Forced Family Prayer Pros vs. Cons


I’m not saying it was good for you, but your body should have gotten used to it over time, just like any other frequent posture or exercise.

Normal families with healthy communication talk about stuff like this. I talk about why we do family prayer with my kids, and not only or even primarily when I’m reprimanding them for acting up. They might not always like it, but I highly doubt it would occur to them to consider it a punishment.


I guess I’m not following your line of reason. Are you hung up on the definition of “abuse”? Is anything okay with you as long as it’s legal (no visible results 24 hours later) or has no long-lasting physical consequences?


I do understand that it is expecting too much by being asked to pray on your knees forty minutes to an hour as a child of eight years old.


Would you like to provide a practical alternative by which to judge your parent’s actions?


How about common sense?


OP it’s clear you want affirmation and confirmation of your thoughts that this was abusive and your mother was wrong. You may also wonder why no one intervened or stopped her. You may blame the Church.

People here seem to be very much ignoring what I see as outreach for help by trying to minimize things. Maybe even thinking you are being overly dramatic or exaggerating the situation.

It is not normal to make children kneel to the point of tears, daily, for an hour of prayer. I don’t know anyone who does that. The Church doesn’t teach to do that. The Church doesn’t teach to use prayer as a punishment. That isn’t the way a loving family behaves.

If that was your experience, yes you have every right to be hurt and bitter. I’m not sure what you want people to say? That your mother was wrong? Abusive? Awful? That the Church is wrong? Abusive? Awful?

We weren’t there. We don’t know that your mother was abusive. But it sounds rather like she was, and likely not only in this regard. Certainly something seems very off and wrong with the situation as described.

Can we say the Church is wrong, or abusive, or awful? No. Because such a thing does not spring from authentic spirituality or love your family. What you describe is something entirely different.

It is not wrong to feel abused by those who were supposed to love and protect us and who instead mistreated us or as you say acted as the enforcer to the other. This is something far beyond the scope of this forum, and something that you need professional counseling for-- you are still hurt and lashing out many years later, so deeply has this affected you. You want to know why-- frankly, there is no why that we can give you.


We didn’t do that, but with the sisters in Catholic school, we prayed a lot.

Now, I’m old … and those are welcome habitual rosaries and other daily prayers.

I remember the “JMJ” that Bishop Sheen used to write at the top of each blackboard.


I don’t think kneeling builds up back muscles the way that exercise would. If anything, it was more painful as I grew older simply because I weighed more.


Really, that’s what you are going with? There are worse kinds of abuse than your abuse, so don’t be a whiner?

I’m baffled by the responses on this thread. Just completely baffled.


Interesting that you ask. I have a good friend that was punished with kneeling.

As punishment for breaking a rule he would have to kneel facing a corner while his drunken and often belligerent father hurled insults at him. He was forced to kneel until he passed out. Didn’t matter how long it took. This was abuse.


Ok, here is my .02.

I see NOTHING at all wrong about family prayer, even on the knees. I think however, painful praying on a hard surface is over the top. The OP ran away. I would think there is more to the story [OP?] than that, we can’t say, but I am amazed Mom didn’t foresee religious fallout in the future. How can you focus on prayer as a kid, when you are in pain?

I am all about mortification as an adult, I just think it is counter productive for parents to require this of kids during family prayer.


I suspect starfish11’s mom had deep seated problems hence her need to mandate many rosaries a day with her children kneeling on hard surfaces. Look, I’m an adult and I have gotten negative reactions from saying one set of mysteries everyday. It is a challenge for me as an adult to maintain focus throughout the one set of mysteries. So that was not reasonable demand on starfish11’s mom. I also suspect there is much more to the story.


Kneeling is not child abuse.


OK. We prayed a daily rosary, too. Just our intentions alone took up 15 minutes. Then three decades were another 45 minutes. We knelt on a thin rug over a tile floor. I learned to align my knees with the grout lines so that my knees were in the most comfy position.

Usually around the third decade, someone had to go to the bathroom. They stayed in the bathroom for about 2 decades. Then maybe someone else had to go to the bathroom around the second sorrowful decade. Someone else was asleep by the first glorious mystery.

Those were the sorts of things your mom was probably trying to avoid. She wanted her kids to do it better than my mom’s kids did.

But the one thing neither of our moms taught us was how to pray with your heart. They could only teach us the words… they couldn’t teach us what to do with our minds.

I composed a lot of lists, too. What was I going to do when we got up? What was I going to get people for Christmas? What would I do when I grew up?

But my mom made me show up and go through the motions, hoping that it would stick, and that something would get through. Because you make your kids do what’s important, before they understand why it’s important, and then you trust them to do what’s important, after you’re no longer there to stand over them and make sure they do it.

Eventually, I was able to get a glimpse as to why it was important.

Part of being adult is doing what needs to be done, even if it’s not necessarily the most fun/entertaining/compelling thing. You know it’s important, so you do it… even if 99.999% of the time, you don’t know if it’s effective or not. But there’s that one .001% of the time that makes the rest of it worthwhile, and you plug away…


I have to agree with @1ke here. While the discussion here seems to be on what actually constitutes child abuse, I don’t know if that is necessarily helpful to the original poster who I imagine is seeking comfort and guidance.

Hypothetically, if there were a current poster that had an 8-year old child, and she wrote that she was having her child kneel to the point of discomfort and pain praying the rosary for 1 hour daily on the hard floor, my guess is that mother would get many negative opinions here on this very message board!

To @starfish11 I hope that you can somehow reconcile your negative prayer experiences as a child and come to know the real God that loves and cherishes you! Seek the freedom from your past and any other negative things in your life and find freedom in Jesus Christ. I will keep you in my prayers, please take care as best as you can, God bless you.


Encouraging or requiring a kid to pray for 40 minutes to an hour a day, removing the kneeling issue from the equation, is not abusive. It may not be something a kid likes to do for that long, especially at age 8, but it is not horrible.

The physical posture of kneeling without leaning for 40 minutes to an hour seems to be the issue. My mother would not have expected me to kneel that long, nor would she have done it herself (physically I doubt that either she or my dad could have knelt for that amount of time). I know there are other cultures and other families that have an expectation that kids will learn to kneel up straight on the floor and this is considered a self-discipline and a learned art. The thing is, if you were doing this every day, it would have ceased to be painful as your body got used to it and become a habit. They did used to teach kids this in the old days of the 1800s and early 1900s in some families and schools, from what I have read.

I think you would be better off discussing this with your mother or with a counselor than with an internet forum, frankly. Your thread title is misleading: you do not want to have a discussion about “Forced Family Prayer Pros and Cons”, you want us to agree with you as an adult speaking right now that your mom was a child abuser. We weren’t there, don’t know the situation, don’t know you, don’t know enough to judge, all we have is your say-so now. I agree it sounds like something else was going on in the family than your mom simply forcing you to kneel and pray for 40 minutes a day.


OP, please re-read this post.

Yes, in general, lots of parents may “force” their kids to pray at family prayer time. Parents “force” their kids to do a lot of things, such as eating their vegetables or going to school. However, what you have described seems a bit different from the normal type of “forcing” that parents might do in this regard.

It seems this wasn’t the only thing going on if you actually ran away at age 16. I think seeking real-life help is a good idea (if you have not yet done so). It seems there is a lot that needs to be worked through.


Family prayer should not be optional but it should be age appropriate length-wise and the smart parent tries to gear things in a way that will encourage prayer later in life rather than have it seem as a punishment and have it backfire and have the opposite effect. I don’t think what you went through can be classed as abused but I think your mom went about it the wrong way.


As you describe it, it is certainly abuse. Prayer with children should be age appropriate and never, I repeat never, overwhelming. It should be a pleasant experience, an anticipation of the childlike joys that Christ promises us.

Adult prayer is entirely different. It’s a thing of free will and based on your own conscience. It’s not be forced, or done poorly due to the repetitiveness brought on by obedience.

The responses here are simply confounding. So many posters trying to cut the OP down a notch. It shouldn’t surprise me that this type of attitude comes from CAF, but these responses here make me wonder why I post here.

It’s likely that the OP, who is in need, will likely abandon their attempt to reach out, and will be further alienated from any formal relationship with any Catholic Church. Although I hope starfish11 realizes that CAF members are not representative of Catholicism in any way shape or form.


This is an unfair and overbroad statement. Many of the CAF members on this forum are earnest Catholics.

Many of them also have been on the Internet a long time and have some skepticism about someone who shows up posting out of the blue a story involving abuse or drama, where we are only hearing one side of it.

Many of them further wonder why someone would bring such a topic for discussion to an Internet forum rather than seeking out a counselor, and many people on this thread have suggested this is a topic better discussed with a counselor.

A number of people on this thread offered reasonable/ kind responses. When a topic is offered for discussion, people will also have different reactions and responses. This is normal.

These threads are not always going to go “oh poor baby I’m so very sorry that happened to you” and nothing else. Not on a discussion board. That is why, as I said above, such topics are better taken to a counselor who can ask more questions and get to the bottom of an individual situation.

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