In an age of fractured families and hectic schedules, Christian families need to be deeply rooted in Christ and His Word. Church and Sunday school are essential, but equally important, Christianity must be lived in the home; Christ must be the center of our lives. Christian families through the ages have found joy, strength, and guidance through taking time daily to pray and read together from God’s Word. We often call this time a “family devotion.”
HOW TO BEGIN
The first step toward effective family devotions is setting aside regular time. Many families have devotions after breakfast or supper. These times naturally bring the family together and can lead conveniently into a devotional time. Other families find just before bed time works well. But whatever time you choose, be sure that the whole family can be together on a regular basis. Consistency is important because it shows that time with God is a high priority.
WHAT TO INCLUDE
Devotions can include many activities such as music and Scripture memory, but it is important to include at least these three:
- Reading from God’s Word
- Discussion and Teaching
READING FROM GOD’S WORD
The Bible is an exciting book! It is filled with true stories of God’s heroes, with down-to-earth advice, with spiritual insight, and with the plan of salvation. It is the primary way by which God communicates to us today. It is essential, therefore, that we feed upon God’s Word regularly.
There are many ways to approach daily Bible reading with your family. Here are a few:
Read a chapter or a portion each day. This is a simple plan used by many families. You can read consecutively through a book, taking a passage each day. Older children can take turns reading too. Then, each person can share what most impressed them about the passage. This can help each person see how God’s Word applies to him personally.
Bible reading plans. A similar approach is to follow a program designed to guide your family through the Bible in one or more years. (Net.Bible.org has a number of personalized reading plans) One advantage of this is that your family will be exposed to the whole Bible in a systematic way.
Devotional Guides. A variety of excellent devotional guides can be found fromBible.org
Family Bible Study Programs. Families with older children may want to try studying the Bible in depth together. Each family member can read and reflect on the daily portion beforehand. After re-reading the passage together, discussion can follow. Many good Bible study books and articles can be found on Bible.org.
Younger Children. Children under six or seven probably won’t be able to read the Bible themselves. But they can still learn much from Bible reading. Even the youngest child begins to see that God’s Word in important. Explaining the passage in simple language, avoiding abstract ideas, will help keep the interest of younger children. And many a parent has been amazed by the insights their little ones come up with!
Childhood is also an excellent time to memorize Bible verses, when minds are quick and eager to learn. And it is an excellent time to begin sharing the basic truths that are the foundation of salvation.
DISCUSSION AND TEACHING
Discussion and teaching about the Bible passage for the day is an integral part of Bible reading as mentioned already. A few additional suggestions may be helpful:
First, try to keep the discussion clear and concise. Often basic questions will help your family understand the passage: “What happened?” “What is being taught?” “How does this apply to your life?”
Second, it is important to maintain a good balance between leadership and participation. The whole family should be encouraged to participate actively and naturally. But the one leading family devotions should correct any erroneous observations, leading in a loving way towards the truth.
Third, it is important to be sensitive to the family’s special needs. Some questions may seem “off the subject” but are good indicators of issues the children are facing. We can help them discover needs and circumstance.
With positive, prayerful leadership, a time of discussion and teaching can provide an opportunity to grow together in the Lord.
God’s communications comes to us through His Word, but is a one way conversation unless we lift up our hearts to him in prayer. Our loving heavenly Father wants us to talk to Him. He delights in our praise, thanks and petitions, just like any loving Father does. Thus the family prayer time should include:
Worship and Praise – When we think of God’s goodness and greatness, our hearts should well up in worship and praise – for the beauty of His creation, for the gift of life, for a loving family, for the fellowship of Christians and above all for salvation through Christ’s atoning death. There is no end to the list. Even the youngest child can add his own worship and praise. Perhaps each person could share at least one thing to praise God for each day.
Confession – As we lift up our hearts to the Lord, we should also recognize our own unworthiness and sinfulness. God has forgiven our sins once and for all. But in order to walk in fellowship with Him (and with others) we need to confess that we continue to fall short of God’s perfect standard. As we confess in prayer, we are drawn closer to God and to each other, growing in grace and in the knowledge of God’s forgiveness.
In making confession part of our prayer time, it may be helpful for the leader to suggest:” Let’s remember in prayer those things that we need to confess to the Lord and each other, asking God’s forgiveness both for things we have done and left undone.
Personal Request and Intercession – Like a loving Father, God desires to know our deepest concerns just as much as to receive our praise. We can open our hearts to Him, knowing that He hears and answers our prayers, and that He will work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). And as we share needs with each others, we will be drawn closer together as a family.
Many families find it helpful to keep a prayer list or notebook. This might include special needs of the family, of neighbors, of missionaries, or government leaders. It can also provide a record of answers to prayers. Whatever the answer we know that God hears and responds according to his will.
Some families may wish to include other things such as singing hymns or chorus, or acting out a Bible story, or doing a craft. These can be meaningful; but there is no need to begin with something elaborate. The important thing is to daily read and discuss God’s Word and prayer together.
It is often said that “the family that prayers together, stays together” and the statistics show this is true. But this is not all. As we seek God daily, we renew our relationships with each other and with God. He talks with us; and we talk with Him. He receives our praise, confession and petitions; and we know the joy of His presence.
If you have not already, won’t you make family devotions part of your home, so that as a family you may “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2nd Peter 3:18)