One change that has come for many in this pandemic is that it has brought families together in ways they haven’t experienced in a long time, for some, ever. With shelter in place orders being in effect pretty well everywhere, Facebook posts have been flying, blog posts have been widely circulating with tips and suggestions for what families can do to maximize their time together. In this time, when more focus is being put on the family, it’s good to consider what is important for families. Today, I want to encourage y’all with the importance of family worship.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept or practice of family worship, simply put, it’s the regular practice of families praying, singing, and reading Scripture together in adoration to God throughout the week, guided by the head of the household. Family worship is a wonderful time for instructing and catechizing our children in the Word and ways of the Lord. It’s a beneficial discipline for the spiritual growth of both parents and children. In addition, it’s a helpful training ground for our children to learn how to worship (i.e. praying, singing, sitting still, pay attention, etc.) when we gather corporately on the Lord’s Day.
What does Scripture say? I’ll lay out a few things briefly here.
a) All Christians everywhere are called to be people of prayer (Matthew 6:5-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Philippians 4:6)– Not only should we, individually, be people of prayer, but this also applies to families, and the corporate body of Christ as well. Parents need to teach and practice praying with their children in the home.
b) God calls His people to sing praises to Him (Psalm 30:4, Psalm 57:9, Colossians 3:16)– As it is good and right for God’s people to praise Him with their whole hearts, it is also good for families to learn to do the same as they worship during the week. (the Trinity Hymnal or www.hymnary.org are helpful resources if you need words and tunes.)
c) Households are to be taught Scripture and the ways of the Lord- (Genesis 18:19, Psalm 78:5-7, Ephesians 6:4) God has so graciously given us His Word. In verses 5-7 above, Asaph instructs us on the responsibility of each generation to proclaim and teach the law and Word of God to the next. Note the reasons he gives for this- 1) setting their hope in God, 2) remembering His works, and 3) keeping His commandments. We need to know, our children need to know, their children need to know and grow in the knowledge of the person, work of God, living according to His commands. We should be reading Scripture daily with our families in the home.
Our Confession also teaches us the importance of private, family, corporate worship when it says, “Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now, under the gospel, either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed: but God is to be worshiped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto.” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 21.6) Take note that though private and family worship are important, they don’t take the place of corporate worship on the Lord’s Day.
Historically, whereas the Medieval church held daily mass, Protestants moved to daily worship in the home. Terry Johnson, in his book The Family Worship Book, quotes Dr. Hughes Old’s explanation of the practice of the Puritans, “What the liturgy of the hours was for Monks of the Middle Ages, the discipline of family prayer was for the Puritans. The Puritans, whether the Connecticut frontiers or in the heart of London, whether they were Cambridge scholars or Shropshire cotters, gave great importance to maintaining daily discipline of family prayer.” (Old, Calvin Studies, p.69) Further, Johnson notes, “For generations outstanding Protestant devotional writers, from Richard Baxter to Matthew Henry to Philip Dodderidge to Charles Spurgeon, have vigorously promoted it. We would be wise to heed and foolish to ignore their counsel.”
Beloved, I hope this has been helpful in stirring your thoughts about family worship. Much of Protestantism is all but silent on the matter. It was a near universal practice in the past, and has been replaced with other things. If you are practicing family worship, but struggle with being regular about it, know that you’re not alone. Like other disciplines, it’s something that we have to keep in practice daily. Remember, what we prioritize, our children will learn to prioritize. Even if your children are grown and gone from the home, husbands, I encourage you to still lead your wives in such practice together. If you have a family and aren’t practicing it in your home, I encourage you to start. It will be a beneficial discipline for the spiritual growth of you and your children.