I am a work in progress when it comes to knowing how to pray with my children. I knew that I needed to show them how to pray outside of Mass, but struggled with how.
One day, we were driving back from the store or some mundane errand, and I heard a siren. I instantly made the Sign of the Cross, and Hail Mary'd it up in my head. My kindergarten teacher taught us to pray at the sound of sirens, and it has always just been something that I did without thinking. This time, I noticed it. So I said the prayer aloud.
Cal: Mom, who are you talking to?
Me: God. Do you hear the siren? It is an ambulance. Ambulances go to help people when they are really hurt. I am asking Mary to ask God to help them.
Cal: Oh. Can I ask Him for a new car?
Instantly, a siren prompted Cal to ask me if we could pray for people. Slowly, I began to pray before our meals as well. For some reason, the Prayer Before Meals stuck in his head better than the Hail Mary, so anytime he wanted to pray: sirens, Church, before bed, randomly in the car or at the park, he would pray the Prayer Before Meals.
From time to time, I ask the kids if they would like to pray. This means Hattie (2 years old) prays the Prayer Before Meals, and Calvin prays his own version of it out loud:
"Bless us, oh Lordy, for these gifts, I would like a car and a donut."
Hearing his prayers make me smile, but I also explain that we do not pray to ask for things, we pray to tell God thank you, or to ask Him to watch over people. Or do we pray as though we are wishing?
That is a really, really, REALLY difficult thing to explain when praying can feel like wishing. It wasn't until I began to pray the occasional novena that I even thought about wishing vs. praying. My novena intention would begin sounding like I was begging for something, but then it would morph into asking God to help my will to match His, or asking for strength.
I can't help but imagine God looking over us all, and chuckling at how "cute" we are praying. I see my son, kneeling at Mass with his hands clutched, asking God for donuts and candy. Then I see myself right next to him, asking for... well other things. My prayer life still isn't perfect, but I am happy to share the journey with my family. Maybe the fact that I am still learning will give the kids a head start!