Habitual prayer

Habitual prayer

Written on 08/31/2020
Helana Mulder

My family’s hand-holding dinnertime practice became a way of life

Written by Helana Mulder

Every single day before we ate dinner, my family of six held hands and prayed together. My parents made a prayer schedule so that each of the four kids had a specific day when they led the family in prayer. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember, falling into the habit and carrying it with me even as I moved out.

When I lived in a dorm during my first year at a Christian university, I used to reach out my hands before we ate dinner, forgetting that not everyone does that. Over the past three years living on my own, I’ve found communal prayer and hand-holding to bring peace and comfort to myself and those around me. While physical touch has become a taboo during the pandemic, there is still a spiritual intimacy achieved in praying with a group of people.

For most of my life, the only group prayer I did was at home. Praying with friends was awkward and seemingly unnecessary. It didn’t hit me that there was something special about communal prayer until Grade 8. I was at a friend’s house with some other girls working on a project. One of the girl’s parents were going through a divorce, and it had been very hard on her and her siblings.

While we were working, the girl opened up to us about the struggles she had been going through and how it had been affecting her. The rest of us looked at each other and one offered to pray. We all held hands and offered quiet prayers to God to watch over this family. I’ll never forget that moment.

When I came to university, I would walk down hallways and see groups of people huddled together, softly praying over one another on a regular basis. It was so strange to me because the only experience I had in communal prayer had been in private and in special circumstances—never out in public for everyone to see.

Then I started seeing it almost everywhere I went—in new churches I visited, in youth events, at summer jobs. And slowly I started to incorporate it into my life as well. While the first few attempts of public prayer were awkward and full of mumbled requests, it soon became easier and easier to offer to pray for someone I was talking with.

I even started to hold hands with people while praying with them. Because this aspect of prayer was so regular for me, I would often subconsciously hold out my hands for someone to grab before we prayed. In my first-year dorm at university, I got confused looks when I held out my hands to the girls around me. But after explaining the practice was something my family does, we all held hands and started to incorporate it into our dorm routines. To this day, I still instinctively hold out hands when I’m in a group prayer.

One of the main aspects of our relationship with God is intimacy. While this means intimacy with God, I believe that there is a certain intimacy that is needed with fellow believers which can be achieved partially through actions such as holding hands and communal prayer.

When you pray with people, a certain level of vulnerability is needed.

You don’t always have the right words to say. Sometimes you fumble over words. It involves sharing hardships and trials. It’s a time of closeness between God, ourselves, and each other.

Sometimes, it amazes me that a practice I’ve been doing since I was little could have such an impact on me. While hand-holding and communal prayer during meals can seem insignificant, I’ve found that many of my relationships have been shaped by carrying that practice into praying together and sharing in spiritual intimacy.

While the current health situation has limited gatherings and physical closeness, I urge you to still pray with friends, even if it’s through a Zoom meeting or phone call.