In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us, when you pray, “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father” (Mt. 6:5). We can infer from this that prayer is to be an intentional act. Of course, we can pray throughout the day, silently to ourselves, no matter where we are. In fact, anything we do can be a prayer when offered to God. But Jesus, in this verse, points out that prayer also needs to be a very intentional part of our lives -- not just an afterthought. It should be something to which we dedicate time and, perhaps more specifically, space.
One way we can do this is to create a contemplative prayer space in our homes -- a place where we can go by ourselves, with a spouse, or with children to pray silently or together. A home prayer space, prayer altar, or prayer corner can be arranged in many different ways but the important thing is that we have a space in our homes, no matter how small, devoted to helping us spend time with the Lord in prayer.
Such a space shouldn’t be designed just so we can post a nicely filtered photo on Instagram. Beauty points us to God, for sure, but the importance of creating a prayer space is to create a place where we can retreat in our homes to spend time with God.
Why Create a Home Prayer Space
Spiritual warfare is real. We see that in Scripture, in the lives of the saints, and we can probably attest to its reality in our own lives. Regardless of what our job or vocation is, or what we spend our days doing, it is easy to become tired or worn from the ways of the world. The depravity of the culture can be discouraging.
Trying to live a life of holiness demands endurance and perseverance. Our own daily sufferings and trials and temptations can threaten our peace and wear us out. We can’t continue to persevere and maintain hope and bring the light of Christ to the world and to endure our own sufferings without making spiritual rest and renewal a priority.
How do we prioritize spiritual rest and renewal? By giving ourselves a place where we can empty out ourselves to the Lord so He can fill us up again with Himself, and equip us with the grace to carry on in our vocation and in what He has called us to do. Creating a home prayer space will give you a place to refresh your spirit -- to be alone with your Creator and be restored and refreshed in faith.
How to Create a Contemplative Prayer Space in Your Home
The pressure to create a space that is an interior decor marvel is real - especially with facebook groups devoted to catholic home decor and instagram being a platform that favors interior decorating of all persuasions. Decor is not the aim - beauty directs us to God. But deciding to create a prayer space doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy a lot of fine religious art.
It is important to keep in focus why you are creating a prayer space: for the use and spiritual benefit, and the present reminders of faith that it will contain, not for the compliments and accolades of visitors and family/friends.
When choosing where to set up your prayer space, consider practicality and functionality. It could be a corner, a small and lightly trafficked room, or even the center of your home if you plan to use it for family prayer often. Consider what kind of atmosphere will be most conducive to you being able to focus on prayer and make it a regular habit, given your personality, state in life, responsibilities, and home life. For example, if you are easily distracted by clutter, you will want to keep your prayer space simple and minimalistic. Similarly, if religious art helps you to focus, you’ll want to add this to your prayer space.
Here are a few specific articles of faith you may consider adding to your prayer space:
How to Use Your Prayer Space
There are so many ways you can use your prayer space. Your little prayer corner can be a place where you read Scripture or do spiritual reading of Scripture. You can use it for silent, individual prayer and saying the rosary. If you have a family, it can be a place where your whole family gathers to pray for and with each other, and read the Mass readings before going to Sunday Mass. Your prayer space can truly serve as the spiritual center of your home.
The Domestic Church
In Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II writes,
“Thus the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith…the family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates…the future of evangelization depends in great part on the Church of the home” (#51-52).
The family is the domestic church - it only makes sense that we have a space in our home that not only gives us a place to pray, but also holds us accountable to make daily prayer a central part of our lives. In a time when the world wants to divide the family and separate us from God, let us do the work of building up the domestic church by bringing prayer and the sacred into our homes!