pray the Examen, I close my eyes, get comfortable and quiet, and take a few deep breaths as I rewind and play back the comings and goings of my day. I also pray through the Examen at each season’s end. As I pray, I think of the Psalmist’s prayer: “Search me, God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23 NIV).

Everyone has their own way of praying the Examen. You might try borrowing this take on the five-step Examen that Saint Ignatius practiced:

  1. Become aware of God’s presence. As you begin, remember that God is with you. It may be helpful to pray something like “God, be with me” or to imagine Jesus gazing on you in tenderness and love. Think of God being physically with you, sitting on the couch among the folded laundry and your kids’ stinky sneakers, delighted to be in your presence.
  2. Begin with gratitude. Start your prayer by giving thanks. Use a lens of appreciation as you recall and reflect on your day—this acts as an antidote to despair, cynicism, or the eternal cycle of fixing or problem solving. Savor these moments of thankfulness, and let God begin to repair your weary heart as you give thanks.
  3. Review the day (or week, month, season, or year). As you play back your time, get curious about how God has spoken to you through the places you’ve gone, the people in your midst, and the events that have happened. Notice where God was with you. Who showed you love? Who did you extend love to? How did you experience God? How did your day begin? Where might God have been inviting you into something? Pay attention to your emotions as you reflect.
  4. Get honest. As you pray, remember God cares for you with compassion. In light of Christ’s mercy, you don’t have to hide the parts when you may have hurt or dishonored yourself, God, or someone else with your words or thoughts, your action or inaction. Ask God to help you grow in humility. It may feel uncomfortable to name your sin, but as I often remind my kids when they make a mistake, it’s important to remember that making a bad choice doesn’t make you bad. Remember the grace of God frees us from the shackles of shame.
  5. Look toward tomorrow in grace. Reflect on the coming day, month, season, or year as you close your prayer. Name what you’re anticipating, and ask God to extend grace to you. As you prayed, did you realize you’re struggling with patience toward your family? Did you realize you’ve been quick to anger as you approach that work deadline? Invite God to help you with the burden you’re holding.

May this way of praying offer you another way to encounter God, who is always with you. May you reflect and be changed by God’s grace, experiencing a more peaceful heart so you can cultivate peace within your family and bring peace to your community and world.

Adapted from Every Season Sacred by Kayla Craig. Used with permission by Tyndale.

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With tender curiosity and contemplative wisdom, Every Season Sacred is a weekly invitation to grow spiritually alongside our children. Blending thoughtful musings and practical resources, author Kayla Craig meets parents right where they are, offering honest and hopeful reflections, discussion prompts, and prayers for every season of the parenting journey.


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Kayla Craig

Kayla Craig is a former journalist who brings deep curiosity and care to her writing. She’s the author of Every Season Sacred and To Light Their Way. With a poetic, prophetic voice, she created the popular Liturgies for Parents Instagram account, which Christianity Today named an “essential parenting resource.” She also hosts the weekly Liturgies for Parents podcast. Kayla’s nuanced and accessible reflections, essays, and prayers are featured in various books, devotionals, and bible studies. Kayla lives in a 115-year-old former convent in her Iowa hometown, where she hopes to create spaces of welcome alongside her four children, two dogs, and pastor-husband Jonny.

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