OUR FAMILY WORSHIP TO THE LORD - Bert Vane

 

         The following presentation was given at a combined breakfast meeting    of the men of the Emmanual Free Reformed Church and the Aldergrove and    Langley Canadian Reformed Church. For more information on Family    Worship let me recommend a beautiful book written in the 1800s by J.W.    Alexander called "Thoughts on Family Worship".

       Family worship is as the name implies, the joint worship given to God    by all the members of one household. This can be a small household of    two people, of husband and wife, or it can be a larger household that    includes all the members of the family as well as anyone staying with    you at that time such as grandparents, visitors etc.

       It is not my intention to prove from the Bible that we must do family    worship, this exercise may be very difficult as there is no direct    command of God to do so either in the Old or New Testament. However,    we do see the principle of family worship appearing in the Bible, and    all through history we see how important this has been to God fearing    families.

       Some of the Biblical passages which talk about families being together    when worshipping God are: Noah who with his family present, built an    altar to the Lord after the flood (Gen.8:20). Abraham with his    household present, builds an altar to the Lord as soon as God tells    him he is in the Promised Land (Gen12:7), Isaac builds an altar in    Beersheba(Gen 26:25) Jacob builds an altar at Bethel and does so by    first instructing his household and all those with him to get rid of    the foreign gods they have and to purify themselves. (Gen 35:1,2). The    book of Deuteronomy has much to say especially chapter six. Joshua in    Joshua 24 tells all the people before he sends them away to their    inheritance, to fear and serve the Lord with all faithfulness, to    throw away the gods of Egypt, to make a decision on who they will    serve and then says "but as for me and my household we will serve the    Lord". David's whole clan made a yearly sacrifice in his    hometown(1Sam20:6). In the New Testament we see Cornelius, he and all    his family were devout and Godfearing, and prayed to God regularly.    (Acts10:2,24, 31.) Paul and Silas in prison praising God as the other    prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25).

       The Reformers are known to have set great value on family devotions.    The prayers of Luther in his house are recorded with warmth by his    writers. The Scottish were known in the 1600s to be a nation of family    worshippers, in 1647 a Directory of Family Worship was issued. The    elders during this period visited every family to make sure proper    family worship was set up in the families in their district. The    family worship was not just a quick reading of the Bible and a quick    prayer, no it was a set time of worship in the morning and evening    where everyone in the household came together before their work and    before bed to pray, to read the Scriptures and sing praises. Every    home was to be a little church.

       The responsibility of leading the family worship during this time was    the head of the family. He presided and directed it, he selected and    delivered the precious Word and led the common prayer and praise. He    was also responsible to make sure that all members of the household    were in attendance and that none withdrew themselves unnecessarily    from any part of family worship. The additional responsibility the    head of the family had was to carefully instruct the children in the    principles of religion. With these principles the reformers believed    the families and Churches would be at its' strongest, as worship draws    our hearts to God's throne, leaving no room for the devil. As each    home was to be a little church so the head of the house was its    minister. These were the times of the Puritans.

       It is important to once in awhile evaluate how we do our family    worship. There are too many families doing it out of custom and    routine, a few verses are quickly read and a quick recorded prayer    said and then we are satisfied that we have done our duty, rather than    from a heart of commitment and enthusiasm. The Lord wants our hearts.

       There is no member of a household whose individual piety is of such    importance to the rest of the house as the head of the family. Where    the head of the family is a man of faith, of affection, and eagerness,    consecrating all his works and life to Christ, then it is very rare to    find in all of his household a different walk of life, as long as the    head of the family has a strong relationship and worship with God. He    will also want to spend the time to incorporate a proper family    worship in his house. For if the Spirit of the Lord fills your heart    as head of the household you will want to radiate this to others and    where better than in your own household.

       Where the head of the family is lukewarm or worldly, he will send a    spiritual chill through the whole house. Families that do not take the    time to have proper family worship, where it is performed in a cold,    sluggish, negligent or hurried way are little affected by it. The Lord    wants families where time is spent worshipping, to truly worship God    in Spirit and truth. For then everyone individually in the household    will be blessed with increased piety and happiness, everyone receives    a portion of the heavenly food.

       What is proper family worship? It starts with an understanding and    instilling in our lifes what Jesus says to the Samaritan woman in John    4:23, "true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,    for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." Worship is the    human response to divine initiative. Worship is our response to the    love of the Father. It is worshipping God with reverance and    awe(Heb.12:29) for who He is and what He has done for us. As    individuals and families we must do this daily. Our lives are to be    daily punctuated with praise, thanksgiving and adoration. If we    worship God in this way our service to God will flow continually.    Service flows out of worship.

       Proper worship is also primarily entrusted to the father as the head    of the family. As a loving mother rejoices to be the fountain of    nourishment to the babe which clings to her warm bosom', so the    Christian father delights to convey the pure milk of the Word'. He has    found it good to his own soul; he rejoices in an appointed means of    conveying it to his offspring. He must lead first of all by example in    his own personal worship and service to God. He shows in his walk and    talk of life that he follows the true Head, Jesus Christ and so sets    the atmosphere in the house. He directly tries to break channels for    right influences during times of family worship. A word fitly spoken    at such a time is an apple of gold (Prov.25:11). A psalm, rightly    chosen, and sung with the Spirit of all understanding may bear up all    hearts to God. A prayer, though perhaps issued from one who has not    the lips of the eloquent, may go more deeply into the soul of a    wayward son then all the sermons of the year.

       The amount of time we set aside for family worship should be a fixed    time, this gives dignity to the worship time for it shows that we do    not give way to changing it because of other events someone might have    to attend. Everyone will then know how long it will be and there will    be no questions asked. What the fixed time should be, should be left    to the discretion of each family but I leave you with this thought;    would the time it takes to eat our physical food be a good thermometer    in allowing the same time we spend on our spiritual food in worship.

       The important thing is that we set a time to worship God as family and    that it is organized and understood by those in the family as a time    of worship. It should not be long winded, it should be prudently    brought before the family. We must not drive hard at such times, don't    be preachy but we must seize on opportunities, our aim is to do it in    a gentle, simple, plain, tenderly, heavenly way.

       Our family worship should include the reading of Scripture, singing of    psalms, hymns and prayer.

       The order of how we do our Scripture reading should keep in mind the    age of those in our house, we must use wisdom in this and see what is    profitable for the direction of the family. However, do not pick a    chapter here and a chapter in another Bible book the next day, go    through a whole book systematically and see each chapter you read as a    lesson for that day from the Lord. A rightly chosen word spoken or    question about the Word just read can have lasting effect on the soul    of one in your household. Reading of Scripture should have affection,    it should be done with enthusiasm, making the passage come alive.    Reading of the Word in rotation is not always effective to getting    everything out of the passage, although it does seem to awaken the    attention of those participating. Let us remember, solemn worship to    God should not be made a school lesson.

       The singing of psalms and hymns as part of our family worship seems to    have fallen out of practice in many of our households and this is a    sad thing. I agree with the Scottish Directory of Worship that it is    the duty of Christians to praise God by singing psalms or hymns    publicly in the church, and also privately in the family. Let us as    families reintroduce the singing of the praises of God in our homes. I    have very seldom come across children who do not like singing. Let the    psalms we sing be familiar, the psalms the children learn in school    etc. Let them be involved in the selection of the psalms you sing. A    selection of appropriate psalms is important. Let us sing from the    heart daily in praise of God. Our prayers should come sincerely from    the heart, be brief, simple and intelligible for those in our house.    Family prayer should be varied, not formalistic and routine. Use the    Scripture passage you read as a basis for your thanksgiving. As the    daily happenings in the family change so a corresponding change should    occur in our prayers. Take the time to ask those around your table of    what could be included in the family prayer for the evening.

       By a faithful observance of family worship you are inviting your    household, as a household before the Infinite Giver of all good and be    assured He will make a difference between those who fear Him and those    who do not fear Him. Doesn't He say in 1Sam 2:30 "Those who honour me    I will honour and those who despise me will be despised." Set out to    do your task humbly in the fear of the Lord, for it involves a    willingness to " Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you    teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing    psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to    God" Col 3:16.

       In conclusion, let us encourage each other as men as heads of    households to imitate our Head, Jesus Christ. You are, by Providence,    set at the head of a family, to support it, instruct it, guard it, and    in every way to care for its temporal and eternal good. When you come    home from work at the end of the day and sit at home you are sitting    among your greatest gifts given to you from the Lord. This is your    treasure. Invest all the time you can into it.