How to Have Family Devotions

As our region has been hit by winter storm Diego, we have cancelled all services at our church today. We have encouraged our members to have a time of family devotion. Family worship or family devotion was very common in past generations but has fallen out of practice in the last fifty years. However, such devotions are Biblically mandated and exemplified. In one of the most famous and significant passages of the Old Testament, God told the Israelites through Moses:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

The main gist behind this passage is that a love for God works out in focusing on His Word in such a way that leads to teaching future generations. So in the above passage, parents have the command to teach their own children from God’s Word.

Paul reveals an example of this Biblical command playing out in the family life of his young disciple in ministry. Paul tells Timothy,

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17). 

Timothy learned the Scriptures, not just from the Apostle Paul, but at home, from his mother Eunice and his grandmother, Lois (2 Timothy 1:5).

So we have a Biblical command for family devotion and we have a Biblical example of family devotion. But if a husband and father desires to obey this command, how should he do so? Many Christian brothers did not have an example of family devotion from their own childhood from which to draw.

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Family devotion will usually have four components.

First, the reading of God’s Word: This is the main component of family devotion. Reading God’s Word together has always been a hallmark of Christian worship (Neh 8:1-6 & 1 Tim 4:13). It is a time for God to speak to the family through His Word. God reveals Himself and His plan to mankind through His Word. The Psalmist says, “The Law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul” (Ps 19:7). As seen above, it makes one wise unto salvation and is good for instruction (2 Tim 3:16-17). It provides wisdom that cannot be gained through experience or age (Ps 119:99-100). God’s Word provides direction for life (Ps 119:105) and gives families a firm foundation in a confused world (Mt 7:24-27). In family devotion, parents are not only giving children and each other what they need to navigate this life well, but are also directing them to trust Christ and be prepared for the time that they will each have to stand in judgement before Him.

Second, a brief discussion on God’s Word: This is the time for the family to focus on what they just read together from God’s Word and to help each other understand it. In Deuteronomy 6, God directs us to discuss God’s Word regularly. In the account of Ezra and Nehemiah, after Ezra read from God’s Word, the Levites explained to the people what Ezra had read (Neh. 8:7-8). A helpful way to lead this discussion is through the inductive method. The husband/father or the spiritual leader of the house if the husband/father is unsaved, will want to ask his family three kinds of questions. First, what did the passage say? This is just restating what was said in one’s own words. This question helps to focus the attention and engage the memory to what was just read. Second, what does this passage mean? For instance, if the family reads Psalm 19:10, the question would be “What does it mean that God’s Word is more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey?” This will lead the family to see God’s Word as more valuable than any worldly possession or experience. Third, how does this passage direct our beliefs, attitudes, and actions? With the above example from Psalm 19, the family will likely answer, to prioritize reading God’s Word, going to Bible study/Sunday School, hearing God’s Word preached regularly, letting God’s Word direct their lives.

Third, praying as a familyPrayer is talking to God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus gives us a model prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. This prayer reveals several aspects to include in a family prayer that we see elsewhere throughout Scripture. First we read, “Our Father who is in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” The family will want to offer praise to God for who He is: our holy Father who is above all. Second, we read, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” Family prayer is a good time to ask for God’s guidance and will in family situations. It’s a time to ask God to make His will clear. Should we move? Should I join this sport? Should we buy this new vehicle? How can I deal with this person who is bullying me at school? Third we read, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The family can ask God to provide for their needs at this time as well. Fourth we read, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Family devotion is a good time to confess sin and ask God to forgive it. This is a crucial part of Christian parenting. Your children need to see you acknowledge your own sins, confess them to the Lord, and repent of them. They need an example of trusting the gospel of Jesus Christ. Have your children ever seen you do this? Finally we read, “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” The family can pray to acknowledge and trust God’s control in their every situation.

Fourth, singing hymns and worship songs: Christians have always worshiped together by singing praises to God. Paul directs the Colossian church to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms  and  hymns  and  spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). The guide is that the hymns or songs should be Biblically and theologically true and should be songs that praise God. Hymns sincerely sung please God, focus the mind on truth, bring joy to the heart, and instruct one another. You don’t have to be a good singer to lead your family in singing. You just need to be sincere. If a family member plays an instrument, that can be accompaniment for family worship. Many churches have old hymnals that they are willing to give away. Hymnals can be bought from Christian book stores. Also, a family may look up hymns on a website like https://hymnary.org/.

A few final hints to family worship. First, it’s easier if you pick the same time every day. For some families, early in the morning before anyone leaves for work or school works well. For many, at the very end of dinner around the dinner table will be preferable. For most, right before bedtime works well. Second, if you miss a day or a few days, give yourself grace and don’t give up. It’s important enough to keep trying. Third, on days where the family attends a church service together, abbreviate family worship and discuss the sermon or Bible Study lessons. Finally, I suggest picking a book of the Bible to read through chapter by chapter with the family. May God bless us all as we seek to worship Him with our families!

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