When Prayer At Home Seems Lacking

Every time I turn on the evening news, log onto Facebook, or check my email, I brace myself. I literally wince because I am so damn nervous about what comes next. What monstrosity this vale of tears will manage to throw together next. A never-ending litany of pain, violence, and heartbreak. Sweet Jesus what the hell is going on?

Ebola outbreaks.

Yizidis chased up a mountain with only the clothes on their backs.

Christians facing persecution, expulsion, rape, or even death just for professing Our Lord.

Teens being shot by police, mowed down like human weeds.

A generous, brilliant soul tortured by his madness and disease into a final act of desperation and pain.

Friends suffering devastating losses and heartbreaks of all shapes and sizes.

And me, for my part? What can I say or do?

Prayers. I’m praying for you. I’ll offer this, that or the other prayer for this victim, for those tragedies.

Prayers, prayers, prayers.

Does it ever feel like a cop-out? I sit here offering rosaries and thinking, “Is this really all there is?”

Doesn’t justice demand we do something more? What more can I do? Doesn’t “hashtag awareness” seem pretty pathetic in light of human beings literally chased up a mountain by people hating in the name of some God I have never met?

In a culture that prides us on working ourselves into madness and keeping a stiff upper lip in the face of all manner of suffering and hardships, the power of prayer is often looked at with a raised eyebrow or worse. “Yeah, prayer. That’ll help those Iraqis get food and water.”

Everything around us is all about “go, go, go” and “do something anything you must be taking action at every moment” that the still, small voice of God is drowned out.

You see, sometimes prayer is all we can do. Sometimes prayer is all there is. And it is something mighty.

When a thirsty man comes to your door, you give him water. When we meet the suffering in our midst, we are called to comfort them. When the thirsty and suffering are thousands of miles away, and we are not free to leave and minister to them, then we go to war against violence and hatred and racism and greed with the weapons of our God. With our lips and hearts, with our penance and praise, with the weapons we are permitted and able to use.

In the Knights of Columbus magazine that arrived recently, a short reflection from Archbishop Lori touched on the importance of building up the domestic church:

While our home was church-like because of prayer, religious instruction and moral formation, the most church-like quality of all was love. Love in good times and in bad – a sacrificial love to the very end…The world has changed dramatically since I was a child. But the fundamental need for children to have a mother and a father who love each other and are faithful to the Lord, the Church and each other remains unchanged. Families still need to feel at home in the parish church and welcome its influence into their home. Families still need to go to confession, pray at home, and go to Mass on Sunday. Moms and dads still need to open the hearts of their children to Jesus and oversee their religious instruction. -Columbia Magazine August 2014

Prayer in our homes – our domestic churches – for the healing of a broken and brutal world, is one of the most powerful gifts we as families can give. Our witness of trying and failing, and trying again, to build the culture of life and civilization of love, is strengthened by our prayers within the walls of our home. After going to Mass, prayer with our families at home is of utmost importance. Praying with the Church from our homes brings the liturgy out of the walls of church and onto ordinary streets where other people are living, and working, and dreaming. Maybe it gives us the strength and courage to make difficult choices for the sake of our family, or to stand up for justice even when it may cost us dearly.

I am reading The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Prayer in the Home right now, and I was so struck by a passage in it concerning the importance of the liturgy. In relation to all of the terrible things that are happening in our world right now, being reminded of the true power of the Mass, and of bringing the liturgy out of the churches and into our homes helped me to let go of the guilt I was feeling about “only” being able to pray.

“For this light that transfigures both work and the created thing that work shapes is the light of communion. Like the Eucharistic liturgy, the Eucharist as lived out in daily life is crowned by communion. At bottom, it is the absence of this communion that is at the root of injustices in the workplace with its alienating structures, and of disorders in the economy. The liturgy does not do away with the need for our inventiveness in dealing with these problems. However, it does something event better: since it is not a structure but the Breath of Spirit, it is prophetic; it discerns, it challenges; it spurs creativity and is translated into actions. It cries out for justice and is the agent of peace.” – Jean Cordon

Only being able to pray? Prayer and communion give us the courage to live our faith in the world, leaving the bubble to be with the broken. Being vulnerable enough to admit that inside the bubble, we’re all broken too. We need to do this. We need these prayers, and we need to say them as families.

“Our Lord was born into a family. The family is God’s plan for the world – His divine plan, conceived in the very beginning, to be a way of beauty and spreading His word. The special place of prayer at home, the family oratory (oratory means “house of prayer”) is a powerhouse of grace by which our family may be nourished spiritually and thus be able to transform the world through prayer, proclamation of the gospel, and charity.” -The Little Oratory

Our family stinks at family prayer. We are slowly getting better, but it is an uphill battle. We have started small, with always saying prayers before meals and at bedtime. We can do better, this little domestic church. Let’s do this together, building “those Cathedrals” and strong domestic churches, offering prayers and penances for a world that is – let’s face it – just like us: beautiful and very broken.





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  • http://acatholicreversal.blogspot.com Christina

    Sarah – this is beautifully written. We, too, have our up and downs with family prayer, but no matter how messy the prayer time is we are always better off for it and so we keep at it! I am about 2 pages into The Little Oratory, can’t wait to read more. It seems I am in constant prayer these days with the state of affairs in the world.

  • http://Thefannings.blogspot.com Tricia

    Love this post! It really can feel like I’m not doing anything by being thousands of miles away from all this terribleness and only able to pray. Thanks for the reminder that it really is so important.

  • http://www.wholeparentingfamily.com Nell @ Whole Parenting Family

    So so so true. We prayed a decade for the martyrs giving up their lives right now last night and as I heard my little 4 & 2 year old voices offering up the prayers, I just cried!

  • http://catholicmutt.blogspot.com Catholic Mutt

    Since I was just feeling that “praying for you” with all of these situations was a cop out, this post is a great reminder to me as well not to give up.

  • http://gravatar.com/virginiabonnett Virginia

    Beautifully written. I’ve been putting off buying The Little Oratory for silly reasons, but you’re right, we need to start at home. This was such a great post. Thanks so much for sharing it!

  • http://virginiabonnett.wordpress.com virginiabonnett

    What a beautiful post! I’ve been putting off buying The Little Oratory for a number of silly reasons, but your post has made me realize that this is really something that our family needs to work on. The power of prayer is so strong, but we often forget that and end up feeling helpless. Thanks for posting this! It is such a great post!

  • http://motheringspirit.wordpress.com Laura

    Beautiful and empowering. Thanks for the reminder to finish reading that article in the KC magazine too! We have a powerful witness to offer a world crying out in need, and we have to start every day at home, again.

  • Michelle

    Thank you Sarah for putting into words something I’ve been trying to get my head around too. I saw images of what they did to some of the Christian women and children left behind in Iraq and ever since I’ve been asking myself what I can do and all I can think of is prayer, yet it seems, well.. like a cop out, as you said. I’ve been thinking more and more about what is it exactly we are called to do. I mean, sometimes I think it would be better to switch the radio off and keep these tortuous ideas out of my head….I mean am I really called to constantly mull over all the terrible things happening everywhere? All I can ever come up with is…pray.

  • Pat

    Thank you for writing and your lovely reminder of the importance of prayer. For me, prayer is a mood lifter and a strength builder. And, as our pastor often points out, prayer can be a boomerang. If I pray for something, then it comes back to me asking, “Pat, what can you do about this situation?”