I recently read Ryan Huguley's essay here on For the Church about three rhythms for family worship and devotions. Such a helpful reminder on the centrality and simplicity of worship in the “little church” of the home.
One of the challenges we face in the 21st-century is finding the pace in life and the space in life to engage in such practices. We have had to particularly face this problem while raising young children in the frenetic pace of the New York City metro area. All of my kids are a little older now and our schedules are shifting again, but when they were young we set certain rhythms of life that allowed the gospel to flourish in our home through the practice of family worship. We knew that if we could not answer the question of when, the how of family worship would become irrelevant and it would remain only conceptual.
The following schedule and counsel was forged in a busy part of the world so that the central and important things would not be neglected in our lives. The schedule flows from ancient, biblical practices and also gives grace to modern schedules and lives.
Throughout history, God’s people have understood the day has a certain structure. God actually designed for worship/prayer to take place in life throughout the day and the practice of God’s people was to come before him daily at three important times: The third, sixth and ninth hour, roughly equivalent to morning, noon, evening. The Scriptures are replete with examples.
Exodus and Leviticus record a “Morning” and “Evening” sacrifice made in the Tabernacle. (Exodus 29, Leviticus 6)
David in the Psalms – Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. Psalm 55:17
Daniel in Exile – 10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” Daniel 6:10-13
The Disciples in Acts – 1Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. Acts 3:1
Though it may be difficult to get the family together at the third, sixth and ninth hours in every setting and culture, there is still a strong call to seek God together in the rhythm of each day.
In contemporary life and culture, we have found three similar times when you have an opportunity to invest in your family spiritually and relationally that actually do work quite well: morning, the dinner hour, and bed time. We encourage families in our church to try to “win 2 of 3” each day.
For some, morning breakfast is a great time to connect to pray, read and discuss Scripture. For others the dinner hour works much better. Additionally, bed time is a sacred moment for young children in connecting with them. For my family, dinner and bed time work well for us while the morning can be a chaotic rush to school. Nevertheless, we have found praying in the mornings a helpful way to start our day if we wrangle in the chaos.
We work hard to connect at dinner and we put our kids to bed almost every night. The following are descriptions of things we have done to connect with our kids.
Morning Prayer – before leaving the house, we hold hands and sing a short song based on Lamentations 3:23, 24 and I pray for the family as we head into the day.
Family Prayer – we usually do this at dinner time...not every night but often. Each person in our family will share something positive they are thankful for as well as something hard/difficult/negative/suffering oriented. Then in response to 1 Thessalonians 5 and the command to give thanks in all things, we thank God for all of the stuff we wrote down. The good, the bad and the ugly.
Dinner discussions – we have used books by Starr Meade, the New City catechism on the iPad, specific topics from science, theology, etc. just to talk about things of substance at the dinner table. I love our kids to ask questions so we go with it.
Bed time creativity – I tell stories at night and try to engage the kid’s imagination and moral development. My two oldest (my daughters) also like to ask questions at bed time as they milk trying to stay up late. I go along for a bit because the discussions are usually quite rich and can carry us into the deep waters of theology and apologetics.
Family worship is a wonderful gift and we are NOT too busy to guide our homes into biblical rhythms. If you are hard core, super disciplined and radical I’m guessing you can connect every day at all three of these moments with your family. If you are focused and hopeful I pray that you might find the grace from God to connect two out of three times on most days of your lives together.
In doing so we will find family worship and devotions actually happening and the word, prayer and song shaping our joint journey with our families and creating a gospel driven and life giving culture in our homes.