Sometimes we use memorized prayers, as I indicated above. Prayers that we hold in common with others and that are known to all help us pray together as a community of faith. Sometimes the memorized prayers do not quite say what is in our heart. When this occurs, we need to let the Spirit lead us in prayer, to let the prayer flow out of our deepest self. It is not hard to pray spontaneously. However, we might be shy about doing it in public, even with those we know and love. In an atmosphere of trust and respect, we can pray spontaneously. Sometimes we need to encourage one another in our prayer life, to affirm the attempts and efforts of prayer. Praying takes practice!
Recall that there are four kinds of prayer: prayers of petition, praise, thanksgiving, and contrition. Choose one of the kinds and invite family members to write a personal prayer that reflects that kind of prayer. Take turns sharing (reading aloud) what each has written. Choose one or two to post on the refrigerator for a few days.
When the family gathers for a meal, an event, or a trip in the car, invite everyone to pause for a moment of quiet and to consider what you are about to do. Ask if someone would like to offer a spontaneous prayer for the occasion.
Practice brief spontaneous expressions of faith throughout the day. For example: At the sight of a beautiful sunrise or sunset you might offer a spontaneous prayer of praise or thanks to God for the gift of eyesight that enables you to behold such beauty. When a family member has a special need or concern, you might offer a spontaneous prayer of petition asking for God's grace at this time. When a loved one comes or goes from the home, you might offer a spontaneous blessing. Simply make a sign of the cross on his or her forehead, lay your hands on his or her head or shoulders, give a hug, and ask God to bless his or her coming or going. (This used to be fairly common in Catholic families. Oh, that parents would resume blessing their children more often these days!)