THE FAMILY ALTAR - 5
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.1:18).
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 organising 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
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 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 this.
4) 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 programme 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.
5) 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. 10:17).
6) 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
7) 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.
8) 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.
9) 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 honoured 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 honour the Lord as He should be honoured, 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).
I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD
Scripture Reading: John 16: 1-33
In John's Gospel chapters 14-16 we have the last message of the Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples, before His
crucifixion. This is a very important message. We find much inspiration and instruction by hearing and reading these
words over and over again. Please read these chapters on your knees when you are discouraged or defeated.
Again, if you want to know the secret of a triumphant life. read the same chapters. These three chapters can be
summed up in three small fragments. In chapter 14, our Lord spoke of "My peace", in chapter 15 He spoke of "My
joy", and in chapter 16, He spoke of "My victory". We have already considered the first two points in our previous
Now we see from the last part of verse 33 of John 16 that our Lord wants us to enjoy His victory. All of us can enjoy
that victory. By that victory, we can overcome our trials, tribulations, hardships and sufferings. In the same way, we
can be saved from all our dangers, and eventually become immortal. We can overcome every limitation and every
bondage of any kind. It is a unique victory. Our Lord wants us to have that victory in our lives daily. Now let us see
the testimony of one who had enjoyed that victory. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation,
or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ...Nay, in all these things we are more than
conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:35- 37). There are seven obstacles which Paul overcame: 1)
tribulation, 2) distress, 3) persecution, 4) famine, 5) nakedness, 6) peril, and 7) sword. Paul said, "We are killed all
the day long". That means, he had to face every imaginable suffering, distress and temptation. All these we can
overcome, and become more than conquerors. What a 'wonderful victory! Don't think that these words are meant
only for a few men like Paul the Apostle who wrote this. That is for you and for me also. This victory is for all of us,
and we must be able to enjoy that victory every day.
When our Lord first told the disciples how He would be crucified and rise again, they were very very sad, puzzled
and perplexed, so much so, Simon Peter rebuked the Lord at that time.