"Big Four" Highlights


Prayer Playbook

NFL coaching methods can apply to the Liturgy of the Hours

By Jason Godin

Like most new head coaches, football’s Jim Tomsula is making changes, and some of them could serve as a model for the spiritual life of individuals and families.

The first-year San Francisco 49ers coach has redesigned some of the primary tools of the football trade, looking to improve how his players receive and process information. According to sportswriter Dan Hanzus, off-field activities for the 49ers during Tomsula’s tenure have included:

  • Organizing meetings into 30-minute blocks with 10-minute breaks.
  • Enhancing digital playbooks with video clips.
  • Sending alerts to players’ digital calendars instead of a handing out printed schedules.

Tomsula says that such innovations are needed to connect with men of the millennial generation, which is known for its short attention span but also for an ability to multitask online.

It seems to me that such innovative coaching methods could also inspire families to form – or reform – their own prayer “playbooks.” Technology can be an aid rather than a distraction for developing habits such as the Liturgy of the Hours, keeping daily prayer times, reminding children to pray or sending them spiritual readings, while reaffirming the family’s faith commitment in the process.  

Contemporary culture places great emphasis on getting the most done in the least amount of time. Sadly our own conversations and relationships with God are often sidelined when seen in this way. Busy routines leave parents and children relegating prayer to short nightly spurts, if they bother at all. Such reasoning has led many families to decide that their time is better spent sitting at home rather than in the pews for an hour of Sunday Mass.    

Early Church members surely struggled to balance their schedules, too. Yet they still made time to offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving throughout the day: morning, midday, early evening and before bed at night. We could take a cue from them, consecrating the time of our days like they did. Each “hour” of the Liturgy of the Hours – also known as the Divine Office – takes about 15 minutes, with psalms, short Scripture readings, meditations and intercessions. It is a compact powerhouse of universal prayer, with parts that can fit easily into the busiest schedule.

And, like a lot of stuff today, the Church’s daily prayer cycle can fit into your pocket courtesy of apps that are much cheaper and easier to carry than the corresponding print editions. Such affordability and portability leave little excuse for not having the tools or the time to pray.

For diehard NFL fans who’ve spent the last five months surviving on a steady diet of draft days, league meeting proposals and endless “Deflategate” drama, the team training camps that opened recently across the country introduce a fresh start to a new season.

Such senses of renewal and reward can also find form within the faith of modern families. For centuries, the Liturgy of the Hours has brought structure to the lives of Christians. Today, with audio and an array of applications available on handy devices, its prayers can serve as staples to any family prayer playbook. The timeless treasury of Church teachings and tradition are now available to anyone, huddled anywhere and at any time, with the ones they love.   

Jason Godin is associate editor of Fathers for Good.