The art of effective communication often implies the willingness of the parties involved to genuinely respect each other’s position and recognize their dignity as a fellow human being. It should surprise no one that the Church associates the act of communication with the salvific reality of Christ offered to man and the recognition of his dignity in the image and likeness of God.
The book of Proverbs offers us the following counsel on effective communication:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs anger. The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pours our folly. The eyes of the Lord ate in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perseverance in it breaks the spirit. . . The lips of the wise spread knowledge, not so the minds of fools.” (15:1-7)
Whether we take what the book of Proverbs communicates literally or spiritually, the general theme of this passage calls on the need to exercise prudence, wisdom, patience and fidelity. This same formula is applicable every time we engage in some form of Christian prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines prayer as a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ. It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the Human will of the Son of God made man. (CCC 2564)
Christian prayer as the primary means of communication
Prayer is a term that is often misunderstood within the non-Christian arena as a form of communication without Divine association or intent. The phrase that perfectly exemplifies this position is “my thoughts are with you.” This expression at surface level is a form of intercession without any reference to God.
The reason I bring up this example in relation to prayer is that as parents our prayerful responsibility toward our children is to always communicate in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our words and deeds should reflect a desire to guide our children toward communion with God. This is the premise behind the art of prayer i.e. a raising one’s mind and heart to God. (CCC 2559) The act of Christian prayer allows us to communicate the truth of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit which is a vital example of faith for our children to witness and apply in their walk with Christ.
What happens when you pray for your child?
One of the most humble and loving gifts we can offer our children is to simply pray for them. Part of our parental role is as an intercessor. The responsibility of an intercessor is to assist someone to draw closer to God. Hence, every time we pray for our children we are strengthening their journey to walk toward Christ and have an intimate relationship with Him. It affirms the gift of humility which serves as the foundation of prayer (Rom 8:26).
When prayer becomes a fixture within the family, and the intent is to recognize our own identity as a child of God then our prayerful communication takes on a Divine character. Our “thoughts” are replaced with “prayer” which allow us to introduce our children to the salvific reality of Christ and His Church. A fruit of this process is a desire to identify with the Church, which in turn allows them to identify with God the Father and their role as children of God within the Church.
The Catechism (CCC 2565) teaches us that prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. Prayer creates a communal bond, one forged through God, revealed through the Son and empowered by the Holy Spirit. God called man to prayer, His conversations with Adam as revealed in Scripture is a beautiful example of God praying for and with Adam and Eve both prior and after the fall.
When we pray for our children;
· We reassure their dignity and identity with God
· It reveals our love for them just as God reveals His love for us.
· They begin to encounter Christ in their life and desire an intimate relationship with Him
· They begin to identify with the Church and not run away from it.
· They recognize the value and importance of living a sacramental life rooted in the Blessed Trinity.
· Most importantly of all they come to the realization that they are not alone and Christ is truly with them.
Effective communicators respect and recognize the dignity of their audience. This fosters a communication “with” and not “at” the person. When we pray for our children, it should not be “at them” per se, but instead it should be “for and with them” as a means to bring them closer to Christ and His Church. As St. Augustine reminds us:
We must be a beggar before God.