Roommates make up a home just as much as the brick and mortar or the cute succulent decorations of any house. We want our homes to be places of peace and comfort to help us take a breather from the stresses of life.
As Christians, we know a huge component to that peace and comfort is the prayer we do within the walls of our homes. But praying with roommates can be a challenge or feel awkward, and it’s not something we always think to do.
Tips for Praying with Your Roommates
Whether you’re in college or a single adult living with others, here are five tips for growing in prayer with your roommates.
1. Actively foster prayerful conversations.
I understand that sometimes we are placed with random roommates or we choose to live with people just out of necessity because it is more convenient or affordable for all involved. I have been in such situations and allowed the lack of compatibility with my roommates get the best of me. But looking back, there were some things I could have done differently.
I have a love for meeting new people, so I chose to be placed with a “random” roommate rather than a friend for my first semester of college. Unfortunately, our schedules and interests were completely different, and I ended up seeing her more in passing outside of our room than in it. We never really had conversations that touched on Faith topics either, which I found strange considering we both cared about our Faith a lot. Yet our relationship never got to that level; and though we remained friendly with each other always, we never became good friends. I realized that, though I had tried, I gave up pretty easily on having good discussions with her. Had I given more time to fostering a deeper relationship, we may have eventually gotten to that point.
Ships in the Night
Fast forward to a few years after college and I chose to live with two girls I met at a Bible study. All three of us again shared the same Faith and values, but we were just very different people with very different schedules and interests. And while at first we did have conversations about the Faith and even prayed together at times, we soon fell into our own routines and our differences came between us and our group prayer life fell apart. There were times when we would walk into our home, go straight to our rooms, and shut the door. That’s not always a bad thing, because sometimes we need alone time, but because it became a frequent thing, we eventually were like strangers living under the same roof.
However, there were several roommates in between and after those scenarios with whom group prayer was common and we had great relationships, many still being my dear friends today.
What Made the Difference?
With these closer roommates, I was more intentional about our conversations and they in turn were receptive to that. I made it a point to greet them when they walked into our living space. I’d ask how their day was, and they’d do the same. We shared meals together when possible or watched movies together. We’d just sit and chat, even if it wasn’t about anything important.
While these sorts of things tend to start naturally, you must continue to foster those moments, otherwise life’s business will steal them away. Be intentional about it! The hope is that the people you live with will be willing to reciprocate your intentionality if they see your sincerity. But you cannot just sit back and wait for that to happen. You have to work for it and make the moves yourself.
How to Start Sharing Your Heart
A good start can be being vulnerable with your roommates and sharing something small that was tough for you. Or you can offer to sit and listen to a struggle your roommate is having with school or work. And even if you cannot do something specific to help out their situation, this is when you can offer to pray that things get better for them. Afterwards, check up on the situation and mention that you are still praying about it even days later.
When people see that you are comfortable and willing and sincere about praying for them, it opens up the kind of relationship where that is common and they’ll know that’s a good way for them to respond to your struggles as well.
With my two current roommates, our three bedrooms lead into the same little hall. One day, one of them was sitting in that hall and the other two of us had our room doors open and we started a conversation. Next thing you know, all three of us were sitting in the hallway, rolling with laughter and sharing our current life news. We sat there for a while and it was so good to share with each other like this that soon our little “hall meetings” became a tradition. Interestingly enough, these “meetings” almost always involve us praying together.
We don’t find it awkward or embarrassing to ask each other to pray because we have made it a regular part of our dialogue. But it is important to recall that this was not something that happened right away. It took some time for us to get to that point, but we reached it because we all kept being intentional about it.
2. Learn each other’s prayer styles and strengths.
Growing up with faith-filled parents who had suffered a lot to escape religious persecution in Nicaragua, you can bet we were a family that prayed together every day, if not several times a day. There was usually a morning prayer, a prayer on the car rides to and from Catholic school, a Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m., prayer before every meal, and a Rosary every night before bed. However, my current roommates did not grow up with that same prayer routine, though both are also Catholic.
I suggested doing consecration with one of them, but she was not super comfortable with the idea right away. The other preferred to attend a Latin Mass rather than the Mass I was going to. And that is perfectly fine! Even if you share the same Faith, prayer is such a personal thing that everyone’s prayer life is going to look a little different.
If I had gone into this roommate relationship expecting to pray with them as often as my family had growing up, that would have been a little naïve of me and probably hurt our relationship more as they wouldn’t always be able to comply and I might grow bitter towards them. Not to mention, it would have been a bit selfish of me to want to pray only my way. But instead, we grew to understand that there was an open invitation to pray with each other, yet it was not mandatory to do so.
Maybe you’re Catholic but your roommate is Protestant. There will be differences, of course, but differences can enrich instead of divide. Or you may uncover more similarities than you imagined just because you talked about it. Learning other’s points of views can help you better understand yours, and growing in ecumenism never hurts either. Take the time to learn why your roommate is most comfortable praying the way they do, and you may just expand your own prayer life and understanding, or theirs as well.
3. Include holy art in your home décor.
The way you decorate your room or home says a lot about who you are. Often, Freshmen college students will reach out to each other before moving into a dorm to discuss who will add what to the room and what the layout of your room will be. This is because you want your living space to be peaceful, inviting, comfortable, cool and, in a word, home-y.
Someone entering your space and seeing an elephant collage would assume you loved elephants (as one of my previous roommates did). Just so, someone entering a home and seeing a crucifix would assume the people living there are Christian. It does not make sense that you would choose to look at something every day that you do not like, especially because what you choose to hang in your living space can also affect your mood. The reason for that being that art is supposed to be attention-grabbing.
Having reminders of what’s important to you hanging on the walls can be an invitation to discuss those things, or even meditate on them.
Meshing Styles and the Meaningful
One of my current roommates has a painting of Jesus from the 70’s that the other two of us were not very fond of at all. But that painting was from their grandmother, so it wasn’t something you want to just get rid of. It was in our living room, bothering me for so long that I had to do something about it. So I decided to build an entire collage around it in hopes that that would “drown it out.” I removed a painting of the beach we had from our living room and placed the wall collage there instead.
While deciding what was significant enough for all three of us to be hanging on our main wall for all to see, it mostly came down to religious pictures. So there on the wall are paintings of stories from Scripture, crosses, Saints, the Sacred Heart, and yes, that 70’s Jesus picture, which, as it turns out, looks amazing as the center of the entire collage.
I really am proud of that collage and my roommates gave their hearty stamp of approval for it as well. That was a space where we had prayed together before but now it feels even more inviting.
For me, this holy décor concept goes along with what it says in Philippians 4:8…that is to focus on what is good and lovely. These beautiful, faith-filled art pieces hanging on our walls do that and can invite us, and others who enter our home, to have beautiful and faith-filled conversations.
4. Attend Sacraments together.
We as human beings are made for community. There is a reason God wants us to grow up in a family as opposed to just developing on our own. So we hopefully start going to church and attending Sacraments with our family. But as we grow up and maybe move away, that changes. The need for community doesn’t change, though.
So this is where your roommates come in. They are the new community with whom you share a home. In college, I was so thankful to have roommates who would go to Mass with me. It was so nice to have people to sit with in a pew when my family was not around. The added perk with roommates who go to church with you is they can keep you very accountable too.
I had college roommates who would let me know when they had heard about a prayer meeting happening or a good Catholic speaker coming to campus or when Confession times were or where Adoration was happening, etc. And I would do the same for them. Then, we would attend those events together and have so much fun reflecting on them late into the night in our pjs. Attending these moments of prayer together really made our friendships grow a lot stronger.
Skip ahead to the roommates I have now. We are all adults with different jobs and different schedules, so we cannot always attend Mass at the same time. We do when we can though and even give each other rides sometimes to save on gas (always a plus).
5. You do not always have to be physically together to pray together.
I think sometimes we are reluctant to pray with our roommates because we are reluctant to make time for it in our often-busy schedules. Or when you have the time, it seems your roommates do not. If that is the case, you may be forgetting that prayer goes beyond time and space.
Praying with your roommates cannot always look like you sitting in your living room with them or going to church with them. But there are several ways to communicate with people even if we are not in the same space together.
My roommates and I have a group chat, as roommates often do. In that chat we send each other heads ups, hilarious memes, and yes, we also ask each other for prayers occasionally. So when a roommate sends a message that something is going on and they need prayers, but I’m in the middle of grading papers (teacher here), I can save that intention for later or for when I stop by Adoration. That is still us praying for the same intention together, even if at different times and in different places. Or even novenas that come with daily readings. You can sometimes do the readings on your own, or sometimes do the readings with your roommates. Either way, it is cool to finish on the same date and then celebrate together.
I just think sometimes we assume that because we live with someone, we’ll see them more often than the friends we don’t live with, but that really isn’t always the case, especially more into adulthood. Respect each other’s space and time, because that is super important for each of us, but don’t assume that means you can’t pray together. Prayer is so uniting that it can work in many different forms. For me, even just getting a text that says, “I prayed for you at Mass this morning,” from my roommate at a moment when I’m running errands or doing some other busy work, truly relieves my stress and brightens my whole day. So pray in the same space when you can, but be open to other ways to pray together too when you can’t.
It’s Worth the Effort
In the end friends, I know finding roommates you can pray with is not always easy. But I do not think such a thing is only based off luck either. It is about putting more than just convenience behind the decision of who you live with and also about working to foster an environment where others feel comfortable asking to pray with you. I learned that praying with my family gave us the opportunity to gather together and share our lives and grow closer, and I now understand that that is what it does with my roommate relationship as well.
Prayer can change us from just co-existing to sharing a deep bond with one another. It can make the difference between a house and a home. Having the sort of prayerful relationship I have now with my current roommates has added so much peace to my life. So I’ll end in wishing you, and your roommates, the same!
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Written by Lucia Gonzalez.