Lesson 14: Leading Family Prayer

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, (2000), 101–6


The purpose of this lesson is to encourage us to have daily family prayer.

Introduction

  • Show visual 14-a, “We should pray as families each morning and night.”

As fathers, we should call our families together for family prayer to give thanks to our Heavenly Father and ask for His guidance. Elder Spencer W. Kimball said:

“I have interviewed numerous heads of families … who have admitted that their family prayers were irregular, and more frequently missed than held. Some say they try to have family prayer once a day, and others shrug it off by saying they cannot get their families together. This casual attitude toward the vital matter of prayer disturbs me greatly. …

“… The Church urges that there be family prayer every night and every morning. It is a kneeling prayer. … All members of the family, including the little ones, should have opportunity to [say] the prayer” (“I Kneeled Down before My Maker,” Instructor, Apr. 1966, 132).

Family Prayer: A Help in Resisting Temptation

We have been commanded to pray to our Heavenly Father, especially with our families.

  • Read 3 Nephi 18:18–21. What important purpose does the Savior give for prayer? In what ways does prayer help us to resist temptation?

Regular family prayer can help our families resist the temptations of Satan. Through prayer, we can draw closer to our Heavenly Father, and we can receive strength and be better able to overcome our problems.

Teaching Prayer through Example

As fathers we should call our families to prayer and set the example. In the Doctrine and Covenants, fathers and mothers are commanded to teach their children to pray (see D&C 68:28). The best way to teach the principle of prayer to children is by example. If we make the effort to pray with them, our children will learn the importance of prayer and practice it in their lives.

Leading and teaching our children are duties that all fathers have; one does not need to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood to lead his family in prayer.

Making Family Prayer Work in Your Home

In order to make family prayer work in our homes, we should set special times for prayer in the home. Our Church leaders have told us to gather the family together twice a day. To do this, we will need to find the most convenient times for our family to get together. It should be a regular time when all family members will be at home. These times may come in the morning before we leave the house for work and school and shortly before the children go to bed in the evening. Elder Spencer W. Kimball taught: “Many have found the most effective time is at the breakfast and at the dinner table. Then it is least difficult to get the family members together” (“I Kneeled Down before My Maker,” Instructor, Apr. 1966, 132).

  • Invite class members to describe what they have done to establish a regular pattern of prayer in their homes.

Morning prayers should include our plans for the day. Evening prayers should thank the Lord for His protection and guidance. The blessing on the food at each meal should not take the place of the regular family prayer, but can be included in it if we hold family prayer just before eating.

Some other blessings we should pray for are mentioned by Amulek in the Book of Mormon.

Our own lists of things to pray for might be different from Amulek’s list, but the principles he spoke of are the same. One principle is that we should pray about our everyday activities. Another is that we should pray for strength to resist the temptations of the devil. Each family should look at its goals and needs and pray sincerely for the things most necessary to them. If we do this, our prayers will be sincere and effective, not just words we repeat day after day. As fathers, we should help our little children avoid repeating the same words every time they pray. In doing this, we must seek the influence of the Spirit (see D&C 42:14). Whatever we do to teach our children to pray, we must never force or embarrass them.

We must not become discouraged if we have problems holding effective family prayers. Often, Satan is behind the problem.

  • Read 2 Nephi 32:8. Why do you think Satan tries to stop us from praying?

Satan will try to stop family prayers because he can more easily influence a family that does not pray regularly. The habit of holding family prayer, therefore, should be so strong that even when fathers are not home, their wives will call the family together. If both we and our wives are going to be away, we should assign an older child to lead the family in prayer.

  • How can youth support and encourage family prayer?

Spiritual Blessings through Family Prayer

Great blessings will come to us as we hold family prayer. Love and understanding will increase, and Satan’s influence in the home will be diminished. A feeling of peace will fill our hearts as we realize that we are properly fulfilling a commandment.

Family prayer is one step in creating an eternal home. President Spencer W. Kimball said that “when we kneel in family prayer, our children … are learning habits that will stay with them all through their lives. If we do not take time for prayers, what we are actually saying to our children is, ‘Well, it isn’t very important, anyway. …’ On the other hand, what a joyous thing it is to establish such customs and habits in the home that when parents visit their children … after they are married they just naturally kneel with them in the usual, established manner of prayer!” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 253).

Conclusion

We may wonder at times if our children are really learning about Christ and feeling His presence in family prayer. But children are sometimes closer to the Spirit than we realize. President Heber J. Grant wrote about the following experience he had with prayer as a child in the home of President Brigham Young:

“I knelt down … in [Brigham Young’s] home … at family prayers, as a child and as a young man. I bear witness that as a little child, upon more than one occasion, because of the inspiration of the Lord to Brigham Young while he was [asking] God for guidance, I have lifted my head, turned and looked at the place where Brigham Young was praying, to see if the Lord was … there. It seemed to me that he talked to the Lord as one man would talk to another” (Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham [1941], 223–24).

Prayer should be as inspiring an experience for our children as it was for Heber J. Grant. The following story shows what can happen when family prayer is used the way it should be:

“One father, a quiet, unassuming man, found it hard to express his love for his family. At his wife’s prompting they began holding family prayer, and it became an opportunity to voice what was in his heart. To their daughter, who had misinterpreted her father’s manner as indifference, the experience was a revelation. His prayers were simple and sometimes clumsily worded, but to hear him say ‘Bless my lovely daughter to do good’ thrilled her.

“A timid boy who thought of himself only as a ‘scaredy cat’ felt new pride and self-esteem when his father and mother thanked God for their ‘kind, gentle son.’ And the boy’s self-confidence continued to grow through prayer when even his little brother thanked Heavenly Father for his ‘big, strong brother.’

“In preparation for a family outing in our own family, my husband asked the Lord to bless our family to get along and to enjoy each other’s company. The preaching we had done had gone unheard, but that reverent prayer brought cooperation.

“Our teenage son was tense and sullen whenever we tried to discuss any problem with him. We decided it was important to plan the discussion when he would be most receptive, and that seemed to be at family prayer time in the mornings. It was then that the house was quiet and we shared a humble, sincere feeling. We found the tenseness eased when prayer preceded our discussions.

“During these quiet moments of family prayer, we are keeping in touch with each other and with our Father in heaven” (Ann H. Banks, “The Extra Blessings of Prayer,” Ensign, Jan. 1976, 37).

  • Invite class members to share successful experiences they have had with family prayer. Consider ending the lesson with “God, Our Father, Hear Us Pray” (Hymns, no. 170; or Gospel Principles, 329) or “Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire” (Hymns, no. 145).

Challenges

Hold family prayers if you are not holding them now.

Evaluate your prayers if you are already having them regularly.

Discuss with your wife and children how to improve your family prayers.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Read Gospel Principles chapter 8, “Praying to Our Heavenly Father.”

  2. 2.

    If you desire, assign a class member to tell a successful experience he has had with family prayer.

  3. 3.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.