I have already written in my post The Importance of Ritual that Daniel and I are working to build into our family life little instances and experiences that can ground or deepen our everyday moments. One such moment is family meal time. For us, that is dinner. It is hard to underestimate how nourishing regular family meal time is because the provision reaches beyond physical sustenance and enters our understanding of self and other. If done well this kind of togetherness tends our children's sense of belonging, helps them to feel cared for, regarded, and supported. In her book To Dance with God (click the link, buy the book - you won't regret it), Gertrud Mueller Nelson briefly reviews the importance of Meal Prayers (p. 150-151) saying that they offer a clear beginning and an end - a boundary, so to speak. When we pray, the meal has now begun and meal rules now apply. I would add that meal prayers are also an opportunity for our children to witness our gratitude (for the food) and our invitation (of God's Presence).
Often times meal prayers are quite rote. While this may be true for us, Daniel and I believe it is important to bring your whole self even to these prayers as a kind of centering - to show Lois that when we pray, we expect Christ to join us at the table. We use our prayer to awaken our awareness of Him. Furthermore, we would like to introduce variety and creativity to encourage interest and conversation. The best thing about celebrating meal prayer for me personally is that the metaphor of the table is an easy means of establishing a basic understanding of prayer as ongoing conversation and friendship. With this in mind, I suggest the following (very easy) activity from the aforementioned book:
1. Pick a nice container. I have several options from my house pictured above.
2. Have family members fill the container with their favorite quotations, scriptures, song verses, or whatever has them. I am particularly excited about this because I consider myself quite the collector of other people's thoughts and words.
3. At the beginning of meal time, as a part of the prayer or as a conversation starter, choose a selection to read aloud randomly from the container. There may be some seasons when you rather forgo randomly drawing for intentionally selected pieces for the particular day or time. That is great too!
In the "Categories" section over in the right sidebar, you will find a category labelled "Readings." If I have assigned a post to this category that is because in it you will find something (a scripture passage, a quote from another author, a song) that might be neat to add to your readings container. So this is one way to find interesting things. I will also post quotes and scriptures on the Engaging Mystery Facebook Page. Other places to find entries include the Collect or Lectionary, the Psalms, your favorite books, etcetera. The sky is the limit. If you feel particularly inspired or several things come to mind - feel free to stack the deck. In other words, write as many entries as you want.
As this daily reading becomes ritual in your family, your child may have things that they would rather read right away rather than enter into the bucket. Let them go for it! This will be a great opportunity to ask them why that passage or saying stood out to them. You might want to ask them to say the prayer on the evenings when their entry is chosen.
Prayer is conversation, and Daniel and I are excited to use this little ritual to inspire our children to bring their own thoughts and prayers to the family table and more importantly, to God. Happy Readings!