Family Worship (Part 2)
By J. R. Miller (1840 – 1912)
[Editor’s Note: The following article refers to the household altar or family altar, terms used by previous generations in regard to family Bible study, prayer and worship time.]
Thus reasons multiply, why there should be family worship in every home. It is hard to see how any parent who realizes his responsibility, can fail to have his household altar [that is, family worship]. Consider the matter frankly and honestly. You are a Christian man or a Christian woman. Your children look to you for the witness of Christ. What do they think of the absence of family prayer in their home? How does it impress them? Is your testimony before them what it should be? Can your religious life stamp itself on them if you never bow with them in prayer? Are you bringing to bear upon their tender lives all the hallowing influences needed to purify and keep pure the fountains of their hearts?
You want their characters to be permeated with the truths of God’s Word. Can you hope that this will be so if they are not from childhood accustomed daily to hear these truths in their own homes? It is impossible to estimate the influence of the reading of the Word of God in a home, day after day and year after year. It filters into the hearts of the young. It is absorbed into their souls. It colors all their thoughts. It is wrought into the very fiber of their minds. It imbues them with its own spirit. Its holy teachings become the principles of their lives, which rule their conduct and shape all their actions.
Where the Bible is read every day in a home in the ears of the children, and its lessons simply and prayerfully taught – the effect is incalculable! It was thus that God Himself commanded His ancient people to do – to teach the truths of His Word diligently to their children when they sat in the house and when they walked by the way, when they rose up and when they lay down (Deut. 6:6-9). This was the divine plan for bringing up a family – not a lesson now and then – but the incessant, uninterrupted and continuous teaching of the Holy Scripture in the ears of the children. Such teaching unconsciously assimilates the character to the divine likeness.
Can any parents who desire to see their children become Christians afford to lose out of the school for their nurture these mighty influences? Even if there were no family prayer, the mere daily reading of the Scriptures year after year continuously, would be in itself an inestimable influence for good. But where prayer is added, the household waiting together daily around God’s feet while heavenly gifts and favors are tenderly supplicated, who can sum up the total of blessing? What parent can afford to omit this duty – and lose out of his home nurture – this mighty element of power?
The excuses which are offered for the omission are familiar. One pleads lack of time. But he finds time for everything else that he really wants to do! Besides, time taken for duty is never lost. Will not the divine blessing on the day be worth more than the few moments of time it takes to invoke it? Is there nothing worth living for in this world – but business and money making? Is the culture of one’s home such a trivial matter – that it must be neglected to get a few moments more each day for toiling and moiling in the fields of Mammon? Is the spiritual nurture of one’s children so unimportant, that it may with impunity be crowded out altogether to give one time to sleep a little later, or read the morning paper more leisurely, or chat with one’s neighbors a few minutes longer? But honesty will compel men to confess that this excuse is never offered in sincerity.
Another pleads timidity. He cannot make a prayer in his family. He would break down. But is timidity a sufficient plea to excuse one from a duty so solemn, on which such vital interests of time and eternity depend? We had better test all our actions as we go on through life, by inquiring how they will look at the judgment day, or from amid their own consequences at the end. When a parent stands at God’s bar, and this sin of omission is charged against him – will his answer, “I was too timid,” be sufficient to wipe out the charge? If his children, left unblessed in their tender years by the influence of household worship, grow up worldly and godless, drift away in sin and are lost, will it console the father and satisfy him, as he sits in the shadows of his old age and sees their ruin, to say, “I was too timid”?
A Christian mother says that her husband is not a Christian, and that she has never had the courage to establish family worship. But many godly mothers have done so. There are mothers who every morning and every evening gather their children together, sing a hymn with them, read a chapter from God’s Word, and then bow in prayer invoking heaven’s grace upon their heads and upon the beloved father. It would be easy to cite examples proving the power of such hallowed faithfulness.
This may at first be a cross for a mother to take up – but, like all crosses taken up for Christ’s sake and for love’s sake, the burden becomes a joy and an uplifting influence, and out of the hard duty comes such blessing that the hardness is soon forgotten. There are men in heaven today, or engaged now in earnest Christian service on the earth – because their godly wives had the courage to establish a family altar in the home. There are children all over the Christian world in whose hearts the sweetest memory of early years is that of the tender moments in the old home when they bowed in the daily prayer and the mother with trembling tones implored God’s blessing upon her household.
The Benefits and Blessings of Family Worship
If this page is read by parents who have no household altar – they are affectionately entreated, for the sake of their children, to set it up at once. It will bind the family more closely together. It will sweeten every joy and lighten every burden. It will brighten every path of toil and care. It will throw about the children a holy protection as they go out amid dangers. It will fill their hearts with the truths and influences of the divine Word. It will weave into the memory of their home, golden and silver threads which will remain bright forever. It will keep continually open a way between the home and heaven, setting up a ladder from the hearthstone on earth to the Father’s house in glory, on which the angels shall come and go continually in faithful ministry. Blessed is the home which has its family altar whose fires never go out. But sad is the home, though it is filled with splendors and with the tenderness of human love, in which the household never gather for united prayer.
(To be continued)