The Family: Family Worship

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13. Family Worship

Rev. Barry Gritters

Were the disciples right when they told Jesus, "It would be better not to marry"? (See Matt. 19:10.) The Word of God is strict concerning divorce and remarriage, forbidding remarriage while one's spouse still lives. Also, as we understand the difficulties attending marriage, should we avoid marriage, considering it hopeless to maintain a solid home and family?

There is one response to that which forms the backbone of a Christian home and family. How can a Christian family be maintained? By proper family worship of God. If a man and woman conduct family worship as the Bible teaches, they need not fear that their family will go the way of the majority of families and marriages.

I make bold to say that this is the anchor of family life. Or, to use our original metaphor, family worship brings the foundation of the family down to bedrock. No quake can shake loose the family that is built on the love and worship of God. With firm, joint commitment to family worship, we need not fear marriage.

In addition to the worship God calls His people to bring Him on the Lord's Day, there is a worship required of His people daily. Deut. 11:18-21 speaks of a private worship of God, especially in homes, and particularly with children. Family worship is the tradition of God's church since the beginning. Noah's first act outside the ark (even though his family was the church at that point) was to erect an altar and worship God. Abraham, immediately after arriving in the promised land, built an altar. When Isaac fled famine and God appeared to him to promise to be with him, Isaac "builded an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord," with his family. Concerned with his family's welfare, Jacob commanded his "household and all that were with him to put away the strange gods" they had taken from the land of Uncle Laban ( Gen. 35). In a marvelous, but little remembered passage, the book of Job (1:5) tells us that "continually" Job rose up early in the morning and sanctified his children, worshipping God with them. Besides, the Passover, the heart of Israel's worship, was really a family rite.

The New Testament's testimony is no different. Acts 10 says that Cornelius was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house," and that with them he prayed to God alway." Acquilla and Priscilla were useful in the ministry of the gospel insofar as they had been diligent in the study of the Work and worship of God. And how is it that Timothy, one of the brightest lights in the early New Testament church, was an able and faithful minister? Because his mother and grandmother had taught him to worship the Lord (see II Tim. 1:5, 3:14,15).

Conscientious family worship remained a practice among the faithful down through the ages. Each day began and ended with prayer. All meals (and even baths) were preceded and followed by prayer because, as church father Tertullian said, "The heavenly before the earthly."

Luther's prayers and songs during family worship (conducted also for all the boarders in his home), bear witness to the faithful family worship of those who loved the Lord. Shortly after the Reformation, Presbyterians, seeing the great need to maintain family worship, wrote a "Directory for Family Worship." (For more information on this directory, please write us.)

By this article, we encourage God's people to restore the kind of family worship that has slipped from the grasp of most.

What does that include? Briefly, it includes the Word of God read, explained, sung, and prayed, with the family present and participating. "These my words ye shall lay up in your heart and in your soul . . ." (Deut. 11:18). Just as in public worship, so in private worship, God's Word, not man's, must rule.

Fathers are responsible to lead. Where there are marriages and children, father should begin by saying, "Let us worship our God." This does not mean that mother must be silent, for she often has insights into the Word and the needs of the children that the father does not have. But the father is head of the home. He makes sure worship is conducted. He is careful to study ahead of time the passage to be read, so that he can teach the family. He supervises, but also encourages the whole family to participate and be active with questions and comments. If fathers are absent, mothers take over. Those who live alone conduct their worship privately.

Let family worship be frequent and regular. This does not mean that the Word of God is not taught and does not rule throughout the day. It just means that formal family worship should be regular and often. Families today are busy, but are responsible before God to set aside some time each day to be together in worship (see Psalm 55:17 and Daniel 6:10).

Family worship must be diligent. As the Word was to be bound on the hearts of believers in Israel (symbolically by binding the words on their hands, making fronlets on their foreheads, writing them on their door-posts), so the Word must be bound carefully upon our hearts in our worship. No quick reading of a few verses, hastily to pray and "get it over with," honors the Lord. This is hypocrisy. Our time with the Lord as compared to our time for ourselves - - what is it? Our diligence (or lack of it) in worship indicates who we are spiritually.

Read the Scriptures. I believe that there is a danger that "Devotionals" take over in family worship, so that one verse is read, followed by the reading of a comment on that verse by a minister who wrote the devotional. As profitable as devotionals may be, they should not replace reading of the Scripture systematically and carefully. Besides, devotionals, used for family worship, make the father spiritually lazy; he has little need to teach and explain the Word to the family. That's fundamental. The family needs the Word applied to their own specific, immediate needs.

Explain the Scriptures. God did not command parents to "read the commandments," but to "teach them (to) your children, speaking of them. . ." Only the parents know the particular needs, the spiritual maturity, the troubles in the hearts of their children. God's Word is such that it speaks to our needs so wonderfully. During family worship, we see the struggles of God's people with their sins, witness their miraculous deliverance by God's grace, and observe their lives of gratitude. Everywhere, we find Christ. During the discussion of a particular passage, a Christian family grows together, spiritually. They learn how great their God really is, and together put their trust in Him.

Sing the Scriptures. What ever happened to family singing? God must be worshipped! Let us sing! Let us put to memory the Psalms, the sound Biblical hymns, and give praise to God with our voices every day! We forget that worship is not just "what can I learn from the Bible?" but "How can I worship God?" (Our word worship comes from the old word, worth-ship, meaning to acknowledge the great worth of our God!) It is worth notice that in the familiar New Testament passages that speak of singing ( Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3), the apostle is not primarily referring to worship in the church, but to private, family worship. "Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. . ."

Then let us pray. Modeling our prayers after the one the Lord taught us, we pray for the sanctifying of God's name, the coming of His kingdom, the doing of His will, for our physical needs, for sin's forgiveness, for deliverance from evil. At each point, we carefully consider the needs of the family and God's church.

Here, the children learn to pray. Here, we pour out our hearts to the God Who has redeemed us from sin and death, confessing our present sinfulness, our future hopes, our needs that only God can meet, our utter dependence on the Lord our God.

When we honor God in our family worship, He honors and blesses us (see Deuteronomy 11:21-25). There is no other influence so great upon children than the home. The Lord will bless families who worship Him. Children will be brought to faith and godliness. God will be praised.

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Last modified, 26-Apr-1998