“The family that prays together, stays together” is more than just a saying. After observing the happiest, closest knit families, prayer is always at the heart. Prayers can be found in the strongest families across all faiths.
Nearly a decade ago, I was invited by a Muslim friend to my first Iftar Dinner, a break-the fast meal during Ramadan. It was at her mosque in the Houston area. Not knowing much about the Islamic faith, I went mostly out of curiosity. While prayer is an important part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was humbled to watch the Muslim prayers in their mosque. As a visitor and journalist, I observed how devoted the members were not only to their faith, but also to their families.
In a recent Journal of Psychology study, Brigham Young University researchers published their findings on how family prayer affects families. From 198 families of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths across 17 states, 96 percent referred to prayer in responses to how they share their faith with their children, how they overcome problems and how they incorporate faith practices.
In Matthew 26, Jesus is at the Garden of Gethsemane, with Peter, James and John. Preparing for the Atonement, He asks them to “tarry ye here and watch with me.” After walking to a quiet spot in the garden, He began to pray. When Jesus returned to check on His disciples a few minutes later, He was disappointed to find them falling asleep. He rebuked Peter for not keeping watch, giving in to the natural man’s need for sleep and admonished him to “watch and pray always, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
Jesus was right. Because we are mortal beings, temptation is all around us. Prayer is the only way to protect us from the buffetings of the Adversary. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Doctrine and Covenants section 84, the Lord promises that “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up.”
With my own family, I realize that I am one of the lucky ones. My parents taught me well. They loved the Lord and taught my four younger siblings and me to pray. We held family prayer morning and night, mealtime, at bedtime, and prayers to begin and end our monthly fasts.
It was not always easy, however. During prayers we were expected to be still and not poke at siblings or laugh at the funny things younger siblings prayed for. While nobody wanted to be scolded, it was extremely difficult when our preschool-aged brother prayed for the Lord to “please bless our teeth, our feet and our cheese.” Random, I know. Yet, today my parents, siblings and I are still very close and pray with our own families.
With such a strong religious upbringing, prayer is a habit I continue with my own family. My husband will attest to how much of a struggle it often is to get our five children, ranging in ages from 17 to 5, downstairs for family prayer. We still have kids poking siblings and having a hard time standing still. However, nothing has unified our blended family more than praying for their older missionary sister serving in Argentina.
For months, our children prayed for their sister’s leg to heal after she was bitten by a dog. Now they pray for her teeth after she desperately needed dental care, but was in a remote area and had to wait. They have prayed for her every day for the past year. As they pray for the same purpose, their love for each other has grown.
Prayer has blessed many families across the world. It not only lets God into our lives, but knits our families together in love.
Heather Hemingway Calabresi is public affairs director for the Round Rock Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Doing Good Together is provided by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, interfaithtexas.org.