Book Club : Sanctuaries of Childhood Chapter Seven
Today I will be summarizing and discussing the seventh chapter of Shea Darian’s book, Sanctuaries of Childhood: Nurturing a Child’s Spiritual Life. The book is written for parents or caregivers who are looking for inspirational ideas on how to nurture spirituality (non-denominational and all-encompassing) within themselves and their children. I will share a chapter summary every few weeks and would love you to join in with your reflections in the comments section.
Chapter Seven: Sacred Conversations – The Sanctuary of Prayer
Entering the Sanctuary of Prayer
- Darian tells the story of a Minister who told the congregation there are two ways to pray- hands folded or palms open
- She believes the ways to pray are countless
- Praying is quite simply, “an acknowledgement of the sacred conversation going on in our souls continually”. p. 111
- Our lives can be a living prayer
Nurturing Children in the Sanctuary of Prayer
- Not everyone feels in themselves the need to pray formally as your would expect when saying a blessing or praying by the bed kneeling
- Children long to see us living out “honest, heartfelt expressions of our faith in the invisible world”
- We must make our thoughts and beliefs about “another world” tangible for our children in whatever ways (doing) we feel are authentic to us
- the “inner gesture of our heart and souls” is of most importance p. 115
Seeking Wisdom in Prayer
- Darian suggests nourishing your child’s spiritual side with stories of a Guardian Angel or another kind of Spirit that stays with them and gives them strength through all of life’s ups and downs
- This Guardian does not protect him/her form the pains and sufferings that life sometimes brings but provides spiritual security- no matter what happens to our body, heart and mind, spiritually there is something deeper supporting us
- How do we describe in pictures what is indescribable?
- Show your children the “God” you are connected to as a parent without fear of indoctrinating them – there will of course come a time when they question everything you have presented to them and this is natural, but at a young age it is nourishing for them to see the pictures of the ‘Divine’ that you bring to them
- Above all else- BELIEVE. Believe in a greater power with whom you can commune, and let your child see this connection
- Darian suggests also bringing to your children the Divine Face of the Feminine as this has been lost to mostly Male personifications of “God”
The Unfolding Journey of Prayer
- Songs, verses and blessings sung or spoken together during early childhood are the main prayers
- Whispering prayers or blessings at bedtime
- To help children develop the ability to articulate prayer at first we need them to pray with us- spontaneously and through verse and song eg. give thanks for the shining sun wrapping warmth around us or the rain that feeds our gardens, thanks for the angel above our heads
- Don’t model petty requests or instructions – choose prayers that focus on love, recognize the Divine in all of us and in Creation
- In youth, children’s prayers may become more private
Simple Blessings to Create a Sanctuary of Prayer
- Create a prayer table or alter where members can gather together either spontaneously or at the same time each day, decorate it with flowers, pictures or a blessing
- Find a “prayable moment” in the day when circumstances inspire a moment to commune with the Divine (eg. during a nature walk, while gardening, after a sad phone call)
- When an older child is experiencing a difficult situation guide them to meditate on it or to pray to their Higher Power
- Could create a prayer box with meaningful objects and relevant spiritual scripts in it
- Look into each other’s eyes sometimes while praying together- this creates more intimacy between family members
- Also prayer without words- children can benefit from “silent moments of spiritual centering” p. 122
- Family Mealtime can be a precious time for family prayer and communion
- Circle prayers are nice for older children- hold hands and say a verse together and enjoy a moment of silence while holding hands
- Pray while moving- through gestures, song and DANCE
Personal Renewal: For Adults Only
- “Prayer brings to the surface of our lives what our modern culture coaxes us to forget: that we are eternal. Prayer reminds us that our soul’s journey does not end with death or begin with birth.” p. 125
- There are endless ways to pray but we as adults make very little time for it- think of this time as visiting and connecting with a dear friend- make it a priority
- Consider what you feel to be the purpose of prayer
Prayer is something we have been slowly adding to our own family rhythm. As I have mentioned in the past, our family does not prescribe to a particular religion although we do celebrate Christian festivals throughout the year. My husband is especially sensitive to the idea of “indoctrinating” our children, having felt that in his own childhood, some dogmatic and unhelpful beliefs were pushed onto him. My own family was very passive in their spiritual push and our parents allowed each of us to develop our own sense of spirituality and to answer the “bigger questions” on our own. I am hoping to parent our children somewhere down the middle of these two sides. I would like them to witness me in communion with my own unique version of the Divine, more often than not, while also letting their personal relationship with a Higher Power develop. When we do celebrate religious holidays or festivals we try to focus more on the moral and virtuous themes and the sense of reverence and gratitude that revolve around the day and less on the specific texts or traditions.
Bringing prayer to your home is deeply personal and completely unique to each family and even to each family member. I agreed whole-heartedly with Darian when she said that there are countless ways to connect with the Divine each day. It does not matter how you connect, but it is important that you carve out a space for that sacred communion each day.
How do you demonstrate your faith or belief in a Higher Power in your home? I would love to hear from the diverse families out there!
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“Quotes from Sanctuaries of Childhood by Shea Darian used by permission. Copyright 2011 by Charlene DeShea Bagbey Darian. Revised 2nd Edition.”