Family Worship

Arthur Pink

There are some very important outward ordinances and means of grace which are plainly implied in the Word of God—but for the exercise of which we have few, if any, plain and positive precepts; rather are we left to gather them from the example of holy men and from various incidental circumstances. An important end is answered by this arrangement: trial is thereby made of the state of our hearts. It serves to make evident whether, because an expressed command cannot be brought requiring its performance, professing Christians will neglect a duty plainly implied. Thus, more of the real state of our minds is discovered, and it is made manifest whether we have or have not an ardent love for God and His service. This holds good both of public and family worship. Nevertheless, It is not at all difficult to prove the obligation of domestic piety.

Consider first the example of Abraham, the father of the faithful and the friend of God. It was for his domestic piety that he received blessing from Jehovah Himself, "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment" (Genesis 18:19). The patriarch is here commended, for instructing his children and servants in the most important of all duties, "the way of the Lord"—the truth about His glorious person, His high claims upon us, His requirements from us. Note well the words "he will command" them; that is, he would use the authority God had given him as a father and head of his house, to enforce the duties of family godliness. Abraham also prayed with, as well as instructed his family—wherever he pitched his tent, there he "built an altar to the Lord" (Genesis 12:7; 13:4). Now my readers, we may well ask ourselves, Are we "Abraham's seed" (Galatians 3:29)—if we "do not the works of Abraham" (John 8:39) and neglect the weighty duty of family worship?

The examples of other holy men are similar to that of Abraham's. Consider the pious determination of Joshua who declared to Israel, "As for me and my house—we will serve the Lord" (24:15). Neither the exalted station which he held, nor the pressing public duties which developed upon him, were allowed to crowd out his attention to the spiritual well-being of his family. Again, when David brought back the ark of God to Jerusalem with joy and thanksgiving, after discharging his public duties, he "returned home to bless his family" (2 Sam 6:20). In addition to these eminent examples, we may cite the cases of Job (1:5) and Daniel (6:10). Limiting ourselves to only one in the New Testament, we think of the history of Timothy, who was reared in a godly home. Paul called to remembrance the "sincere faith" which was in him, and added, "which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice." Is there any wonder then that the apostle could say "from a child you have known the Holy Scriptures" (2 Timothy 3:15)!

"Pour out Your wrath on the heathen that do not acknowledge You—and on the families that do not call on Your name!" Jeremiah 10:25. We wonder how many of our readers have seriously pondered these awe-inspiring words! Observe what fearful threatenings are pronounced against those who disregard family worship! How unspeakably solemn to find that prayerless families are here coupled with the heathen, who do not acknowledge the Lord. Yet, that need not surprise us. Why, there are many heathen families who unite together in worshiping their false gods. And do not they put thousands of professing Christians to shame?

How loudly should these words speak to us. It is not enough that we pray as private individuals in our closets; we are required to honor God in our families as well. Each day, the whole household should be gathered together to bow before the Lord—to confess their sins, to give thanks for God's mercies, to seek His help and blessing. Nothing must be allowed to interfere with this duty: all other domestic arrangements are to bend to it. The head of the house is the one to lead the devotions—but if he is absent—or seriously ill—or an unbeliever, then the wife should take his place. Under no circumstances should family worship be omitted. If we would enjoy the blessing of God upon our family—then let its members gather together daily for praise and prayer. "Those who honor Me—I will honor" is His promise.

An old writer well said, "A family without prayer is like a house without a roof, open and exposed to all storms." All our domestic comforts and temporal mercies, issue from the loving-kindness of the Lord. The best we can do in return, is to gratefully acknowledge together, His goodness to us as a family. Excuses against the discharge of this sacred duty—are idle and worthless. Of what avail will it be when we render an account to God for the stewardship of our families—to say that we had no time available, working hard from morn until eve? The more pressing are our temporal duties—the greater our need of seeking spiritual support. Nor may any Christian plead that he is not qualified for such a work—gifts and talents are developed by use—and not by neglect.

Family worship should be conducted reverently, earnestly and simply. It is then, that the little ones will receive their first impressions and form their initial conceptions of the Lord God. Great care needs to be taken lest a false idea be given them of the Divine Character, and for this, the balance must be preserved between dwelling upon His transcendency and immanency, His holiness and His mercy, His power and His tenderness, His justice and His grace. Worship should begin with a few words of prayer invoking God's presence and blessing. A short passage from His Word should follow, with brief comments thereon. Two or three verses of a Psalm or hynm may be sung. Close with a prayer of committal into the hands of God. Though we may not be able to pray eloquently, we should pray earnestly. Prevailing prayers are usually brief ones. Beware of wearying the young ones.

The advantages and blessings of family worship are incalculable.

First, family worship will prevent much sin. It awes the soul, conveys a sense of God's majesty and authority, sets solemn truths before the mind, and brings down blessings from God on the home. Personal piety in the home is a most influential means, under God, of conveying piety to the little ones. Children are largely creatures of imitation, loving to copy what they see in others.

"He issued His decree to Jacob; He gave His law to Israel. He commanded our forefathers to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—that they in turn might teach their children. So that each generation might put their confidence in God and not forget God's works, but keep His commandments." (Psalm 78:5-7).

How much of the dreadful moral and spiritual conditions of the masses today, may be traced back to the neglect of their fathers in this duty? How can those who neglect the worship of God in their families—look for peace and comfort therein? Daily prayer in the home, is a blessed means of grace for allaying those unhappy passions to which our common nature is subject.

Finally, family prayer gains for us the presence and blessing of the Lord. There is a promise of His presence which is peculiarly applicable to this duty, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name—I am there among them." Matthew 18:20. Many have found in family worship, that help and communion with God which they sought for with less effect in private prayer.