Q. The blessing at meal-time has become a source of derision in our family. The repetitive nature of it makes my skin crawl each time it is said. Also, it is my belief that the head of the household should say the evening meal prayer. But my husband disagrees. He feels everyone should take turns saying it. Now nobody wants to. I wish it was lovely and different each time and that we could include things that are happening in our family and ask for specific blessings, etc. But is that more like a regular prayer and not a meal-time blessing?
A. All children should be encouraged to pray voluntarily and happily out of gratitude for God’s provision. But when they feel forced to do something whose purpose they don’t understand and whose words have no meaning, they naturally resist.
Try praying spontaneously from your heart instead of repeating something you’ve memorized, and don’t force anyone who might not be old enough to understand the reason for the prayer or who doesn’t feel grateful for God’s provision to contribute. If the motives of our heart are not right the prayer we offer is meaningless. Only those people whose motives are right should be asked to pray. It doesn’t matter what they say. What matters is that they want to say it.
Normally the husband and father is the head of the family and as such acts in the role of family priest. If he wants to delegate the meal time prayer then he should see that those to whom he delegates it are spiritually prepared.
Speaking to God should be a natural thing. But forcing children to pray when they don’t feel like it can have serious effects on their future prayer life. We all know adults who still can’t pray out loud as a result of negative childhood experiences with prayer.