We started a pattern of family prayer back in Advent. Each night after dinner, I'd lead the family in prayer. Oliver (23 months) would listen(-ish) and join in the amens and Rosemary (~4) would chime in with the responses — “Hear our Prayer” — and lead the Lord's Prayer. Having established a habit of prayer after dinner, I wanted to keep it moving forward even after the Advent calendars were empty and the wreath was put away.
After Christmas had ended, I decided to put our prayer books to use and keep the evening prayer train rolling. Our family dove in to using the new 2019 BCP's Family Prayer in the Early Evening. The shortened office was nice and fit perfectly with the attention span of our small children. However, I just couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't the real office.
I've been praying the Anglican offices for many years now. There's a pattern. There's a flow. There's a connection between the daily offices and the Sunday liturgy. Family Prayer just didn't feel right. I wanted to share with my children the liturgy that has been so foundational to my Christian life.
One evening while I was working on the order of worship for St. Mang it dawned on me. Why don't I just shorten the normal service of Evening Prayer for my young family's use? And that's exactly what I did.
Toddler Evening Prayer Office
So, what's Evening Prayer look like for toddlers? We start with the Invitatory on page 43.1 After that, I let one of the kids choose if we do the Phos Hilaron on page 44 or the Magnificat on page 45.2 For the lesson, we're using the Beginners Bible 365 Devotions for Kids. The kids like the new picture each day and it gives Jennifer & I the opportunity to have a little discussion with the kids. After the lesson, I pray the collect of the day and then have Rosemary lead us in the Lord's Prayer — which is usually sung.
A month in, I'm loving this way of praying the office together. I am happy that the words of the office are already implanting themselves into the minds of my children. The changing of the collect in synch with the Church calendar and the powerful words of the Magnificat ensure that I don't feel that I'm giving my children a lesser office.
Though our current ordo will serve us for a good little while, I can already see where this office can build with us slowly, growing with the children as they age. First, I'll add the confession of sin to our office, then the creed. After that the prayers and, over time, we'll grow to adding more lessons.
I'm excited to have established a family habit of prayer that meets us where we are now, but can grow with us over time. It's not easy doing the office with children. It's a rare day when someone isn't talking or whining while I'm praying. But, we power through. And, even though it doesn't seem like they are always listening, the kids continually surprise me when they join in the liturgy and have entire sections memorized.