By Dani Addante
Dani has a B.A. in Creative Writing and loves to write young adult fantasy novels. She loves riding her bike, spending time with furry animals, and eating chocolate-chip cookies.
I was at my parents’ house for dinner a few months ago. Dad wasn’t feeling well, so he was resting upstairs. My brother, sister-in-law, and her parents were sitting around the table just before dinner. Then my mom looked around and said, “A patriarch should choose who says the prayer.” She looked at my brother and then at his father-in-law. “I can say the prayer,” I offered, feeling awkward. My mom then asked my brother to choose (who by the way is younger than me). Then, my grandma chose my brother to pray, and so he did. My grandma is Catholic, by the way.
In the past, I was confused about this issue. Was it doctrine that the husband always chose who prayed? I had taken an Eternal Marriage class at BYU-Idaho, and the professor had declared, “The husband should always lead in family prayers, FHE, and scripture study.” His tone implied that nobody should question this declaration.
Having the husband or father decide who prays is a tradition that has been passed down for many generations. Some people believe it to be doctrine because the Family Proclamation says that the man “presides.” But in reality, husbands and wives should be equal partners, so it makes sense that they should take turns in deciding who prays. Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that the man should always decide who prays.
It’s time to break tradition.
I got married about three years ago, and my husband and I have always taken turns deciding who prays. Actually, since it’s just the two of us, we take turns saying the prayer. In the future, when we have kids, then we will take turns deciding who prays. If the home teachers come over, my husband and I still take turns choosing who prays.
The first time the home teachers had come over (since I’d been married) was kind of awkward. At the end of the visit, one of the home teachers asked my husband whom he wanted to say the prayer. I had been unprepared for this so I didn’t say anything, but the next time they came, I was ready. I had decided ahead of time that I was going to say the prayer. So the next time they asked, I told them I was going to pray. I said the prayer and felt really good that I had broken tradition.
It’s easy to take turns with your family in deciding who prays. But when you’re around other church members it can be kind of awkward. One thing that can help is to talk to your spouse before other members come to your house for dinner and decide which of you is going to decide who prays. This can relieve a lot of stress. Also, be bold. Don’t be afraid to decide who says the prayer. It’s your turn, after all.
Once, before going on a long trip, my sister-in-law suggested we pray before we drove off. “Who wants to say it?” I asked. Both my friend and sister-in-law turned to my husband and said. “You choose. You’re the man.”
You can imagine how awkward I felt.
I’m sure there are others out there who have had awkward moments like this. Have you found any successful ways to deal with this issue? Please comment and share your experiences and any insights you have.
It’s very unfair that a man, by default, always chooses who prays.
I hope for the day when it will become natural in the church for husbands and wives to take turns choosing who prays during family prayers. Meanwhile, I will keep living the doctrine of gender equality, and I hope my example will be noticed by the people around me.