Beginner's Guide to Family Worship - Part 2
I love big trees. They remind me that lovely, strong, beautiful things grow slowly. You can provide the best water and nutrients and sunlight available but you're still not going to grow an oak tree overnight and we don't grow "oaks of righteousness" overnight either. Our wise Creator has ordained that we grow up little by little, day by day and as we approach family worship we would be wise to remember this truth. Don't be discouraged when you don't see immediate results. Be faithful. Gather your little church around the Lord each day because the days turn into years and the years produce big trees.
Today we'll continue our discussion on family worship.
If you missed part 1 you can read it here.
Worship is a lifestyle and not just something we do for a few minutes each day. That said, while we want to be modeling a life that is constantly poured out in praise to God, it is also important to carve out time in our day specifically for family worship. The three basic steps involved in family worship are reading God's word, praying and singing together. At first it may feel unnatural to gather your household together and walk through these steps. You may desire for worship to simply "spring up" more organically in your home. In my experience, we have to schedule these important elements into our day or else our days fill up with all of the lesser things. I also believe that families who consistently practice family worship will be more likely to break out into spontaneous worship throughout the day.
You don't have to do all three elements back to back although they do naturally flow and feed off one another because God's Word will always illicit a response from us. The natural response to the hearing of God's word might be praise or repentance or discussion or reflection or prayer. Combining scripture with prayer and praise is natural and a more complete worship experience but you can experiment with routines that works best for your family.
As with all elements of gospel living, the goal is not legalism; the goal is to be intentional and faithful in your role as parents and shepherds of your little flock.
I encourage you to read part 1 of this series if you haven't already done so. Assuming we are on the same page, here are a few ways family worship has played out in my house growing up and in our home currently:
1. Read the Bible
Growing up I can remember my dad bringing devotional thoughts or an open Bible to the dinner table pretty consistently. As teenagers, my brother and I often rolled our eyes about this, but I am oh so glad my dad was not discouraged by our less than enthusiastic response. What a blessing that my father took the time to read us living words - God's words - and to explain and discuss their meaning with us.
In our home we currently have very young kids. (Our oldest is six.) We have tried a number of things but here is our current routine for reading God's word together:
1. We memorize scripture at breakfast and in the car. You can read more about this here.
2. We read through a children's bible or family devotional each night before bed. You can see some of our favorites here.
I would encourage you to incorporate the actual, inspired, Word of God into some portion of your family worship. Children's devotionals can be very helpful but there are blessings associated with reading and treasuring the words that were actually "breathed out" by God. Give them the true Word even if it is in small doses and supplement with other helpful resources.
Growing up I remember praying at meals and having my parents pray with me as they tucked me into bed. I'm pretty sure my parents prayed with me before bed well after I was capable of tucking myself in. I often got anxious at night and so prayer was a natural evening routine.
In our home we hold hands and pray before meals. We often sing a prayer or recite a memorized prayer such as the following which is found in Treasuring God in Our Traditions:
"How faithful, Father, is Your care
Again, as always, food is there
Again you have set us before
A meal we pray will mean much more
Than single persons filled with food
Let there be, Lord, a loving mood
And as You make our bodies new
Come now and feed our oneness too.
In Jesus' name, Amen."
We don't want our kids to only prayer memorized prayers that become rote or meaningless, but learning to pray a lovely prayer can become a guide for them as they build their own prayers. Hearing mom and dad pray can also help them understand what types of things could be included in prayer time.
In the evening, we have started using Joy Prayer cards during our family worship routine and we love them! We can all get in ruts in our prayer life and these cards help us remember to pray for politicians and missionaries and widows and neighbors as well as reminding us to ask God for compassion and self-control. Each card also includes a name or attribute of God to give thanks for in your prayer. Of course, you could make your own set, but you can download these for about $10 and print them at home. We highly recommend that you give them a try!
Family prayer time has become one of my favorite parts of the day. Prayer gives you a window into your kid's hearts and minds. You can read more about the benefits of family prayer here.
Did you know that Christians are traditionally a singing people? If you aren't very musical and are considering skipping over this step I would urge you to read this article which lists several reasons Christians should sing often and with gusto!
Growing up I have many memories of my dad playing guitar and singing worship songs while my brother and I danced around the living room.
With our kids we listen to worship music in the car and we sing 1-2 songs as the last step of our family worship routine at bedtime. A few of the songs we have in rotation are:
God is So Good
In my life, Lord
Good Good Father
Open our Eyes, Lord
Can you tell my husband and I were raised in the 80's? Haha. We tend to go back to our childhood when we pick songs to teach the kids but we want to start teaching them hymns and incorporating a few more songs we sing at church as well.
My kids have prayed lyrics from songs on many occasions. Songs have a way of sticking with you so pick songs that are rich with biblical truth. Your kids will carry those songs with them forever.
Are you currently practicing family worship in your home? If not, what's stopping you? If your main obstacle is resistance (or fear of resistance) from older children or a spouse, hear these words from author, Donald S. Whitney in his book Family Worship:
"Husbands, fathers - 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 your 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 interest they show, the more your family needs family worship."
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.
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