According to Merriam-Webster, a liturgy is “a customary repertoire of ideas, phrases, or observances.” A lot of people shy away from the term “liturgy” because it makes them think of staid and meaningless droning, or soullessly checking religious boxes while neglecting to allow the working of the Holy Spirit. I think that’s unfortunate, because liturgy has the potential to be a way to thoughtfully organize our routines, actions, and traditions around what is most important to us, rather than relegating our top priorities to the afterthoughts and nooks and crannies of our days.
Most people see value in schedules, or even the loosest of daily routines, but if you’re like me, those are most often organized around tasks like feeding the baby, naps, play dates, and staying on top of the laundry rather than around your main life goals.
As a Christian, my main goal for every day is that we would glorify God in our family no matter what we’re doing. However, most of the time you would never be able to discern that goal from looking at our day to day activities and routines. Several weeks ago I read a very interesting series from the Conversion Diary blog about the author’s “Reckless Experiment with Prayer” in which she decided to try organizing her days around praying the Catholic liturgy of hours. I investigated the concept, and basically the idea is the Catholic version of an older Jewish tradition of praying at set intervals throughout the day (you can read about that in the Psalms, or in Daniel’s commitment to praying toward Jerusalem at regular times each day, or in the New Testament references to Jesus praying at various specific hours).
At first, I had the knee-jerk Protestant reaction that I am free to pray whatever I want whenever I want, and I don’t need to be bound by set pre-written prayer and worship schedules. This is true. Then the thought snuck in, “I am free to pray and worship whenever I want all day long, but how often do I really do that?“
I had been feeling convicted about the fact that I was only praying “baby prayers” with the children, and that they didn’t know the things I fervently pray for our family, so how would they know to praise God for His answers? We had also noticed that it was hard to cram a lot into our family worship times after dinner because the kids are tired. Finally, I had noticed that my daily routine did not reflect my main goals. All of these thoughts started to coalesce for me around the idea of a daily schedule of focusing on God.
After talking about this at length with my husband (to make sure I was not jumping off of some theological deep end or something), and with his input, I put together a loose way to schedule our day around little times of praise and prayer. Most days we don’t manage to get to all of them, but we do a few each day.
I didn’t draw much from the actual Catholic Liturgy of Hours, because that is not our faith tradition or background, and because I wanted to use things that were meaningful for our family and helpful to our particular situation. For each of the prayer times I wrote out, we have a Psalm to sing (one of the ones we want to learn together as a family), a specific thing to pray about (to keep it short and manageable and maintain the impact of a shorter prayer for the kids), and either a Bible reading or memory verse, or other short song. I printed out each section on a separate sheet of paper, with full lyrics to the songs, and we keep them where we’re likely to be at that time of day.
For example, our Wake Up Praise is sometime between 6-7 am when the kids wake up. We sing Psalm 100C (I put the lyrics in the comments section, in case you’re not familiar with that Psalm), pray to thank God for the day, for His creation and salvation, and to ask for Him to lead us in how we can glorify Him with our thoughts and actions that day. Then we sing the first stanza of the hymn “Holy Holy Holy” as we go down the stairs to breakfast. We also have a Morning Prayer in the mid-morning (usually coinciding with snack time), Lunch Prayer, Afternoon Prayer (for right after nap time is over), Dinner Prayer, and Bedtime Prayer.
It has been interesting to see how this plays out in our house. I’m still working on the implementation, but personally it has really helped me keep my focus on the Lord throughout the day, and the children seem to enjoy the singing and engage with the prayers. I’ve also noticed that having regular prayer and praise times throughout the day gives me a lot of good opportunities to talk about God with the children, and makes our faith a more organic part of our daily activities.
I think it’s interesting to hear how different families structure their days and fit in spiritual things. I don’t know how long we’ll keep up with our little prayer times – although they seem to work well for a family with lots of toddlers and babies, I imagine families with older children might get more out of other ways of doing things. That is where our freedom to pray at any time comes in! I just hope that as we continue to modify our daily routines to accommodate different ages and stages of growth, we don’t lose sight of the importance of keeping God central to our day.
Note: if you’re interested in the specifics, I’d be happy to email you my outline of our prayer times, but I didn’t want to bore everyone or imply that what we’re doing is what every family should do by posting it directly. It seems like even if you were doing something similar, the songs and specific topics of prayer would be different for different families. That said, if you’d like to see what we’re using, feel free to email me. Just click the button in my left sidebar for my email.