For the longest time, our family dinner conversation was…painfully boring, and not for a lack of trying. We ate dinner together as a family regularly, but we have young kids who were neither contributing to the conversation nor responding to unending questions: “How was your day?” “What did you work on?” “Who did you sit with at lunch?” “What did you do in P.E.?” To be honest, my husband wasn’t a lot better: “Fine… Had a never-ending meeting for [acronym-laced-NASA-project].”
We wanted our family dinner time to be an experience of community. Sometimes fun and joyful. Sometimes serious. Often something in-between. Really, we just wanted more quality in our time together. And it just wasn’t happening.
- Can you relate? When it comes to cultivating quality conversations with your loved ones, what are your successes? What are your struggles?
When I shared my frustration about what felt like a missed-opportunity with my dear friend Heidi, she shared an approach to dinner-time conversation called “The Rose.” It is prayerful, it is diverse, it is easy to do, and it enriches the whole experience of dinner-time conversation. Did I mention it’s prayerful?
Heidi learned from Sara, who learned it from a family retreat… It is so simple and so powerful that I wrote about it in Chapter 10 “Prayer as Conversation,” in my new book Continuing the Journey. And it is in this rich tradition of passing on fantastic ideas that I share it with you.
“The Rose” is a loose adaptation of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen.
- Rose – the parts of your day that you are thankful for
- Bud – something you are looking forward to in the coming days or weeks
- Thorn – a difficult part of your day (that you might ask God’s help with)
- Root – someone or something you are hoping and praying for
We conclude our dinner-time conversation by saying, “Thank you for our rose, bless our bud, hear our root, and help us with our thorn.” (Continuing the Journey page 43)
Now this isn’t the only prayer we do with the boys, but quite honestly, it has been one of the most positive, powerful experiences of prayer in our home. Through the Rose, we get to know the highs and lows of the boys’ days. There are days that we’ve erupted into fits of giggles. There are days that we have shed tears of sorrow and consoled one another. There are days that we’ve needed to solve frustrating family problems. And we are able to do so in conversation with God.
Prayer is conversation with God. Through the Rose, our conversation about our day is turned towards God as we share it with each other.
On the surface, The Rose is a structure for sharing that we have easily implemented with friends and family of a variety of religious backgrounds. But the beauty of prayer structured like St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen is that we intentionally reflect upon our day, seeking God’s presence.
My boys are 6 1/2 and 8. Most of the prayer they practice is recited rhythmic blessings and petitions. And that’s ok – it’s age appropriate. But practicing The Rose has opened up opportunities for conversations about prayer and God that I never imagined.
One day when Alex was having a particularly frustrating day–very Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day–he tearfully lamented that he simply didn’t have a rose. While the simplistic imagery of The Rose lends itself to being interpreted as your “favorite” part of the day, that’s not exactly what the prayer is asking. I empathized with him that he was having a difficult day, but asked if he could think of some things he could Thank God for – and he did. Likewise, the thorn isn’t about complaining as much as it is prayerfully asking for God’s help.
Prayer is conversation with God, and when we are open to it, the very experience of it changes us. The Rose has been a tremendous, transforming gift to our family experience of prayer. May it be a blessing to yours as well!
“Close-up of red rose flower © Depositphotos.com/hadrian”