As I wrote that title, it occurred to me that there would be those who have no idea what a “family altar” is. It was a common term when I was still living at home. It had different meanings and images for different families but most know that a “family altar” meant that there was some time daily or weekly when the family gathered for a time of prayer, reading of the word and perhaps a devotional. Seldom was there a physical altar. It was simply a designation that the family prayed together on a regular basis.
I grew up hearing the phrase, “The family that prays together, stays together.” It was not uncommon to see posters and even TV ads promoting family prayer. I never knew the origin of the phrase but learned recently that it was popularized and promoted by an Irish Catholic priest named Patrick Peyton. He was founder of the “Family Rosary Crusade” and popularized the phrases “The family that prays together stays together” and “A world at prayer is a world at peace”.
During WWII. from Albany, New York, Father Peyton’s mission started as letters of appeal to bishops, the Catholic lay, even to non-Christians arguing and appealing the importance of families praying the Family Rosary as the war raged on. Father Peyton won points for his mission to bring families together later on, especially after the end of the war.
He was particularly popular in Latin America and the Philippines. Father Peyton’s Rosary Crusades in Latin America were funded and, to some extent, directed by the Central Intelligence Agency, which was interested in combating leftist political movements in Latin America.
This one man influenced families around the world, through billboards and TV, to set aside times to pray together.
I was talking with a friend last week and the subject of families praying together came up. He told me that he could remember a time when more than half of the families in his church would have acknowledged they had a family prayer time. He said he had recently talked with his pastor and the pastor said that the number of families having a regularly prayer time would be closer to 5%.
If children are to learn to pray, to trust in the Lord and to express their needs to him, this needs to begin with the family. What are you doing to establish your own family altar and how is your church equipping families to have a regular time of prayer?