Throughout church history, one of the key spiritual practices of a Christian household was regular family worship. Pausing daily to read the Scripture, pray, and sing together as a family became a regular practice in the early decades following the close of the New Testament era.
For instance, the early church father, Tertullian (c. 160-225), writes about central role family worship in Christian households saying, “…They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another.” A few centuries later the archbishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom (c. 349-407), implored God’s people to gather daily as families for worship, arguing that, “…every house should be a church, and every head of a family a spiritual shepherd…” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, p. 545)
Family worship fell on hard times during the late medieval period. The hierarchical view of clergy as well as the removal of the Bible from the laity is at least part of the reason. But as the Reformation got underway, emphasizing a return to the Bible and translations in the vernacular of the people, family worship was revitalized. In his lectures in Genesis, Martin Luther (1483-1546) said, “Abraham had in his tent a house of God and a church, just as today any godly and pious head of a household instructs his children in godliness. Therefore, such a house is actually a school and a church, and the head of the household is a bishop and priest in his house.”
The framers of the Westminster Confession of Faith picked up the same sentiment in 1647 when in the chapter devoted to religious worship and services they wrote, “…God is to be worshipped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself.” (WCF, 21.6)
In that very section, the WCF cites Deuteronomy 6:6-7 as a proof text for the instruction—a text some of you, I’m sure, have committed to memory, “And these words that I command to you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
The primary reason Cornerstone published The Repentant Life devotional for the Lenten season is to encourage you in the discipline of daily private and family worship. Due to the demands of daily life, it’s often unrealistic for a Father or Mother to prepare a daily Bible lesson for the family. Having a ready-made devotional with a simple service-like pattern helps the whole family enter into the presence of God together and be nourished spiritually without a lot of preparation or effort.
We sincerely hope you’re finding The Repentant Life devotional a helpful aid to your personal and family life this Lenten season. We’d love to receive feedback from you about the devotional. What are you finding helpful? What is challenging or confusing? Do you have any suggestions for how it could be better? These devotional publications are designed to help edify you, so please know your input is welcomed and always appreciated.
Resources for Learning More about Family Worship:
- Family Worship by Donald Whitney
- A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home by Jason Helopoulos
- The Family Worship Book: A Resource For Family Devotions by Terry Johnson