We cannot always protect our children, but we can prepare them for an eager world that is ready to entice them with its fleshly pleasures and flattery—a world that is zealous to swallow them up in pride, self-satisfaction, self-reliance, and, ultimately, self-worship.
It is not the duty of schools or Sunday school teachers or even ministers to lay the divine foundation of truth. Rather, it is a parent’s privilege before God through the means of family worship. What we teach our God-given children through a dedicated and consistent example of worship will shape their character, teach them wisdom from above, and prepare them to face the challenges and temptations of daily living with grace and trust in God.
Scripture is full of verses that show that God esteems family worship. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shall teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Proverbs 22:6 reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Psalm 78:4-8exclaims: “4We will not hide them [truth and ordinances of God, emphasis mine] from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. 5For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: 6That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: 7That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: 8And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.
In his book The Case for Family Worship, Puritan George Hamondexamines the biblical bases for family worship through the examples of Abraham, Job, Joshua, Cornelius, and Christ. He states, “Family worship, rightly and religiously performed, is truly the worship of God; for it partakes of the general nature of divine worship, is the same for it with substance, and has all the essentials of it. That it comes to be performed in families is only accidental and a mere circumstance. They, therefore, who will not admit of family worship ought, in reason, to show either that it is not divine worship or that it cannot be performed in families, that the Scriptures may not be read in families, nor God invoked or praised, nor the members of the family be instructed in the knowledge of God, nor be exhorted to live soberly, righteously, and godly. These are the instances in which family worship is to be employed and exercised.”
In his booklet The Duties of Parents, J.C Ryle says: “We live in days where there is a mighty zeal for education in every quarter. We hear of new schools rising on all sides. We are told of new systems, and new books for the young, of every sort and description. And still for all this, the vast majority of children are manifestly not trained in the way they should go, for when they grow up to man’s estate, they do not walk with God. Now how shall we account for this state of things? The plain truth is, the Lord’s commandment in our text [Prov. 22:6] is not regarded; and therefore the Lord’s promise in our text is not fulfilled.” In his booklet he offers helpful hints on the right training of children, and urges his readers as follows: “Be very sure, if you would train children for heaven, these are hints that ought not to be lightly set aside.” He discusses topics such as training your children with all tenderness, affection, and patience; training them with an abiding persuasion on your mind that much depends on you; training them with a knowledge of the Bible; training them to develop a habit of prayer, faith, for obedience; always speaking the truth; always redeeming the time; and always avoiding overindulgence. As parents train their children they should remember continually how God trains His children, the influence of their own example, the power of sin, and the promises of Scripture.
It is never too late to start your family in the delight and discipline of worship. In his book Family Worship, Donald Whitney graciously encourages men in the following way: “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 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 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.”
Are you unfamiliar with leading family worship and feel unsure of what to do? A helpful book by Joel Beeke, Family Worship, has a chapter dedicated to its implementation. In this short read he offers easy suggestions that will help you establish God-honoring family worship in your homes. These will also help you to avoid two extremes: an idealistic approach that is beyond the reach of even the most God-fearing home, and a minimalist approach that abandons daily family worship because the ideal seems so out of reach. As a God-honoring preacher and loving and caring husband and father with many years of experience in family worship, Beeke provides sound advice on planning the what, where, and when of family worship and lays out practical guidelines for the reading of Scripture, prayer, and singing during family worship.
Family worship is not a dreadful burden laid upon you by our Almighty God. It is a blessing and a privilege. Our heavenly Father gave the best He had for the worst of us. Rest not the neglect of family worship upon your feelings of insecurity or tiredness, rest with your feelings on Christ who is abundantly available to help you and guide you. God is not asking you to give something up; rather, He wants to give you Himself.
According to A. W. Pink the advantages and blessings of family worship are incalculable! First, family worship will prevent much sin. Daily prayer in the home is a blessed means of grace for allaying those unhappy passions to which our common nature is subject. It awes the soul, conveys a sense of God’s majesty and authority, and sets solemn truths before our minds. How can those who neglect the worship of God in their families look for peace and comfort therein? Personal piety in the home is the most influential means, under God, of conveying piety to little ones. Children are largely creatures of imitation, loving to copy what they see in others. Finally, family prayer gains for us the presence and blessing of the Lord. There is a promise of His presence that is peculiarly applicable to this duty: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name—I am there among them”(Matt. 18:20). Many have found in family worship abundantly rich help and communion with God.
In Family Worship, Whitney suggests eight motivations for family devotions:
What better way to evangelize your children daily?
What better way to provide a regular time for your children to learn the things of God from you?
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?
What better way for you to transmit your core beliefs to your children?
What better way for your children to see the ongoing spiritual example of their parents?
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?
What better way for getting your family together on a daily basis?
Isn’t this what you really want to do?
In agreement with all these godly authors, we appeal to you not to neglect the goodness of this discipline. Before long you will experience the fruit-bearing, soul-reviving, and mind-altering benefits of family devotions for yourself and your family. Don’t delay. Start today.