In a recently-published study in the Journal of Family Psychology, BYU researchers explored how family prayer influences family relationships, finding a connection between prayer and a number of benefits for families.
The 198 Christian, Jewish and Muslim families in the study lived in 17 different states and represented eight religious/ethnic faith communities. Family members were asked questions such as “Does your relationship with God influence your family relationships?,” “How does your family overcome major stresses and problems?” and “How do you share your faith with your children?”
None of the questions actually included the word prayer, but while coding the interviews, the researchers found 96 percent of the families referenced prayer in their responses, with 3,868 references in their interviews in total. The references were sorted into various categories.
“Many families loved to pray together, and it was the most important practice in their daily lives,” said Joe Chelladurai, BYU PhD student in the School of Family Life and lead author of the study. “As a family ritual, it was more than just putting up with the experience and getting through it. Family prayer provided sacred time and space to connect with God and with each other. It was a time of togetherness and interaction and a space to express love and concern for each other.”
Some of the themes from participants’ responses, listed in the results of the study included:
- Family prayer as a means for continuing family religious traditions
- Family prayer involves issues and concerns of individuals and the family
- Family prayer provides feelings of connectedness, unity and bonding
- Family prayer helps reduce relational tensions
Continuing family regligious traditions
In the interviews, parents indicated their eagerness to instill meaning and a sense of ritual to prayer. It was important to them to pass this on to their children. Children reported that they learned to pray through their parents’ examples. It was evident that a flow of religious direction and communication was occurring during this time. Family prayer was a practice, but also a means to transmit faith.