Every church court, every pastor, missionary, and ruling elder, every Sabbath-schoolteacher, and colporteur, out of love for the generation to come, should make the establishment of Family-Worship an object of separate and earnest endeavor.Every father of a family should consider himself as charged with the souls of those with whom he hopes to leave behind him, and as contributing to the future propagation of the truth, by every act of devotion performed in his house. Wherever he has a tent, God should have an altar.
It is highly honorable to family-worship, as a spiritual service, that it languishes and goes into decay in times when error and worldliness make inroads in the church.
Our church cannot compare with that of the seventeenth century. Along with the Sabbath observance, and the catechizing of children, Family Worship has lost ground. There are many heads of families, communicants in our churches, and some ruling elders and deacons, who maintain no stately daily service of God in their dwelling.
The church does not meet as often as the home. Thus, if Christ is to be worshipped daily, it is incumbent upon the home to play an important spiritual role. Consequently, fathers, as heads of households, are thrust into a pastoral role.
Not only Scripture, but reason and experience point to the necessity for family worship.
You are not likely to see any general reformation, till you procure family reformation. Some little religion there may be, here and there; but while it is confined to single persons, and is not promoted in families, it will not prosper, nor promise much future increase.
Amid hectic schedules and frazzled lifestyles, daily worship allows the father to keep short accounts in the family. Arguments or disagreements cannot long remain unresolved when the family joins daily to hear the Scriptures read and commented on.
In addition to teaching your children throughout the day, you must set aside specific, planned times to worship the Lord and learn His Word together. Conducting family devotions requires planning and diligence if this godly practice is to develop and be maintained in your home.
A family without prayer is like a house without a roof, open and exposed to all the storms of heaven.
Let family worship be short, savory, simple, plain, tender, heavenly.
You can speak of everything when with them; your conversation is upon a thousand different matters; but your tongue and your heart can not find room for one word about God! You will not look up as a family to Him who is the true Father of your family; you will not converse with your wife and your children about that Being who will one day, perhaps, be the only husband of your wife, the only Father of your children!
But do you say, “This is so strange a thing?” What, my brethren! Is it not more strange that a family professing to be Christian, professing to have a firm hope for eternity, should advance toward that eternity without giving any sign of that hope, without any preparation, without any conversation, perhaps, alas! without any thought concerning it? Ah! this is very strange! Do you say, “This is a thing of very little repute or glory, and to which a certain degree of shame is attached?” And who, then, is the greatest: that father who, in former and happier days, was the high priest of God in his own house, and who increased his paternal authority and gave it a divine unction by kneeling down with his children before his Father and the Father of them all; or that worldly man in our days, whose mind is engaged only in vain pursuits, who forgets his eternal destiny and that of his children, and in whose house God is not? O what a shame is this!
How can you hope to meet with those whom you love near Christ in heaven, unless with them you seek Christ on earth? How shall you assemble as a family there, if you have not as a family attended to heavenly things here below? But as to the Christian family which shall have been united in Jesus, it will, without doubt, meet around the throne of the glory of Him whom it will have loved without having seen.
[It was said of Charles Spurgeon], “His public prayers were an inspiration and benediction, but his prayers with the family were to me more wonderful still… Mr. Spurgeon, when bowed before God in family prayer, appeared a grander man even than when holding thousands spellbound by his oratory.”
Consider family religion not merely as a duty imposed by authority, but as your greatest privilege granted by divine grace.
Family Worship is led by fathers, or other heads of families, with a view to establishing God-centered homes, promoting worship in all of life in all the members of the household, and in preparation for public worship. The Bible makes clear the importance of family worship (Ex. 12:3; Dt. 6:6-8; Jos. 24:15).
Every Christian family ought to be a little church, consecrated to Christ and wholly influenced and governed by His Laws.
Let me now therefore, once more, before I finally cease to speak to this congregation, repeat, and earnestly press the counsel which I have often urged on the heads of families, while I was their pastor, to great painfulness in teaching, warning, and directing their children; bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord; beginning early, where there is yet opportunity, and maintaining constant diligence in labours of this kind.
When culture rushes down on your family and the professing church is trying to imitate the world itself, how will your family keep from being swept away in its path? Only through the Word of God! Family worship, on a daily basis, is your hope that they will stand like steel piers against the prevailing tide… In India there was a custom of throwing babies into the Ganges River as a sacrifice to the gods. If we are unwilling to do any more than merely take our children to church, we might as well be throwing them into the river of the culture. This is an explanation why many children of Christian parents are so often no different than the world’s. They have been given to the gods by their parents – thrown in with hands of neglect.
Fathers, discuss what you read in your morning devotions. It takes no preparation, and is conducive to spontaneous discussion. If you missed morning devotions, discuss the Sunday sermon, or read through a book of the Bible together. The possibilities are endless. The point is this: You don’t need to be a Bible scholar or a schoolteacher to teach your children. What you need is diligence, consistency, perseverance, and confidence that repeated exposure to the gospel will ultimately change your children’s lives.
Masters of families, who preside in the other affairs of the house, must go before their households in the things of God.They must be as prophets, priests, and kings in their own families; and as such they must keep up family-doctrine, family-worship, and family-discipline: then is there a church in the house, and this is the family religion I am persuading you to.
If therefore our houses be houses of the Lord, we shall for that reason love home, reckoning our daily devotion the sweetest of our daily delights; and our family-worship the most valuable of our family-comforts… A church in the house will be a good legacy, nay, it will be a good inheritance, to be left to your children after you.
The lifelessness experienced in so many churches in our day can be traced directly to the multitudes of families in those churches which contain Sunday-morning Christians only. It is plain to see the cause for such deadness when such individuals are not consistently worshiping God in private. Statistics reveal that only 11 percent of all professing Christians in America read their Bible or some portion of it once a day. If so few professing Christians are spending time alone with God, it should not be surprising that family worship as a practice among professing Christian families is practically nonexistent.
There are a variety of ways God’s Word can be conveyed to your family:
1. By direct reading from the Bible according to a plan.
2. By reading from a sound Bible story book.
3. Through the use of a catechism, a very successful method of teaching biblical truths by simple questions and answers.
4. Through Scripture memory and review.
5. By reading from a good devotional commentary.
6. By reading through solid Christian classics like The Pilgrim’s Progress (Make sure your Bibles are in front of you, to explore the scriptural truths that will jump from every page!).
7. By reading from Christian biographies, historical fiction, theological novels.
Primarily the elements available to the father (or head of the household) as he leads family worship are the same as those found in weekly public worship. At a minimum these three are most essential and should always be included: song, Scripture, and supplication.
If you do not worship God in your family, you are living in positive sin; you may be quite sure you do not care for the souls of your family. If you neglect to spread a meal for your children to eat, would it not be said that you did not care for their bodies? And if you do not lead your children and servants to the green pastures of God’s Word, and to seek the living water, how plain is it that you do not care for their souls? Do it regularly, morning and evening. It is more needful than your daily food – more needful than your work.
The chief thing to be attended to is, that [family worship] may be a spiritual service; and the great evil to be dreaded and guarded against in the exercise of every duty that returns frequently upon us, is formality. If a stated course of [it] is kept up as constantly in its season as the striking of the clock, in time it may come to be almost as mechanically performed, unless we are continually looking to the Lord to keep our hearts alive.
I think, with you, that it is very expedient and proper that reading a portion of the Word of God should be ordinarily a part of our family worship; so likewise to sing a hymn or psalm, or part of one, at discretion; provided there are some people in the family who have enough of a musical ear and voice to conduct the singing in a tolerable manner: otherwise, perhaps, it may be better omitted. If you read and sing, as well as pray, care should be taken that the combined services do not run into an inconvenient length.
Happy is that family where the worship of God is constantly and conscientiously maintained. Such houses are temples in which the Lord dwells, and castles garrisoned by a Divine power. I do not say, that, by honoring God in your house, you will wholly escape a share in the trials incident to the present uncertain state of things. A measure of such trials will be necessary for the exercise and manifestation of your graces; to give you a more convincing proof of the truth and sweetness of the promises made to a time of affliction; to mortify the body of sin; and to wean you more effectually from the world. But this I will confidently say, that the Lord will both honor and comfort those who thus honor Him. Seasons will occur in which you shall know, and probably your neighbors shall be constrained to take notice, that He has not bid you seek Him in vain. If you meet with troubles, they shall be accompanied by supports, and followed by deliverance; and you shall upon many occasions experience, that God is your protector, preserving you and yours from the evils by which you will see others suffering around you.
What the preacher is in the pulpit, the same the Christian householder is in his house (Lewis Bayly).
At an early hour in the morning the family was assembled and a portion of Scripture was read from the Old Testament, which was followed by a hymn and a prayer, in which thanks were offered up to the Almighty for preserving them during the silent watches of the night, and for His goodness in permitting them to meet in health of body and soundness of mind; and, at the same time, His grace was implored to defend them amid the dangers and temptations of the day – to make them faithful to every duty, and enable them, in all respects, to walk worthy of their Christian vocation… In the evening, before retiring to rest, the family again assembled, the same form of worship was observed as in the morning, with this difference, that the service was considerably protracted beyond the period which could be conveniently allotted to it in the commencement of the day (Lyman Coleman).
Every well minded family by singing can make themselves a little church. And every church make themselves a little heaven (Nathaniel Holmes).
The more we worship God in secret, the fitter shall we be for family worship, and the more we worship God in our families, the fitter shall we be for public worship (John Angier).
The greatest stumbling block for children in worship is that their parents do not cherish the hour. Children can feel the difference between duty and delight. Therefore, the first and most important job of a parent is to fall in love with the worship of God. You can’t impart what you don’t possess (john and Noel Piper).
Those families wherein this service of God [family worship] is performed, are (as it were) little churches, yea, even a kind of Paradise upon earth.
Because the Christian is not his own, but bought with a price, he is to aim at glorifying God in every relation of life. No matter what station he occupies, or wherever he be, he is to serve as a witness for Christ. Next to the church of God, his own home should be the sphere of his most manifest devotedness unto Him. All its arrangements should bear the stamp of his heavenly calling. All its affairs should be so ordered that everyone entering it should feel “God is here!”
At least twice each day – in the morning and in the evening – the whole household should be gathered together to bow before the Lord – parents and children, master and servant – to confess their sins, to give thanks for God’s mercies, to seek His help and blessing. Nothing must be allowed to interfere with this duty: All other domestic arrangements are to bend to it.
The advantages and blessings of family worship are incalculable. First, family worship will prevent much sin. It awes the soul, conveys a sense of God’s majesty and authority, sets solemn truths before the mind, brings down benefits from God on the home. Personal piety in the home is a most influential means, under God, of conveying piety to the little ones. Children are largely creatures of imitation, loving to copy what they see in others.
The Bible in the pulpit must never supersede the Bible at home.
The best family devotionals are when dad leads, but has the least amount to say, gets everyone involved, engages hearts, encourages interaction and processes life with the family using the Word of God. Even the Puritans would say to keep our family devotionals “Sweet, savory and short!” Don’t bore and exasperate your children with the Bible and then expect them to love God’s Word. A wise parent knows the right time and right length to teach the Bible – formally or informally (Dt. 6:6-7). And he or she also knows how to listen during those times more than they speak.
We deeply want a revival of domestic religion. The Christian family was the bulwark of godliness in the days of the puritans, but in these evil times hundreds of families of so-called Christians have no family worship, no restraint upon growing sons, and no wholesome instruction or discipline. How can we hope to see the kingdom of our Lord advance when His own disciples do not teach His gospel to their own children? Oh, Christian men and women, be thorough in what you do and know and teach! Let your families be trained in the fear of God and be yourselves “holiness unto the Lord”; so shall you stand like a rock amid the surging waves of error and ungodliness which rage around us.
I agree with Matthew Henry when he says, “They that pray in the family do well; they that pray and read the Scriptures do better; but they that pray, and read, and sing do best of all.”
Brethren, I wish it were more common, I wish it were universal, with all [Christians] to have family prayer. We sometimes hear of children of Christian parents who do not grow up in the fear of God, and we are asked how it is that they turn out so badly. In many, very many cases, I fear there is such a neglect of family worship that it’s not probable that the children are at all impressed by any piety supposed to be possessed by their parents.
I trust there are none here present, who profess to be followers of Christ who do not also practice prayer in their families. We may have no positive commandment for it, but we believe that it is so much in accord with the genius and spirit of the gospel, and that it is so commended by the example of the saints, that the neglect thereof is a strange inconsistency.
We have found it important not to enter the family worship time with rigid expectations and a rigid plan. We want an atmosphere of freedom, where our teenagers feel free to ask questions, verbalize doubts, express confusion, debate applications, and try to draw inferences and applications, all without the fear of being silenced, rebuked, or ridiculed. We want the truth to connect, to convict, and to capture our teenagers, so we are in no hurry. We want to give them time to understand and the Spirit time to work. This time is for them. We have no expectations about the amount of material we cover and our goal is not to get our teenagers to agree with us. The goal is to stimulate in them a hunger for God, so we want to be relaxed, patient, and creative.
Always remember the goal of family worship is knowing God. When you lose sight of that goal, family worship becomes an empty ritual.
1. If both your parents worshipped with you regularly while you were growing up, there’s an 80% likelihood that you’ll worship God regularly as an adult.
2. If only your mother worshipped regularly with you, there’s only a 30% probability that you’ll worship regularly as an adult.
3. If only your father worshipped regularly with you, the likelihood that you’ll worship regularly as an adult increases to 70% percent!
Fathers have an enormous impact on their children’s faith and values. One of your most important ministries is worshipping with your kids!
We covenant, as a church in Dorchester, Massachusetts, to reform our families, engaging ourselves to a conscientious care to set up and maintain the worship of God in our homes. And to walk in our homes with perfect hearts. We resolve, in a faithful discharge of all domestic duties in seeking to educate, instruct and charge our little ones and our whole households to seek to keep the ways of the Lord.
A particular powerful method to [influence our children] is that family devotions are well taken care of in the home, as reading of God’s Word, fervent prayers, singing of psalms, necessary reprimands, teaching of the catechism, and summarizing sermons. We must take care that our families are little Churches, like those of Priscilla and Aquila, of Cornelius and others, Rom. 16: 5; Acts 10. For by continuous exercise the hearts of the members are influenced to love and obey the Word of the Lord.
Basically, there are three elements to family worship: read the Bible, pray, and sing… On those occasions when time permits, consider these additions: catechize, memorize Scripture, and read other books.
Parents should teach the things of God to their children at every opportunity, and they should do so with the children individually and collectively. But both in biblical times and now, the best time for parents to teach the things of God to their children on a consistent basis when all the children are present would be in a time of family worship.
Fathers, husbands – if you have been negligent in this duty and great privilege, repent by starting family worship today. Again, you may feel awkward about what to say to your wife or you children about starting, but simply say that God has convicted you of your responsibility to lead in family worship and you want to start at a given time today or tonight. Almost certainly your wife will be thrilled more than you can imagine to hear you say that. Your children may or may not be as enthusiastic, but that does not really matter. The less interested they are, the more your family needs family worship. The Lord will help you. He does not call His Spirit-begotten sons to this task without giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish it. The same Father who gave you the Gospel and who drew you to Christ will strengthen you by His Spirit to put on this badge of godly manhood.
Family members…respond just as willingly to the call to family worship in your home. Encourage your husband or dad in his desire to bring the blessing of God upon you. Do not be a stumbling block in his efforts to obey God.
Motivations for family devotions:
1. What better way to evangelize your children daily?
2. What better way to provide a regular time for your children to learn the things of God from you?
3. What better way to provide your children with an ongoing opportunity to ask about the things of God in a comfortable context for such questions?
4. What better way for you to transmit your core beliefs to your children?
5. What better way for your children to see the ongoing spiritual example of their parents?
6. What better way to provide workable, reproducible examples to your children of how to have a distinctively Christian home when they start a home of their own?
7. What better way for getting your family together on a daily basis?
8. Isn’t this what you really want to do?