“If you have no desire to worship the LORD, then choose today whom you will worship…But I and my family will worship the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15 NET)
Nearing his death, Joshua appealed to the Jewish people to put away false gods and worship God. Amidst Israel’s pervasive idolatry, Joshua made it clear. His family will worship God.
The Hebrew verb עבד1 in Joshua 24:15 often connotes worship. This word is used when God told Moses, “when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”2 God had delivered the Israelites from Egypt for worship.
What about us? Following Joshua’s example, are we leading our family to worship God?
Many have written on the blessing of family worship: Tertullian, John Chrysostom, Martin Luther, John Knox, and Jonathan Edwards.
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Brethren, I wish it were more common, I wish it were universal, with all Christians to have family prayer…In many, very many cases, I fear there is such a neglect of family worship that it’s not probable that the children are at all impressed by any piety supposed to be possessed by their parents.”3
Another man wrote, “Nothing will spur a father toward godly, spiritual discipline in his own walk with Christ more than leading his family in worship.”4
The Westminster Standards state, “If he be found still to neglect family worship, let him be, for his obstinacy in such an offense, suspended and debarred from the Lord’s supper, as being justly esteemed unworthy to communicate therein, till he amend.”5
I’m not suggesting a legalism of family worship, but Christians should understand that our predecessors took family worship seriously. Over the last 2000 years, Christ’s followers have desired to model family worship and biblical instruction found in Scripture.6
What Is Family Worship?
“Family worship consists of prayer and praise, reading the Scriptures, and edifying conversation.”7 It is a reserved time when the family gathers together to worship God. In my home, our family worship (yours may differ) has three components.
1. BIBLE INSTRUCTION
How you read and teach the Bible may vary. With young children, you may read a few verses from a simplified Bible translation.8 You may choose a read from a children’s story Bible.9 With my family, I read one to two chapters of Scripture. Afterward, I’ll give a brief explanation.
Another option to consider is going through a catechism. For younger children ages 3 to 9, I recommend the “Catechism for Boys and Girls.” For my school-aged children, we are studying the Baptist Catechism.10
Don’t pressure yourself to prepare a formal lesson. If a family member has a question about the text, try to answer it. If you don’t know the answer, research one to share during your next family meal or worship time.
The second component of family worship is prayer. Our family prayer time is short, but we allow every family member to pray aloud. I try to keep our prayers terse but not shallow.
You read correctly. Our family sings. The Bible is replete with exhortations for worshippers to sing.11 The Psalmist declares, “Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous.”12 Songs of worship are heard not just in church gatherings but in tents and homes.
When I first told our family that we would sing, my family groaned. They had good reason. No one in our family sings well. They did not want to hear any cacophony.
We purchased the Hymn of Grace hymnals for each member of the family including Luke, our 3-year-old son. By the end of the first week, singing had become the favorite part of our family worship. With our new hymnals, we could choose to sing over 300 different songs. Each song is packed with God-exalting doctrinal truth. The hymnals also facilitate singing in harmony.
To play music as we sing, we purchased a Bluetooth speaker.13Sometimes, we would gather around our piano and ask one of our children to play the accompaniment. Don’t stress about the musicality but rather focus on the corporate singing. What bliss to hear each family member singing in unison.
Tips for Family Worship
Richard Cecil wrote, “Let family worship be short, savory, simple, tender, heavenly.”14 Sing one or two songs. Read a short Bible passage, and keep your prayers concise. Aim for 10 to 15 minutes when you first start. You can always extend your time when your family is willing and ready.
Better to have 15 minutes of regular family worship than an occasional hour. My family worships God together either in the morning before breakfast or in the evening after dinner. Recently, we designated our living room away from the meal table as our dedicated place for family worship.
Family worship is not recreation. Worshipping God is joyous, but it should be respectful, dignified, and solemn. I want my family to feel a sense of awe, fear, and reverence when we worship.
- If your family already devotes itself to family worship, protect it. Guard it. Don’t let worldly busyness distract you from the primacy of worshipping God.
- If you are inconsistent with family worship, rekindle your desire and commit yourself to worship God continually as a family.
- If your family has never engaged in family worship, begin today. If you are a newlywed, start now. To empty nesters, it’s never too late to commence.
- If you are single, prepare to be a family worship leader. Pray for a spouse who will worship God with you in the home.
- If you are the only Christian at home, pray for the salvation of your family. Remember that “missions exist because worship doesn’t.”15
Don’t think of family worship as an obligation. Rather, consider God-centered worship with your family as a unique privilege and a sweet blessing.
- ESV, NAS, and NIV translate עבד with “serve.” NET and CSB use “worship.” ↩︎
- Exodus 3:12 NAS95 ↩︎
- C. H. Spurgeon, “A Pastoral Visit,” Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 54 (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1908; repr., Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim, 1978), p.362–63. ↩︎
- David Wegener, “The Father’s Role in Family Worship,” Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Vol. 3, Issue 4, 1998. ↩︎
- The Directory for Family Worship, Westminster Standards, Preamble, August 24, 1647 ↩︎
- Genesis 22:6-7; Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Joshua 24:15; Job 1:4-5; Psalm 78:1-8; Ephesians 5:25-26; 6:4; 1 Timothy 3:4-5; 1 Peter 3:7 ↩︎
- The Directory for Family Worship, Westminster Standards, Article II, August 24, 1647 ↩︎
- New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) ↩︎
- “The Child’s Story Bible” by Catherine Vos ↩︎
- Benjamin Keach’s 1695 Baptist Catechism and the “Catechism for Boys and Girls” are both found in “Teaching Truth, Training Hearts” by Thomas J. Nettles. ↩︎
- 1 Chronicles 16:9, 23; Psalm 30:4; 33:3; 47:6-7; 68:4; 105:2; Isaiah 24:14; Jeremiah 20:13; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13; Revelation 5:9-10; 14:3 ↩︎
- Psalm 118:15 ESV ↩︎
- Accompaniment music at https://worship.lifeway.com ↩︎
- Gilbert, Josiah Hotchkiss. Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, 1895, p.471 ↩︎
- Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 2010, p.15 ↩︎