Now that I have given a little background on my experience and homeschool outlook, let’s get down to to the where the rubber meats the road. It’s fine and good to have these ethereal dreams and beliefs, but some thing has to be done, or this belief is worth nothing.
Quoting from the second article, I would like to begin this post with a confession. Here is the quote:
“It is so easy to find people in the Church who will read and study a lot, and show great zeal in doing external works. However, it is so hard to find people who will take time to struggle to pray. Why is this so?
The Elder Ephraim was once asked this question and immediate he said, “Yes, yes”; in this way confirming that this is absolutely true and then he went on to say:
Abba Pimen says that prayer is the most difficult of all virtues to acquire. In prayer we free our minds from all the distractions of this world and we touch God with our minds. In prayer we unite to God with our minds. And the devil hates this therefore he does all that he can to stop us from accomplishing this. In prayer we must concentrate on God, we must turn away from all thoughts and distractions and immerse our minds in God.”
My confession is that I struggle very hard with prayer. I am one of those people who likes to study and read, but I struggle when it comes to prayer. The truth is that we have had a very rocky road when it comes to establishing this cornerstone of our homeschool life. There are mornings when we get up late, and in my foolishness I will skip prayers in favor of chores, breakfast, and sadly just so we can start real school.
In fact, it seems that on the mornings when we skip prayers and scripture readings our day goes better. How strange is that? But, in the above articles I think the author alludes to why this is so, “…the devil fights against us most at that time so then we must be persistent.” Not diminishing the fact that I am to blame, however I we have an enemy. And he fights us when we pray.
This is where planning is so crucial, and I think very necessary. With a plan we can persist, and we can continue to practice prayer. It’s our Rule of Prayer. I start with the day- just one day isolated and looked at in its fullness. Prayer is the cornerstone, the most important thing we will do in the day, therefore I put prayer before anything else on the schedule. This does not ensure that I will treat prayer as the most important daily work, but it does keep me accountable, and reminds me to keep trying. Here are a few tips that help ensure that I pray with my children .
- Establish a waking time for myself. This is crucial for prayer. In the evening prayers we pray, “Raise me up again in proper time that I may sing my morning hymn.” In proper time.... For me, this has always been a semi- early waking time. I strongly desire a time alone before the children get up. I like to pray my personal prayers, read the daily readings, and have my coffee. I also like to get breakfast started and start some laundry. 7 AM is a good time for me.
- Establish a waking time for the children. Considering the different age groups in our house, and the fact that we are adding a new addition in a few days, it has always worked for us that the children all get up at the same time. That means that I do not require a very early waking time for kiddos. Between 8 and 8:30 is good.
- Determine our Scripture reading and lives of saints study method. I have used many, but what has stuck with us is to read scripture together before we leave the breakfast table, during lunch we read the lives of the saints- feed the body and soul at the same time. Make the connection. I have used all kinds of materials to do this. Right now I am planning to read the Old Testament throughout this year. We will see how this goes. The littles might abandon us, but as long as they linger and hear, maybe playing with blocks on the kitchen floor or play dough at the counter, that is good enough for me. Also, I have abandoned the short snippet stories of the saints for this season in favor of books that go deeper into the life and piety of a saint. I ask my spiritual father for suggestions in this area, and he is always spot on as far as the books he suggests.
- Make sure to plan evening prayers even though the school day is over. My husband usually leads these prayers using A Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians. And then our day of prayer is finished. I encourage the children to say there own prayers before they fall asleep.
Note: The website Orthodox Prayer, linked above, is really a wonderful place to learn about prayer. It has examples, explanations, and articles that are truly helpful.
What is your family’s Prayer Rule, and are you willing to share? What works for you and yours? I hope this post helps motivate and encourage.