Humble family worship
Faith,  Humility and Doxology,  Motherhood and Parenting

Humble Family Devotions

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The concept of family devotions or family worship is something that many Christian families desire to incorporate in their daily life.  This desire can often be hindered by confusion over what family devotions are, fear or feelings of inadequacy in conducting them, and the difficulties of consistency.  Even consistent family devotions can be hindered by our own pride, as if somehow going through religious motions makes us more acceptable to God.

As I so often try to emphasize, it is only as we humble ourselves and look to Jesus that we can find hope and delight.  Instead of seeking to do a Great Big Thing for our own glory, we can prayerfully implement a humble family worship time through the grace of God alone.

Prior to writing this post, I spent some time talking with my husband, John, to get his perspective.  One of the things I love most about John has been his desire to consistently have a time of family worship in our home.  Our first family devotion was the evening we were married, and it continues to be a cornerstone of our daily life.  The content of this post is the product of his many years discipling our family.

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Purpose of Family Devotions

I asked John, from his perspective, what the purpose of our family devotions are.  Why has it always been so important to him?  He said, quite simply, that its purpose is for our family to know God.

When Moses approaches Pharaoh in Exodus 5, he tells him that God has commanded Pharaoh to let His people go that they may serve Him in the wilderness.  Pharaoh responds, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord. And I will not let Israel go.” (emphasis added)

God reveals Himself to us in His Word, the Bible, for the purpose that we might know him.  Hosea 6:3 exhorts, “Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.”

As we begin or grow in knowing God, we will desire to enter into a conversation with Him.  He speaks to us through His Word, and we speak to him in our prayers and in our singing.  This is eternal life, that we “may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)

So the purpose of family worship is for our family to know God through the reading of His Word, and to respond to Him in love through prayer and singing.

Content of Family Devotions

So maybe you, too, desire to know God as a family, but you are unsure what that could actually look like.  I am often a bit overwhelmed by the plethora of books and study guides and lectures and lists of things books and the internet tell me that we are “supposed” to include in our family devotions.  That is not to say some of those things might not be incredibly valuable in your home!  But sometimes when we try to do All The Things we fizzle out after an initially Awesome and Epic Sprint.  Our family has found it better to do a very simple, humble family worship time, but do it faithfully.  Humble things done consistently are better than Great things that never really happen.

That being said, our own family’s devotion follows a simple pattern:

Pray
Read a chapter of the Bible
Sing a Psalm, Bible song, or hymn
Pray
Benediction

That doesn’t look very fancy, does it?  Yet what a glorious blessing it is!

Let’s look at each part individually.

Pray

At the beginning, we pray to ask God to give us ears to hear His Word.  At the end, we pray for Him to apply it to our hearts. We also take the opportunity to pray for specific needs in our family, friends, and the world. Typically John prays for all of us for the sake of simplicity (we do still have many young children who are learning to sit still), but sometimes one or the other of us will also take a turn.

Read

Perhaps you wonder how we choose what chapter to read.  Our family’s plan is pretty easy to follow: we read Genesis to Revelation, then start all over again. This takes away the decision fatigue of “what to read next,” and ensures we don’t miss any of God’s Word over time.

“But, wait!” you may wonder.  “Does this mean you read the boring parts and the awkward parts? Even with the kids?”

Trust me, there are times when it feels super awkward to read Song of Songs or parts of Leviticus aloud with the kids.  But God wrote all of this precious Bible, and He calls His people to read all of it…not just the parts we get along with.  Luke 24 teaches us that every single bit of Scripture (in particular, Luke is referencing the Old Testament) is about Jesus and His coming.  So even the parts that seem boring, awkward, or irrelevant serve a purpose of pointing us towards Christ.  It would be to our detriment to skip even a small part of His story being revealed!

Another value of reading even the most difficult and dark portions of Scripture is that it gives us a safe way to expose our children to anything they will face in the world.  It is a safe way to talk about even the most tragic and twisted issues they may face.  Not only does the Bible clearly show the detrimental consequences of sin and evil, but it also provides the hope of the goodness and sovereignty of God in the midst of the most terrible of circumstances.  It clearly shows that even in horrible situations, God is working out His redemptive purposes.  We want our children to know that this world is broken and dark.  We also want them to know there is hope and light.  Reading through the whole Bible consistently and repeatedly helps us communicate these truths to our children.

Sing

When the children were all very tiny, if we are having devotions close to bedtime, or if there is a Bible song we know that fits with the text, we sing a short Bible song together.  Steve Green, Slugs and Bugs, and Seeds Family Worship have given us a plethora of Scripture set to music.  It has always been hard for me to memorize, so the vast majority of my Scripture memory has actually come from “children’s” Bible music!

We also love to sing through the Psalter together.  The Psalms have been paraphrased into modern poetic forms that fit into many hymn tunes with which you are already familiar.  Our family has used both the Trinity Psalter and the Book of Psalms for Singing.  If this is new to you, just use the index of tunes to find one that is the same as a favorite hymn.  It will then be easier for you to sing along with the new-to-you words.

Hymns are never a bad choice, of course!  Sing your favorites, sing hymns common in your church’s worship service, or learn some of the less familiar classics!

Benediction

Benediction is just a fancy name for a blessing.  John chooses blessings from Scripture. Some examples are the Levitical blessing found in Numbers 6:24, Jude 24-25, and Galatians 1:3.  It is his way of reminding us that God has promised to draw near to us.

Barriers to Family Devotions

humble family worship

Sometimes not knowing what to include or what resources to use can be a barrier to beginning a family devotion routine.  My prayer is that this post shows you that it can be as simple as talking to God, opening the Bible and reading a chapter, and singing a favorite worship song.  Don’t allow the tyranny of perfectionism to keep you from the joy of a humble time of worship as a family!

Another common barrier is a fear of not knowing “enough” about the Bible.  Perhaps you do not have a background of Bible study, or worry that you won’t know how to handle the difficult passages.  The good thing about studying God’s word is that, when approached with humility, it actually causes all of us to see how little we know!  And as we repent and listen and teach, we are modeling that humility for our families.  Pray for wisdom from the Holy Spirit.  If there is an important question of interpretation you would like answered, you can ask a leader in your church or look in a commentary they recommend.

Perhaps the most difficult barrier of all is the challenge of consistently putting our desire for family worship into practice.   This is never easy for any of us, no matter our background or personality.  There is always something that comes up in the schedule, a grouchy or disruptive child, and our own laziness or exhaustion.

First, we must remember that God’s Word is for our good.  Sometimes it is our own blindness that causes us to think this habit is a burden.

Second, by establishing family devotions as a non-negotiable in the schedule it eliminates decision fatigue.  “Do we have time for family worship tonight” is never a question we ask; we’ve already made the decision that it is an essential priority in our family’s schedule, and we purposefully make choices in other areas of our family’s life that support this goal.  Sometimes this means doing family worship first thing in the morning if we know John will be working late.  Sometimes this means the kids and I eat dinner early so we can do our devotions with John before heading out to a baseball practice.  Every day it means dying to ourselves.

Finally, it is essential that this good habit not become a rote religious exercise in our hearts.  It is not a work of righteousness that makes us more pleasing to God.  It does not guarantee our children’s salvation.  The mere act of reading the Bible and praying and singing is not some sort of magic formula that makes us right with God.  We must always remember that it is the Spirit who makes the Word effectual.  It is Jesus’s righteousness that makes us pleasing to the Father.  This does not diminish or take away from the value of this Biblical routine, but it is an important warning not to place our hope in our traditions.

Join the conversation

Does your family have a habit of daily Bible reading?  What are some of the challenges you have faced?  Have you found some helpful ways to overcome them?  Join the conversation at the Humility and Doxology facebook page and tell us what you’ve learned!


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Amy Sloan and her husband, John, are second-generation homeschoolers by grace alone to 5 children ages 4, 7, 9, 12, and 14. Their educational philosophy is one of humility and doxology, and follows primarily a classical approach. Amy loves coffee, and starts getting nervous if the stack of to-be-read library books beside her bed is less than 2 feet tall. Get her started on Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Homer, or Hamilton the Musical and it might be hard to get her to stop. Mostly, though, she gets really excited about the Gospel. The Sloan family adventures in North Carolina.