The Family Alter
A heart-to-heart talk on the Christian Practice of "Family Prayers." Stressing:
1.The Bible Foundation for this Practice.
2.The Blessings that follow it.
3.The Battle involved in getting the Practice introduced.
"The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright
shall flourish" (Prov.14: 11). We begin by asking you a question. Have you ever had
the privilege of regular participation in Christian "Family Prayers"? Have you, with
others, sat by quietly while a godly father, for instance, takes from the shelf a well -
worn Bible and reads to all, the daily portion? And then, when the precious Bible is
reverently closed, have you knelt down with the others while the loving parent briefly
commits the little family to the Lord for His mercy and protection through the day? If
you happen to be one who HAS enjoyed this priceless privilege, you will know exactly
What we have in mind as we send forth this appeal. And you will join us in our
prayerful longing that countless multitudes in every place might come to know this
self -same blessedness.
This message certainly comes from a burdened heart, for it touches a matter
of great importance, and bears down upon a vital secret which can be of untold value
to the church of God in the days in which we live. It certainly concerns those who
seek the welfare of their children, and their children's children, and many such may
be responsible to take some very practical steps in this connection.
What we are pleading for, of course, is just this simple practice of daily
"Family Prayers". It has been our own great privilege to drink deep into the
blessedness of this practice, both in our own home and in many other homes where
it has been our joy to sojourn as itinerant servants of the Lord in many parts of the
world. Memories crowd in of happy homes amidst the snows of Scotland, the towns
and cities of Europe, the burning plains of India, the sheep lands and fruit orchards
of Australia, and the favored islands of the Philippines. In all these places, and more,
we have met the Lord as we have taken our place with the members of some
Christian family for their few brief minutes of "Family Devotions". What is written,
therefore, is rooted in considerable experience; -we have seen this simple practice
bringing untold blessing to Christian families in many lands.
On the other hand we have had to witness the many breakdowns and
tragedies which increasingly show themselves amongst the younger generation of so
-called Christians; breakdowns, and tragedies which, very probably, could have I
been avoided and averted if Christian parents had! I known and grasped, in time,
this blessed secret of I the "Family Altar", - and if they had been willing to I pay the
price for its simple application in their own homes. But now those young and
impressionable and formative years have all slipped by; the course of life is set, and
only mighty miracles of grace can get us back to where we might have been. In fact
We have to say that certain priceless values and advantages have been forever lost.
In a recent survey of members of a group of evangelical churches in Ohio,
U.S.A., it was learned that ninety percent of those members never have family
worship. The same is probably true in other places, and this, we believe, goes right
to the heart of the need that we have mentioned.
Those tragedies exist, to a large extent, because something vital was missing
in the testimony of the home. Of course we know that there is no mere technique or
formula, which, by itself, provides the answer to such a situation. We do believe,
however, that, when the hearts of the parents are truly for the Lord, and when there
is, in consequence, the longing to see the much –loved children deeply established in
the Lord, and visibly rejoicing under His gracious smile, there most certainly are
scriptural "ways and means" that can be employed as being divinely conducive to the
end in view. This treatise deals with one of those appointed "ways and means", and
if our simple suggestion is adopted, in real dependence on the Holy Spirit, blessing
will come to many families, and our homes will begin to approximate more closely to
what God wants them to be. More important, perhaps, the Church and the churches
will thus become revitalized, and material will be gathered which, may be greatly
used of God to coming generations.
For convenience and simplicity we shall group our thoughts under three main
headings. First we shall think of the Biblical Authority and Background for this
practice. Of the very much that might be said in this connection, we shall here
present only a few brief tokens, but even these will be more than adequate to show
that this simple practice of "Family Prayers" is most certainly supported by the Word
Beginning in the New Testament, we notice that Christian parents are
expressly enjoined to bring up their children "in the nurture and admonition of the
Lord" (Eph.6: 4). This, of course, embraces many matters, but including, we would
say, this matter of a daily occasion for family prayer together. The root idea in the
verse is that the Christian home is intended to function as the child's first happy
"school" in the realm of spiritual things. If this is so, what better occasion could
possibly present itself than this daily meeting with the Lord at the "Family Altar"?
Here, most certainly, we can do much to bring up our children "in the nurture and
admonition of the Lord", and we can count on the Lord's wonderful presence with us
at those times.
We are told, for instance, that, "from a child", Paul's beloved Timothy had
"known the holy scriptures" which were able to make him "wise unto salvation
through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2Tim.3: 15). We learn that he was blessed,
too, by having a mother called Eunice who had "unfeigned faith", and his
grandmother Lois was just the same (2 Tim.1: 5). No one will question, then, that it
was in that homely domestic setting that the boy himself had come to know those
Holy Scriptures, and had been made wise unto salvation through faith in Christ. The
faith had come by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom.10: 17). We are
not expressly informed of the details, but we can well imagine how, in that home at
Lystra, the children were regularly assembled, and the Word of God was opened to
them by parents and grandparents who had already proved for themselves the
power of its saving message. Little did they imagine, at that time, how the
captivated boy before them was destined to become the chosen associate and
companion of the great Apostle Paul! Day by day, and little by little, the Word of God
was finding entrance into the heart of the attentive child, and creating, as it always
does, a beautiful "faith unfeigned". No doubt Lois and Eunice had their difficulties in
arranging these occasions, for evidently there were particular complications in the
home (Acts 16:1), but, by their "unfeigned faith", they pressed through these
difficulties, and blessing followed. In answer to their prayers, the occasions WERE
made possible, and in the end they had this great reward.
Reverting now to the Old Testament, it is very noticeable that, again and
again, the Israelites were expressly commanded to be specially diligent in teaching
the Word of God to their children (Deut.4: 9,1 0). A few chapters further on the
instructions are repeated, and further details added: " And these words, which I
command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently
unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when
thou walkest in the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deut.
6:6-7). Surely, in these verses, we have strong warrant and support for our present
practice of Christian Family Prayers! "These words shall be in thine heart, and thou
shalt teach them diligently unto thy children...when thou liest down and when thou
As if this were not enough, the great divine demand echoes out again, just a
few pages further on, and in terms, this time, which will surely move our hearts to
action. Almost word for word, the Spirit repeats the call to lay up God's words in our
hearts and in our souls, and to teach them to our children, when we are seated in
our homes, when we lie down, and when we rise up. Then are added the wonderful
words: "That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land
which the Lord swear unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon
the earth" (Deut.11: 21).
What could be more inviting and alluring? Days of heaven upon the earth;
days in the land which He swore unto our fathers to give us! This is what we may
know if we will lay up God's Word in our hearts, and if we will teach it to our
And let us remember that, in this dispensation, we do not have to think of an
earthly and material land, which the Lord has given us! We, thank God, are
privileged to live in the days of the vastly greater spiritual antitype! To us "the land"
is that Great Rich "Fullness of Christ" in which the grace of God has set us! (1 Cor.1:
30; Eph.1: 3). If then, we will lay up God's Word in our hearts, AND TEACH IT TO
OUR CHILDREN, our days shall be multiplied in That Land, and so shall the days of
our children! We shall find ourselves eating and drinking continually into that great
All - sufficiency of our Living and Exalted Lord, for, what He is in glory, He is for us,
and we shall find ourselves declaring exultingly with Paul, "I can do all things
THROUGH Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil.4: 13).
O that Christian parents, in our day, might really dwell in this Great Land of
CHRIST! And O that our children, too, might come into that Same Land, and live long
in it! We may be sure that, if they were truly enjoying the Greatness and All -
sufficiency of Christ, the subtle appeals of Egypt and "the wilderness" would cease to
captivate them. Rather would they say with their parents and with the ancient
prophet, "...What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed
But we must not digress. We are simply noting that all these blessings,
physical and spiritual, are the fruits of laying up God's Word in our hearts and souls,
and teaching it to our children. How wonderful if God could say of parents now-adays what He said of Abraham; "...1 know him, that he will command his children
and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord...that the Lord
may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him" (Gen.18: 19).
What a commendation that was of the ancient patriarch! God was confident
that he, at least, would teach his children after him. O that He might be able to have
the selfsame confidence in those who are the heads of Christian families today! And
to such, the daily "Family Altar" would be the suitable and prized occasion.
Before we close this section we would like, perhaps, to go a little deeper, and
mention a matter, which is of tremendous significance in this connection. We refer to
the place given to the Christian Home in the Epistle to the Ephesians. As we scan
that Epistle as a whole, we see that all those precious doctrines of the "Church",
presented in the first three chapters, are made to focus down immediately, and very
strongly, on the Christian Home. Twenty-one verses are given to this subject, and, in
effect, the Apostle is pleading earnestly for the establishing of families and
households, which will, in their very constitution and behavior, worthily express the
exalted truths, which he has earlier set forth. This is most impressive. There is no
mention, just here, of local churches, nor of elders or deacons, nor of the problems
of the local work! Even the passage in chapter four regarding the various gifts
distributed by the ascended Lord upon His members, envisages, for the time, the
universal Church, and the universal work..."until we ALL come to a Perfect Man, unto
the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ!"
Why this silence, then, for the time, regarding loca1 churches, and why this
emphasis instead upon the Christian Home? The answer, surely, is very obvious. The
Holy Spirit is carefully showing that the Christian Home is intended by God to be the
first collective outworking of redemption. Here, in the homely family circle, God plans
to have His initial glorious expression of "the Church". Here, first of all, shall "the
Mystery" be seen. That is what God always works for, and that, incidentally, is why
He said to the Philippian Jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be
saved AND THY HOUSE".
Needless to say, the local church becomes, in turn, the fuller sphere of
testimony, for it is the happy aggregate of all such homes, but, on that matter, even
Ephesians; for the time, is silent. It all starts in the HOME! The rest will surely follow!
In practical terms, it means that, in regular family affairs, first of all, Christ is to
have the preeminence; there, in the family circle, He is to be known as Lord; there,
in everything, His will is to be consulted and His directions followed. There, beneath
that roof, His Name is to be worshipped and His glory praised. There, in everyday
affairs, the Great Ascended Lord of Glory is to be our All in All. In such a situation
will be found the first clear focus of the Eternal Mystery.
It may appear that we have deviated somewhat from the simpler matter of
our subject, the daily practice of Christian Family Prayers, but to those who have
eyes to see, the connection will be very obvious. God wants His testimony
established in our homes, and, while this has its bearing on numerous far-reaching
issues, we ask, "What could be more conducive to this great end and purpose than
this daily gathering of the family to the Word of God and to the ministry of prayer?"
This, surely, would be altogether foundational to the testimony in view.
Now we come to our second word on this matter and we shall discuss, for a
while, what we may call, the blessings and benefits of this practice. Again we have to
say that those blessings and benefits are numberless. But we shall mention just a
few. It hardly needs to be said that whenever Christ is set in His rightful place as
Lord, blessings and benefits abound. Wherever we have His government, we shall
have what Isaiah calls the "increase" of that government (lsa.9: 7). Some typical
examples of that "increase" are later described by the prophet when he says:
"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be
unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb
The hymn -writer puts the same truth in other words when he declares:
"Blessings abound wherever He reigns: The prisoner leaps to lose his chains,
the weary find eternal rest, and all the sons of want are blest". Now if this is true in a
general sense, and it is, it will also be true in a particular sense, including this matter
of instituting the "Family Altar" in the home. Such a move is a very practical
honoring of the Lord as Lord and a granting to Him of the first and foremost place in
the daily schedule of the family. It is, in actual essence, a veritable. Enthroning, on
that territory, of this Glorious King of kings. We can reasonably expect, therefore,
that "Millennial blessings", in their deep and spiritual form, will begin to appear
within that home! Throughout the family, Isaiah's wonderful prophecy, for instance,
will begin to have its blest fulfillment. New "vision" will be granted; new "hearing"
experienced; a new "walking" and "leaping" will be made possible, (how great the
need for this!), and a NEW SONG will be heard! Surely that should be enough to
provoke some action in this matter! The very enthroning of the Lord in this particular
respect is sure to bring its train of blessing. What a heartening prospect for the
And, of course, that well -worn Bible, handled by the parent every morning in
the presence of the children, is sure to bring its own deep blessing to the home. God
told Joshua that if he would meditate on the Scripture "day and night" he would
make his way prosperous and he would have "good success" (Josh.1: 8). Many are
the families who have proved the truth of that sure promise, and have done so
through the daily reading of the Word together. In the course of that homely
exercise, the Word of God itself has "Converted the soul; made wise the simple,
rejoiced the heart, and enlightened the eyes" (See Psa. 19:7,8). In other matters,
too, there has been practical "success"; all faithfully granted by the Lord in keeping
with His promise.
Let us mention, now, some of the particular and personal blessings, which
usually attend this practice, and starting, perhaps, with the one who is privileged to
be the head of such a house, and who has the honor and responsibility of presiding
at these prayers. That such a one will receive a special blessing there can be no
doubt. It is a responsibility, of course, and means an extra load, but God is no man's
debtor, and He sees to it that the regular homely ministry brings its own reward.
There is, of course, the priceless joy of seeing the family developing and
rejoicing under the gracious smile of God, and that, itself, is wonderful. But there
are, as well, particular "side blessings" which such an one will surely know. Perhaps,
for instance, this father of the family has been very recently converted, and he could
hardly find the courage to utter an exhortation, or even a simple prayer, in the larger
company of the local church. Much as he would like to do so, the words will not
come! But here, in his own familiar home, it is very different! Surrounded by the
trusting love of little children, and by the humble helpfulness of an understanding
wife, he can begin immediately to exercise a precious ministry, which, incidentally,
will be all the better for its spontaneity and brevity. During those few minutes
together in the morning he can become accustomed to "presiding at the gathering"
and to hearing his own voice as he reads from the Scriptures in the presence of other
Sometimes he will feel the urge to add a little comment; some simple thought
that has been quickened of the Spirit to his own heart as he has read the allotted
portion. These may be small beginnings, but who knows where such a ministry may
end? Very quickly it can spread to the larger gatherings of the local church, and
possibly far beyond! This, surely, is a benefit, and quite a considerable one, which
very frequently attends this exercise. All unconsciously, it has been the ideal
"training ground" for wider ministry! Another important matter suggests itself just
here, and it may be well to mention it. If there are servants in the house, these also
can usually be gathered from their several tasks, and all in the home can be
encouraged to "bow the knee" together before the Great Lord Christ. This very act of
kneeling down with those who serve us often helps to maintain a happy working
atmosphere and to offset proud and haughty attitudes, which frequently spoil our
more affluent and favored families, particularly amongst the children. To be sure, our
appointed positions in life may be different, but, meeting thus together before our
Maker, we are made to realize again, that, in the ultimate things that really matter,
we are all on common ground. All are sinners, and only the grace of God can save us
(Eph.2:8). Impressions of that kind will bring, in time, their untold benefits,
particularly to the children, and will leave their mark, in years to come, in richer
And what a wonderful opportunity, incidentally, for sowing the seeds of the
Gospel into the hearts of the servants! In earlier life they may have had no Christian
background whatsoever, and would never feel free to attend the more public
Christian meetings. But here, at "Family Prayers", they can listen every day to a few
verses from the Word of God, and, when they hear the prayers, they can see and
feel the blessedness of a genuine Christian life lived in fellowship with our Unseen
Heavenly Friend! Little by little the Word will do its saving work, and those who serve
us daily can thus be brought to Christ (See 1 Pet.1: 23; Jas.1: 18).
Often a visitor in the home, taking part in the regular daily prayers, also
receives a blessing; something, may be, which he or she would never get in any
larger gathering. And possibly such an one will be encouraged, by what has been
seen and tasted, to incorporate the happy practice into his or her own home. And so,
praise God, the blessing spreads!
It has been our own frequent experience that an unconverted tradesman or
business acquaintance, "dropping by" at that particular time, has been invited to "sit
in", for a moment, on the little family gathering, (it is always short; ten minutes at
the most) and has been noticeably touched by the Holy Spirit through the verses
read, or through the very sight of a Christian family kneeling down in prayer
together and blessedly united in this act of worship. All these are blessings, which
can be known through the daily operation of the "Family Altar".
Before we close this part of our message there is another solemn matter,
which we feel, urged to touch upon. It relates again to the relationship that exists
between the individual Christian Home and the local church, and has to do,
particularly, with the principle of eldership in that local church. God's Word tells us
that an elder must be: "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in
subjection with all gravity", and then is added the significant parenthesis: "(For if a
man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of
God?)" (1Ti'm. 3:4,5). Another translator renders it: "He must have proper authority
in his own household, and be able to control and command the respect of .his
children" (J.B. Phillips).
This, of course, is a tremendous matter, the far- reaching significance of
which can hardly be imagined. Those who covet the welfare of the local churches,
and of the testimony of Jesus as a whole, should ponder much this inspired directive
regarding elders, and they should lay to heart this clear insistence on a right
domestic background for all who would hold this office. And, of course, the whole
matter is very definitely related to what we are now studying. We may say that this
simple! Practice of "Family Prayers", with all that inevitably accompanies it, provides
a most desirable foundation in the developing and qualifying of one who is later
destined to become a shepherd of God's Flock! The very responsibility often does
very much towards the setting of our homes in order, and towards the fitting of us,
in the eyes of God, for further responsibilities, which yet may come to us. Those who
have ears to hear will hear.
The benefits and blessings of this simple practice are indeed innumerable".
We have not even mentioned the benefits, which will accrue in the sacred area of the
relationships between the husband and his wife. Being Christians, they will long to
grow up together into Him, and to know a deepening oneness with each other in
every realm. Here again the Family Altar will serve its gracious purpose. It will
provide a daily occasion for the husband and wife to take their place together as the
appointed leaders in the home and as the eager helpers of each other in the training
of the children.
We may add that, even amongst Christians, in these unnatural days of rush
and drive, the holy harmony of husband and wife comes under constant challenge,
for the Devil certainly hates this living symbol of the oneness of Christ and His
Church (Eph.5: 31 -32). In view of this, apart from all else, there is growing need for
this daily exercise and fellowship together. Those few minutes every morning, when
parents are found fulfilling their mutual ministry to their family, will aid them much
in their own relationships and in their deepening life together in the Lord. Many will
testify to this.
We have mentioned the Biblical authority for this practice of family prayers,
and have also listed some of the blessings, which will follow. The message, however,
would not be complete without some reference to what we shall call: The battle
entailed in the actual implementation of the plan.
It is a strange fact that whenever this matter is raised in any land or in any
company, difficulties and questions immediately arise! Even those who are sincerely
desirous, and perhaps deeply wistful about it all, will reluctantly voice their doubts as
to the practical workability of it...in THEIR case! Mention will be made, for instance,
of the wild pace of modern living, and the virtual impossibility of incorporating
THOSE few minutes into the already heavy schedule of the harassed family.
Sometimes it is objected that all have to be hurried off to work or school together;
sometimes, that they have to leave at different times! In both cases, strange to say,
it is accepted as a convincing veto against the "Family Altar" and the Rights of God!
Now let us say immediately that we know full well that there ARE many difficulties,
and certainly every case is not the same, but behind it all, is there not here some
sinister "intelligence" putting up a desperate battle? Is this, perhaps, the "roaring
lion" of whom Peter spoke, who "walketh about, seeking whom he may devour"? (1
Yes, there ARE these difficulties, and, for ourselves, we are prepared to face
them helpfully and squarely. Some, we know, have had to make very big
adjustments and considerable sacrifices, or perhaps content themselves with some
alternative arrangement to which the Lord has mercifully led them, in their case.
But, when all is said and done, it is our sincere conviction that this wholesale turning
back, WITH ALL THE RESULTANT AND IMMEASURABLE LOSS, is by no means
justified. That very much will need to be pressed through, we do not question, nor
that the Lord may need to be consulted very earnestly regarding some great
difficulty which seems to stand quite firm across our way. But to give up, before the
battle is even fought, seems to us an untold tragedy. If the alternative gains and
losses were really understood, and rightly valued, we believe the battle WOULD be
fought, and, by His grace, the victory won, and yet another family would be added to
those who daily know the joys of the "Family Altar", and who NOW and IN ETERNITY
will reap the fruits thereof!
This is no place for listing and attempting to answer all the possible and
conceivable difficulties. Better for each individual to bring his own particular situation
to the Living Lord, doing so with a vigorous and expectant faith and a fully open
heart, and with no fixed prejudices or conclusions regarding the issue. Praise God,
we worship a LIVING God who moves the mountains, (Jud.5: 5; Mic.1: 4; Mark 11:
23; etc.) and, with such an approach, the sincere enquirer will usually find that, after
all, THERE IS A WAY, ...if only he will pay the price!
Whatever the difficulties may be, it is probably safe to say that the thousands
of Christian families who HAVE got through in this matter have somehow and
somewhere faced those selfsame difficulties! This means that someone, somewhere,
has faced YOUR difficulties, and has fought YOUR battle, and, by God's grace, has
gotten him the victory! The "Family Altar" has been actually instituted in that home,
and now, years afterwards, parents and children are reaping the precious fruits. Best
of all, perhaps, the Lord has gained spiritual material and substance for His wider
purposes. Lives are now available to Him for what He wants.
The sufficient motive for such an aggressive and productive attitude is usually
to be found in what we would call an adequate sense of the urgent need, and in a
far-seeing and spiritual appraisal of the very much that stands to be gained or lost
by the decision made. And, of course, right at the foundations, the love for the
children has been what it ought to be, engendering a due concern and holy jealousy
for their highest good.
O may God raise up parents of this kind in these dark, and darkening, days
when our subtle and plausible enemy is everywhere abroad! And may God help them
to press through on this matter and to set up this "Altar" in their homes, securing to
themselves, and to their children, the blessings we have mentioned, and, perchance,
to children's children! May God save our rising generation from the kind of parents
who easily give in to our blustering and deceptive foe, and who take the line of least
resistance, mildly hoping, that their children will not be too much the losers! That,
we say, is neither Christian character nor true parental love.
But we certainly know the many problems, and have every sympathy with the
honest parent who is truly baffled on this score, and who does not see at all how God
can do it in their circumstances. We would only urge such parents to hold on strongly
to the Lord about this matter. In due time they will see what can be done where true
parental care is a functioning reality, and where the inner choice of Christ's own
Lordship in the home is deep and genuine.
Often, too, we find we have to take a step of faith, and then it is, God shows
us His surprises! That this may be your experience is our earnest prayer.
For the sake of those, who may now be exercised about actual details, we would
suggest the following as guiding principles for family prayers.
1. Let it be clearly understood that we are NOT here referring to a weekly meeting in
the home, for instance. That is quite another matter, and is NOT to be confused with
what we are here proposing. We ONLY have in mind the daily, and much simpler,
occasion for the reading of the Word of God together, during the course of the
morning meal, for instance. This other matter of a weekly family meeting is
altogether different, and, we would say, fraught with extra difficulties. The members
of the family are probably overloaded with meetings, and the very thought of yet
another, creates reactions, and may be more than God is asking of them. Family
Prayers are different from "meetings", and helpful co-operation is more easily
secured for the brief occasion, as they start out for the day.
2. Let the time be INTHE MORNING if at all possible. Do not settle for an evening
alternative UNLESS ABSOLUTEL Y NECESSARY. One of the main objects is to enable
the family to anticipate the COMING day together, under the Lordship of Christ, and
to encourage them to face the various responsibilities that await them as "in the
Spirit", and in happy fellowship together. And, apart from all else, Christ deserves
the best time of the day, for in ALL things He must have the preeminence. (Col.1:
3. Make use of the morning mealtime if you can, having the reading while the family
is seated at the table, either before, or after, the meal. This simple plan saves a lot
of extra organizing and a lot of effort, too, in gathering the family from various
directions and occupations. At the mealtime they are already gathered and the
opportunity is there! Of course, many families do not have the morning meal
together, and some other arrangement may NEED to be made. But, we repeat, work
for this better and easier way IF YOU CAN. Many families COULD eat together if
certain sacrifices were made, and if wholesome discipline were obtaining through the
family. Some who conceivably COULD sleep longer may NEED to rise a little earlier
In order to take the family meal together. The extra time is not lost in any case, and
4. Good use can be made of it when the meal is over and family prayers completed.
In fact, in many cases, it could prove a very great advantage to be up a little earlier
than has been wont, and children, particularly, will soon come to appreciate the
extra time available and to make good use of it. Incidentally, the warnings of
Proverbs 6:9, 10 and Proverbs 24:33,34 could well be taken to heart in many of our
Christian families who genuinely "mean business" in the things of the Lord! The
earlier start, of course, may also necessitate something of a curtailing of
unnecessary indulgences the previous night, and strong leadership and wise
parenthood in these things is, no doubt, a tremendous factor. We need to settle it,
that, if we want blessing, there must be order, and leaders have to pay a price for
5. Let the time used for the Family Prayers be very brief. Seven to ten minutes are
usually quite sufficient, and the shorter time gets better support from the family, and
better results, too, than something unnecessarily prolonged. This is specially so
when children and others are eager to get started with their busy programs for the
day. A Christian parent will show loving understanding in these things, always being
as co-operative as is possible, consistent with the interests of the Lord.
6. Let the head of the house ask for complete quietness while he reads, say, fifteen
or twenty verses from the Word of God, and then makes, perhaps, the very briefest
of comments. In this way the family can go right through a suitable book, such as
one of the Gospels, or the Psalms, or Proverbs, and, later on, other books, as the
Lord shall lead. Even reading without comment is sure to bring a blessing, for the
Book held in the hand is itself the dynamic and faith –creating Word of God. (Rom.
7. After this brief reading, let all kneel down together, if at all possible, while the
head of the house commits the family to the care and keeping of the Lord for the day
to come, and brings some word of praise for mercies and blessings hitherto received.
Friends and relations can also be remembered, and any special needs of which the
family may be aware at any given time. These could include sicknesses or other
problems, and we may mention that children are often helped by a brief but sincere
remembrance of their school examinations, and such like matters. All is shared
together, and all is spread before the Lord in simple, trusting, faith. Let the focus of
the prayer be on the Living Christ Himself, that all may become freshly mindful of
HIM, and of His great love and mercy. Such a family rises from its knees, immensely
strengthened, and those who meet them, through the day, will quickly recognize it.
8. It is sometimes helpful to make a slight change on the Sunday morning, such as
including a song or taking the reading from a different part of the Bible, or even
getting one of the children to do the actual reading of the Scriptures in the hearing of
the others. A little variety of this kind helps to offset any lurking tendency to
monotony and is often helpful in many ways.
9. Do not regard Family Prayers as a substitute for individual "Quiet Time" or
"Personal Devotions". The individual time with the Lord must always be encouraged
and is a basic principle of progress.
10. In ALL the matters we have mentioned: let the head of the house seek, for
himself, a deepening godliness of character. Children are often quick and accurate in
assessing the moral and spiritual qualities of parenthood, if the family exercise is to
be appreciated and effective, it is basic that the head of the house be genuinely
honored and respected by all the family. He must be known as one who sincerely
seeks the glory of the Lord, and who, in the home and out of it, does always those
things that please Him (John 8:29). It cannot be overstressed, that, inconsistencies
there, can rob the whole occasion of its usefulness; in fact they can build up
resentments and cause great harm. Notice that, in these respects, "The Family Altar"
becomes a constant challenge to the head of the house, and provides an ever-present provocation to still more godliness. This is another bi-product of the
exercise! All the above suggestions, we believe, can be helpful to those who are now
personally concerned about this matter, and who desire to see this "Family Altar"
established in their homes. The best advice, however, is just to make a start. IN
TRUE DEPENDENCE ON THE LORD, and being constantly alive, in Him, for counsel
and direction. Simplicity and spontaneity are the " greatest assets, and we can surely
approach this matter knowing that the Lord wants it to be, in every way, a joy, and
not a burden. Let the Spirit be Lord, and let there be liberty (2 Cor. 3:17).
"Family Prayers" are a wonderful way to honor the Lord as He should be
honored, and, as we have said. Infinite gains will follow. By this simple practice, the
spiritual is given the place of prominence and priority, which rightly belongs to it. A
new "atmosphere" is progressively apparent in the home, and a sense of "the
opened heaven". The whole "level of living" becomes elevated, and Christian
character begins to grow apace. Often, it is only years afterwards that the benefits
will be fully recognized and assessed, but, that they will be there, all in due time,
there can be no doubt. Thus will the heart be gladdened, and the Lord glorified, -
for "He is faithful".
We would urge all who have read these paragraphs, to seek the Lord about
this matter; specially those who have responsibility for the spiritual guidance of a
Christian home. We are sure that what is written enshrines a vital secret which can
be of untold blessing to us, and to our children, and, as we have said, it will leave its
mark of blessing, too, on the fuller Family Gathering of the local church. Best of all, it
will surely affect that Final Family Gathering, up in Heaven, of the whole "household
of faith" (Gal. 6:10). Around that Throne, please God, may our children be brought
up faithfully in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. All this will greatly magnify
our Lord, and that, of course, is the single end in view.
"AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD" (Josh. 24:15).