Recently I’ve been exposed to a number of families who do “Family Worship.” When I first heard of this, I was both intimidated and uninterested. I had little desire to try to replicate what I think of as a worship service (prayers, hymns, sermon, etc.) on a nightly basis at home with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I love prayers, hymns, and sermons, but it seems like an awful lot to pull together on a nightly basis.
As I’ve reflected on this, however, I think this is probably not what my friends mean when they speak of “Family Worship.” Actually, I’m not sure what they mean, but I thought I would describe what we do at our house. This is intended to be suggestive for anyone interested in this type of thing (in other words, I’m not being prescriptive), and if you have something that you do differently with your family or that you think we would benefit from I would love to know about it.
Disclaimer: We are new at parenting, and we make no claim to having it all figured out. We have a 2 year old and a 3 week old, and I pray that the Lord will give them mercy and overcome the errors and deficiencies of their Dad (their Mom doesn’t have any errors and deficiencies). Also, these things don’t happen every day. Sometimes I leave in the morning before the kids get out of bed. Sometimes we're lazy. Sometimes I’m not home for dinner. Sometimes we have family in town or friends over. Sometimes I’m out of town, etc.
When we rise up:
We sometimes read a collect (i.e., a prayer) from either the Book of Common Prayer or a book called The Collects of Thomas Cranmer, which is a compilation of the prayers Thomas Cranmer wrote for the Book of Common Prayer. The third collect for morning prayer is the one we use when we do this, and it reads as follows:
O Lord our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day: Defend us in the same with thy mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance, to do always that is righteous in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(This basically hasn’t happened since the new baby was born).
As we walk by the way:
Our 2 year old has the answers to the first two questions of The Baptist Catechism memorized, and we’re working on the answer to the third. He doesn’t know what the words mean, but he can memorize them now and one day he’ll understand. I copied the text of the catechism with the Scripture references, pasted it into a word document, and as we move to the next question I paste the text of the Scripture references that go along with the question onto a word document so we can print that question and answer with its verses and hopefully learn the verses too. We have 18 years or so to work on it, and I’m pleased with our progress so far.
At the Lunch Table:
My wife has a stack of pictures of family and friends, and after the meal, she and Jake take up the next photo and pray for the people in the picture (I’m often not around for lunch).
Our two year old loves hymns. If we’re singing one, he can usually surprise us with how much of it he can sing along with us. His favorite song is “How Firm a Foundation,” and he knows almost all the words to it. He also loves “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and many others. So at naptime we often sing several hymns from the hymnal by the rocking chair next to his bed (he loves to “sing from the red hymdal,” as he calls it).
When I get to put Jake down for his nap I sometimes read the Creed of Athanasius to him. I’m hoping this great Trinitarian Confession will become part of the fabric of his brain, and it’s blessing me as I read it over and over too!
At then end of our meal I read a portion of the Bible. We’ve read the whole book of Psalms after meals, and soon we’ll finish Hebrews. I usually read 10 to 15 verses. This is a good time for a Bible reading since we’re already all gathered together. Our two year old is used to it now, and so when we finish the meal he says, “Daddy read Bible!”
Every night we sing at least one hymn, and when I’m organized and have one picked out, we have a “hymn of the week.” Singing the same hymn every night helps us all memorize the words.
Sometimes if we have time we’ll read the Big Picture Story Bible before we sing.
Every night when we finish everything else we pray the Lord’s Prayer together. Jake knows all the words to this, but he doesn’t always say them all. He loves these routines, and I pray God gives us grace to continue in them. How I hope that my children will bleed Bible, that they will trust the Lord with their whole hearts, and that God will make me faithful to those entrusted to my charge, especially those most dearly and closely entrusted to me, my sweet wife and our boys.