QUESTION: How important is prayer for families?
Prayer for families is the very foundation that keeps a family unit together. Have you heard the phrase “A family that prays together stays together”? The concept is true – a family that has their focus on praying to the Lord Jesus Christ has a foundation that may be shaken at times, but it will withstand all that comes against them.
It’s important for parents to have their children involved in family prayer because this helps build the children’s relationship with the Lord and also teaches them the importance of prayer. Families that pray together establish trust with one another, learn to pray in a fellowship, and come in agreement through Jesus. These disciplines help bring unity to the household.
The family is a small church and our ministry first starts at home. In 1 Timothy 3:5 we read, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” Managing your family is caring for each member, teaching them God’s ways, leading them to grow in the Lord, and equipping them for adult life. Prayer is an important element in this process. A family who has a heart of prayer for each other will have a heart of prayer for the world.
Prayer for families can be done in a variety of ways – by you in your prayer closet, by praying together with your spouse, praying together as a family unit, and praying with friends. Praying for your family not only lays a foundation for family life, it also surrounds your family with protection and peace.
In many cases, the Lord reveals specific needs for your family members. He reveals pain that they may be feeling or certain things that are drawing them away from fellowship with Him. Praying for your family can give you insight from the Lord and most of all, prayer will bring you comfort as God reminds you of His promises. Perhaps some members of your family do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Prayer for the unsaved is vital.
Prayer for Families – Sample Prayers
- Prayer for protection and provision – Father, Thank you for my family. I ask that you bless them with Your favor. Provide for all of their needs. I ask You to protect them from harm and evil. Surround them in the shadow of Your wing. Go before them and prepare the way for them. If any path is crooked, I ask you to make it straight. Protect them from the schemes of the enemy and keep them from deception. Bring Your perfect peace to their hearts. In Jesus name I pray, amen.
- Prayer for unity – Father, I thank you for blessing me with my family. I ask you to bring us into unity through You. I ask that anything that is hidden in darkness – to cause disunity – will be brought to light. I ask You to lead us into Your perfect truth and help us to be the family You intend us to be. Lord, help us to be a blessing to one another and to others. Reveal Yourself to us and let us come into agreement with You. Lead us in Your ways. Grant us compassionate hearts, fill us with Your love that does not keep records of wrong, and bring joy to our hearts when we think of one another. Bring Your perfect peace and unity into our family. In Jesus name I pray, amen.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
– We have all
and deserve God’s judgment.
, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him.
, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He
for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was
rose from the dead
according to the
. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your
, declaring, “
Jesus is Lord
,” you will be saved from
and spend eternity with God in heaven.
What is your response?
Yes, today I am deciding to follow JesusYes, I am already a follower of JesusI still have questions
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Praying for Peace in the Family
Heavenly Father, I bring my family before You, praying for peace in the family. Jehovah Nissi, Lord my God, my family is struggling and battling with the enemy right now. I pray that You give them strength, Oh Father, allow peace in their lives.
Bless them spiritually so that they will hunger and thirst after You and Your righteousness and they shall be filled. Bless them financially, guard them under Your wings. Protect them against all evil. Cover them with Your precious blood, wash them white as snow.
Heavenly Father, I bring my family before You, praying for peace in the family. Click To Tweet
Colossians 3:15 – And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in harmony. And always be thankful.
Psalms 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Break every chain
Conflict, prejudice, hate, jealousy and pride against one another will vanish at the sound of Your great name. The enemy will flee when he senses Your presence, he will not prevail! Remove pain, suffering, anxiety, worry and fear, in Jesus’ mighty name!
Break every chain that binds them. Release the shackles of their lives so they can live freely to worship and praise Your Holy name.
Read: Prayer for Peace in my Heart
John 14.27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 – May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
Tear down the strongholds
Tear down the strongholds that restrict them from knowing You. Help them to realize they can find love, joy, peace, happiness and rest within You and You alone. Set their hearts and minds to focus diligently on You and to seek You persistently.
Remind them that You are always near and they can cast their every burden upon You to find rest. Allow us to execute love and happiness towards one another as we embrace Your gentle spirit. In Jesus’ Holy name I pray, Amen!
Additional Reading, get your copy of: Busy Lives and Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life
Lord my God, my family is struggling with the enemy right now. Give them peace in their lives. Click To Tweet
John 16.33 – I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Romans 8:6 – So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
Ccontinuing on some of the thoughts I mentioned in my Tuesday post on the occasion of six months since my mother’s passing, I wanted to explore some of these issues further in a more general way, meditating on a few related questions.
I’ve actually gotten a couple of private notes from folks concerned that, from what they read, I was “repressing” my emotions regarding my mother’s passing. I actually alluded to this question in my post, i.e., that some (no doubt from their own experience) have this sense that, when a parent or someone you love dies, you are “supposed to” break down emotionally (“it’s okay to cry,” etc.). Some people do that, of course, and I don’t see anything wrong with it, so long as it doesn’t become destructive. But not everyone mourns that way. And they don’t have to.
Part of what’s going on is probably explainable just in terms of different personalities, and of course with me, as I mentioned, I have a lot of experience with death in a professional capacity. Most people “don’t know what to do”—one hears that phrase a lot in the middle of the experience—but like most clergy, I am literally trained to “know what to do.” I’m nothing special in this regard. This is normal. Just like I need to know how to serve at the altar, I need to know how to process mourning.
That said, I think more is probably explainable—and here I am not only talking about myself—in terms of a key concept in Family Systems Theory (something I have been working to learn about over the past year or so): differentiation of self. I won’t go into the details (though I suggest you read the link, if you’re interested), but the important thing here is to know that some families and individuals do not have a high level of emotional dependency on one another. This doesn’t mean that they’re independent or indifferent. It doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. Rather, it means that their sense of self is not inextricably bound up in another person.
In my own family (including extended family), it’s been interesting to watch the different kinds of mourning for my mother. Some people are devastated. Some people are going through the loss with a lot of stability. And there’s a lot in between. Usually, the most devastated ones are the ones whose emotional selves were much more intertwined with my mother’s. There are a lot of reasons that could be the case, and I won’t go into them, mainly to respect their privacy. But some of those reasons are completely understandable and don’t mean that something is “wrong” with anyone. So it’s normal that, if your sense of who you are has a lot of “hooks” built into another person, when that person is lost (or, alternatively, if he rejects you, behaves badly, etc.), then that is much more upsetting to your own emotional stability.
(As an aside, I’ve seen this concept of high and low differentiation of self work out even in the world of blogging, which you might think would be highly differentiated by nature. It’s not, though. A few bloggers I sometimes read have followings that respond in a highly emotional way—they are always telling the bloggers how wonderful they are as persons. And if someone criticizes the bloggers’ writing, the response to that criticism from the following is to tell the critic that they don’t understand the bloggers as persons. Criticism of ideas is perceived as an attack on the person. The systems have emerged with low self-differentiation (perhaps those writers attract that sort of person), so responses are in terms of defining the other person rather than self-definition. An example of a blogging environment with higher self-differentiation is one focused on issues where commenters rarely say anything about each other as persons, whether positively or negatively. Okay, back to the subject at hand.)
The good news is that the loss of equilibrium can be an occasion for healing. And one of the beautiful things about rites of passage—not just death, but also marriages, births, baptisms, moving out, etc.—is that sometimes family emotional processes that have been locked into place can unlock, and the system can adapt to become more healing. People who have been out of touch can reconnect, for instance. Or sometimes people see each other in a new light. I’ve seen that happening in some ways in my family. I’ve watched it happen as a clergyman, too, since I often get inserted into those rites of passage for families.
If I had to generally analyze my family, I’d say that my father’s side tends to be more self-differentiated while my mother’s is somewhat less so. Neither is “right” or “wrong,” exactly, though more differentiated selves do tend to be more stable in the long run. The danger in the more differentiated families is that people can lose touch more easily over distance, while the danger in the less differentiated ones is that shocks to the system are harder to absorb. We’re all messed up human beings, though, and we all need healing in various ways. And most of us are able to differentiate better from some people than from others. You might feel very differently if your father dies than if your mother does, for instance.
I recently had a conversation with a catechumen who is himself a therapist, and he puts stock in the Family Systems approach, which sees people not as isolated “patients” but rather as part of emotional communities. (The language of emotional “repression” comes from the more dominant form of therapy, which is post-Freudian and based on the idea of individualized pathology rather than community function.) He commented to me that one of the reasons he’s becoming Orthodox is that he finds that so much of what he’s experienced in helping other people through recovery is evidenced in the Orthodox tradition.
Great Lent, for instance, if done in the traditional way, contributes to differentiation of self in that it requires a person to go within and find God present there in a deeper way. Doing so stabilizes him and makes him less susceptible to other’s emotional influence, especially negative influence. Probably the ultimate example of how this works out is in the martyrs, who were usually extremely calm in the face of persecution and death.
So on this particular issue of self-differentiation and mourning the dead, the Orthodox tradition says that we can go ahead and pray for the departed. So how does that work out?
If as a Christian you don’t believe in prayer for the departed, especially if you emphasize that the departed cannot see us, etc., then for most purposes a dead person really is dead to you. They’re just gone. You have memories, but you have to wait until reunion in the afterlife to have any access to them.
But if you believe that the bond of prayer does not cease upon exit from the earthly life, then that means that there is still space to work out the relationship in prayer alongside that person. No, it’s not the same as praying with them while they were bodily present, but it’s still there. Rituals of prayer associated with rites of passage (most of which are about separation in one way or another) are generally designed to help with this, though we don’t usually think of them that way.
So there is not just a cutting-off of relationship, which doesn’t actually help in self-differentiation but rather can even lock down the fusion of selves. (A guy who gets dumped by a girl might, for instance, become deeply obsessed with her even while she ignores him completely.) Rather, in prayer for the departed, the relationship’s activity and life are retained, but now they are almost entirely within the context of prayer, which brings the action of grace and healing into play and can settle out the relationship in a peaceful way.
C. S. Lewis once mentioned prayer for the departed in precisely these terms:
Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age, the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to him?
(From Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer)
I have sometimes been asked by people who had lost someone through death or distance or a relationship cut-off of some kind what they should do. “I don’t know what to do” is a common refrain. If they are more churchly-minded, they may follow it up with “All I can do is pray, I guess.” I usually say to them, “What you can do is pray. It may be the only thing you can do, but it’s not all you can do, like it’s the leftovers when you have no other option. It is the best and most critical thing you can do.”
And it is. So we do.
Therefore, we see panikhidas and prayer at home for the dead are beneficial for them, as are good deeds done in their memory, such as alms or contributions to the church. But especially beneficial for them is commemoration at the Divine Liturgy. There have been many appearances of the dead and other occurrences which confirm how beneficial is the commemoration of the dead. Many who died in repentance, but who were unable to manifest this while they were alive, have been freed from tortures and have obtained repose.
How important commemoration at the Liturgy is may be seen in the following occurrence: Before the uncovering of the relics of St. Theodosius of Chernigov (1896), the priest-monk (the renowned Starets Alexis of Goloseyevsky Hermitage, of the Kiev-Caves Lavra, who died in 1916) who was conducting the re-vesting of the relics, becoming weary while sitting by the relics, dozed off and saw before him the Saint, who told him: “I thank you for laboring me. I beg you also, when you will serve the Liturgy, to commemorate my parents”—and be gave their names (Priest Nikita and Maria).** “How can you, O Saint, ask my prayers, when you yourself stand at the heavenly Throne and grant to people God’s mercy?” the priest-monk asked. “Yes, that is true,” replied St. Theodosius, “but the offering at the Liturgy is more powerful than my prayer.”
Therefore, we see panikhidas and prayer at home for the dead are beneficial for them, as are good deeds done in their memory, such as alms or contributions to the church. But especially beneficial for them is commemoration at the Divine Liturgy. There have been many appearances of the dead and other occurrences which confirm how beneficial is the commemoration of the dead. Many who died in repentance, but who were unable to manifest this while they were alive, have been freed from tortures and have obtained repose. In the Church, prayers are ever offered for the repose of the dead, and on the day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, in the kneeling prayers at vespers, there is even a special petition “for those in hell.”
St. Gregory the Great, in answering in his Dialogues the question, “Is there anything at all that can possibly benefit souls after death?” teaches: “The Holy Sacrifice of Christ, our saving Victim, brings great benefits to souls even after death, provided their sins (are such as) can be pardoned in the life to come. For this reason the souls of the dead sometimes beg to have Liturgies offered for them … The safer course, naturally, is to do for ourselves during life what we hope others will do for us after death. It is better to make one’s exit a free man than to seek liberty after one is in chains. We should, therefore, despise this world with all our hearts as though its glory were already spent, and offer our sacrifice of tears to God each day as we immolate His sacred Flesh and Blood. This Sacrifice alone has the power of saving the soul from eternal death, for it presents to us mystically the death of the Only-begotten Son” (Dialogues IV: 57, 60, pp. 266, 272-3).
St. Gregory gives several examples of the dead appearing to the living and asking for or thanking them for the celebration of the Liturgy for their repose; once, also, a captive whom his wife believed dead and for whom she had the Liturgy celebrated on certain days, returned from captivity and told her how he had been released from his chains on some days—the very days when the Liturgy had been offered for him. (Dialogues IV: 57, 59, pp. 267, 270).
Protestant theologians find the Church’s prayer for the dead to be somehow incompatible with the necessity of finding salvation first of all in this life: “If you can be saved by the Church after death, then why bother to struggle or find faith in this Life? Let us eat, drink, and be merry…” Of course, no one holding such a philosophy has ever attained salvation by the Church’s prayers, and it is evident that such an argument is quite artificial and even hypocritical. The Church’s prayer cannot save anyone who does not wish salvation, or who never offered any struggle for it himself during his lifetime. In a sense, one might say that the prayer of the Church or of individual Christians for a dead person is but another result of that person’s life: he would not be prayed for unless he had done something during his lifetime to inspire such prayer after his death.
St. Mark of Ephesus also discusses this question of the Church’s prayer for the dead and the improvement it brings in their state, citing the example of the prayer of St. Gregory the Dialogist for the Roman Emperor Trajan—a prayer inspired by a good deed of this pagan Emperor.
**These names had been unknown before this vision. Several years after the canonization, St. Theodosius’ own Book of Commemoration was found in the monastery where he had once been Abbot, which confirmed these names and corroborated the vision. See the Life of Elder Alexis in Pravoslavny Blagovestnik, San Francisco, 1967, No. I (in Russian).
Excerpt from The Soul after Death by Fr. Seraphim Rose
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