Several weeks ago, I received a picture of two of our Sunday School children as they prayed with us at the start of our Zoom class. This precious little picture touched the core of my heart as I was moved to tears. How could such a simple image stir up such emotions?
I quickly realized why I felt so moved. This is a picture of purity, innocence and love for our Lord Jesus. In a world of such uncertainty, we are continuously on visual overload with images that depict unrest, chaos, hatred and disease. As these images creep into our lives, we don’t even realize how they can have a negative impact on our behavior and relationships with those we love.
As much as chaos seems to be all around us, we as Christians have the perfect weapon against it – prayer. The meaning of the word weapon in the dictionary is: a means of gaining an advantage or defending oneself in conflict. What better way of defending ourselves in conflict other than our God given weapon of prayer? It is our choice. Thoughts and actions determine what affects our spirit as well as what becomes part of the fiber of our family. It is now more than ever, that we need to boldly focus our thoughts on our Lord as a family.
“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Recently, Der Hayr and I learned about a young man named Patrick who grew up in a poor family in Ireland. Each evening during his childhood, his father would lead the family on their knees in prayer. When Patrick told his father that he wanted to go to America, his father agreed to let him go with his older brother on one condition; “Go down on your knees and make me a promise here before Jesus. From now on, there will be nobody but yourself to advise you and to decide for you. But your first responsibility will always be to save your soul, and so I want you to promise to be faithful to Our Lord in America.” Patrick did what his father asked.
He came to America at the age of 18 with the intention of becoming rich, but when he arrived Patrick got a job as a janitor in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Pennsylvania, partly because the rector had found out that Patrick had an earlier interest in the priesthood. It was there that his calling to the priesthood flourished.
While Patrick and his brother were in their second year of seminary, Patrick was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis. His doctors gave him little hope for survival. He was confined to a bed in the hospital for months, and he had lost all hope. His mentor from seminary, Father Hagerty, learned about his condition and traveled to visit him. Father Hagerty reminded him of his incredible faith and the power of Saint Mary’s intercession and suggested that he go “all in” and pray for a cure. Patrick took Father Hagerty’s advice and went all in and prayed with boldness for healing, asking for the intercession of Saint Mary before her Son. Shortly after, Patrick said that the “depression, darkness and feeling of loneliness were replaced by lightness, freedom and hope.” At that moment, he knew in his heart that he was cured. In 1941 Patrick was ordained into the priesthood, and his incredible journey began.
As World War II raged on, Fr. Patrick became increasingly driven in promoting the importance of families praying together. The simple nightly boyhood ritual that cultivated the strong foundation of his faith became the platform of his ministry. He quickly became a name in the media, utilizing radio, films, outdoor advertising and television with the help of celebrities to promote his cause. He took his message all over the world with millions of families pledging to faithfully pray together. Fr. Patrick’s message was simple: building family unity through daily prayer. His slogan became “A Family That Prays Together Stays Together.” To this day, we still hear that slogan.
As the years have progressed, society has moved more and more away from prayer. With the lives that we all lead, spending quiet time praying together as a family may be a challenge and may even seem a bit awkward in the beginning. However, we need to make the choice for the wellbeing of our families. This simple decision to join together in daily prayer as a family will quickly become a habit. Prayer brings trust, understanding, comfort, compassion, patience and peace as our connection to Jesus is strengthened as a family. Through prayer, we see one another through God’s eyes, hear through God’s ears and love through God’s heart. Prayer binds our families together in a way that nothing else in this world can. The time that we commit to prayer will be sure to become the most important time of each day for our family.
“Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly, as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16
May we all make this one important choice…to go all in and make family prayer a part of our daily life. This one simple choice can change our world. As Fr. Patrick so beautifully and boldly stated: A Family That Prays Together Stays Together. And I pray that this sweet image of our precious little children will be a constant reminder of our blessed hope in Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“How can young people stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word…I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” Psalms 119:9-10