by Anne Metz
Why You Should Teach Your Kids To Memorize Prayers
(and how to do it!)
Memorized prayers are comforting.
In my own life, when I am overcome with stress and anxiety, I often turn to memorized, or rote, prayer. When I can’t even come up with the words to express my emotion, I turn to rote prayer. Reciting the prayers that I’ve said since I was a child, on my own and in the community of believers, brings me so much peace and keeps my mind focused on God instead of the strife around me.
Catholic prayers are a part of our beautiful tradition. By learning to memorize them, our children learn a sense of community. There’s nothing like hearing another family recite the Prayer before Meals, or the Hail Mary and recognizing members of our Catholic community around us.
It’s also important to teach our children to memorize prayers so that they will be able to fully participate in the Mass and the Sacraments. Just think of all the prayers we recite during mass, like the Our Father, the Nicene Creed, and the Act of Contrition.
Another benefit of learning prayers by heart is learning about the Saints who gave us these prayers. Jesus gave us the Our Father and we can read that powerful story in the Gospels, but some of our other prayers were revealed to Saints by our Holy Mother. For example, Mary revealed the Rosary to St. Dominic and the Divine Mercy Chaplet to St. Faustina. As we are teaching our children these prayers, we can also teach them about the lives of the Saints.
But, with so many prayers in our Church, how do we begin teaching our children to memorize them all?
The first prayer the kids should learn is the Sign of the Cross. This is not only the beginning and end of each prayer we say, but it is a prayer itself. The words are simple and should come easily with repetition.
The tricky part is often getting the kids to make the sign of the cross. The best way I’ve found (after teaching 1st and 2nd grade CCD for a number of years) is to stand facing the children and ask them to hold up their right hand. Then, you make the sign of the cross with your left hand. They will easily be able to mimic the movements with their left hand.
The only problem I’ve ever encountered here is sometimes after a full year of teaching CCD, I accidentally make the sign of the cross with my left hand outside of the classroom! But I usually notice right away and correct myself. I figure that’s better than teaching 18 kids incorrectly each year - that can really add up.
After the Sign of the Cross, I would move on to the:
- Glory Be
- Hail Mary
- Our Father
- Prayer Before Meals
As the children get older, add more prayers.
Focus on one prayer at a time and repeat it often.
If you are in the process of teaching your child the Hail Mary, add it to the bedtime routine, say it in the morning on the way to school, while running errands, and before dinner. Repetition is key when memorizing prayers.
Speak it out loud. Even if your child doesn’t know all the words, encourage them to try to say it out loud anyway, at least the words they do know. This will help them learn as they process.
If your child can read, write out the prayer on a whiteboard or chalkboard. Read the prayer out loud together, then let your child pick one word anywhere in the prayer to erase. Read the prayer together again. Repeat this until all the words are gone and before you know it, your child will be able to recite the entire word with only a blank screen in front of him or her.
Cut it up
Print out the prayer on card stock or other heavyweight paper. You can even let your child color with light colors over top of the whole page. Then, cut the paper into puzzle-shaped pieces. Let your child put the pieces together.
Let them teach
Ask your child to memorize the prayer so that he may teach it to a younger sibling. This works well for kids who are natural leaders and natural nurturers.
If your child is a kinetic learner, or just doesn’t like to sit still, involve movement into memorization. Let your child write out the prayer in sidewalk chalk outside. Print out each line of the prayer and put each line on a step. After your child reads or recites the line, they can jump to the next step and recite or read the next line. Grab some jump ropes and recite the prayer to a beat as you jump.
By using these tips, memorizing prayers can be fun and can easily fit into your daily routine. Before you know it, your child will be reciting our beautiful Catholic prayers on his or her own and the prayers will be a gift they will carry their entire lives.