We do our best to instill a desire in the children to have structured prayer as well as "free style prayer" each night. We don't force them, but we do try to make saying their prayers interesting, fun, and most importantly, meaningful. So far, Juliana (8 yrs old) really enjoys praying. She'll pray completely on her own, and she'll remind us to say grace before meals. She enjoys attending mass and receiving Holy Communion, and is upset if something comes up and she can't. She says grace to herself at school lunch. Gracie (almost 6 yrs old!!!) will pray sometimes, but I'm not sure that she "gets it." She does seem to enjoy it, but the prayers that don't rhyme or have a rhythm to them quickly lose her interest. With her we have to keep it short and sweet and easy to remember and understand.
Anneliese, well, she's a whole other basket of never-ending fish and loaves. There are times she'll pray along, pretending she knows all of the words, but mostly echoing what she's hearing. She jokes around quite a bit about it, and doesn't take it as seriously as Juliana does. She's not always agreeable to saying her prayers. Not even in tandem with her sisters. If it's not her idea, or she's simply not in the mood, she will cry and complain throughout the entire prayer, "I don't want to! I don't have to… hey Mommy, you wisten, I not gonna pway!"
I swear, she's normally a wonderful 3 ½ year old.
But this sort of Jekyll-Hyde thing that Anneliese has going regarding prayer is precisely the reason why I was surprised and tickled pink when she approached me right before bedtime the other night, and said, "Mommy, I wanna pway 'name of duh fodder, son, hoe-wee spee-wit, amen' wite now for bed." I had to make her repeat it, then asked, "You want to say 'In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen?" Cue rapid head-nodding and smiles. "You want to pray before bed tonight?" "YES! I WANNA PWAY!" And so we did. Her favorite part is asking God to bless everyone she knows, including inanimate objects. Yes, inanimate objects, and I have no idea where she got that. But I was happy to encourage her to pray simply because she wanted to.
Then last night, we're sitting down to dinner as a family, and of course it's time to say grace before the meal. We're all praying, except for Anneliese, who is standing on her chair and shouting "I not gonna! I wanna eat! I not pway! Hey Mommy, you say it OK to no haffa pway!" I ignored her until we were completely finished with the blessing, and then turned to her and said "Of course you don't, but the rest of us enjoy saying grace before we eat. It's rude to interrupt if you've decided you won't join us. Next time, sit quietly and don't pray if you don't want to." She nodded and said "FINE THEN!"