It had been one of those days. You know the kind, parents. There were just a few little chores to do around the house that were really not going to kill anyone. Yet the whining, the boneless legs, the defiance, the mom guilt – it was wearing on me. I tossed up desperate prayers throughout the day, most not much more than the powerful name of “Jesus!”
I kept pushing through. Chopping those veggies, I thought, “Just make a healthy meal, Daddy will get home, and then we can start bedtime.” Slice, slice, *Gasp!*
That last slice hit more than the veggies.
I lost it. Holding my bleeding finger in a paper towel, I just cried. Defeat tempted me. But then I noticed the song playing in the living room. I stopped and remembered whose I was. Raising my hands – partly to stop the bleeding and partly in surrender – I worshiped along with the song.
I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me
“I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!
(I Raise a Hallelujah, Jonathan David and Melissa Helser)
The kids were still running around me. Supper was still not ready. My heart was still heavy. But there was power in that worship. I knew the truth that God was with me and He was victorious over every part of that day.
That day my weapon was a melody.
The first time we see worship mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 22. In this shocking passage, God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. God ultimately provides a lamb as a sacrifice instead of Isaac, but an interesting point of the story happens before that moment. Isaac says to his father, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:7b) How does Isaac know what’s missing from the time of worship?
He would have been familiar with worship because it was a regular part of his family life.
1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
5 He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6 that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
8 and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.
In Old Testament times, the Israelites had big worship events only rarely, so the vast majority of worship was done in the home as a family. Since Christ came and gave us the Holy Spirit, we now have the privilege of being a part of the body of Christ in weekly worship. Yet this isn’t enough to establish a strong foundation in our families’ relationship with Christ that will help our children maintain their faith as they leave home. Early, consistent, sweet memories of family worship help build a foundation of faith that is authentic, deep, personal and unwavering.
So what might this look like on a daily basis?
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command 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.” (Deuteronomy 6: 4-7.)
When we are individually digging into the Word, praying, and singing on a regular basis, it will come out in our daily lives with our families. When our spouses are facing a tough situation at work, we can point them to what the Word says about trusting in God’s faithfulness and provision and about praying instead of being anxious. When our children are struggling with character traits, we can remind them of what the Bible says about lying, loving and serving one another, and working as unto the Lord. In my home I regularly play music, and we especially enjoy singing together or listening to children’s Bible podcasts in the car.
Donald Whitney, seminary professor and author, says in his book, Family Worship, “Yes, it should and does happen at unplanned, teachable moments in the car, at bedtime, and so on throughout the day. That’s wonderful! But it should also happen purposefully. And without some regularity structure, and purpose, bringing our children up ‘in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ is one of those things that we can assume we are doing but never actually do as well as we might think.”
Intentional daily family worship
What should family worship look like practically? According to Whitney, it should include three simple steps: Read, pray, sing. Read the Bible: pick a passage from the Word, read it, explain the context and any unfamiliar words, and learn about God and yourselves. Pray as a family: share requests, pray the scriptures, and be intentional about taking turns. Then sing: pick a song or two, and sing on your own or with YouTube. Make a joyful noise – responding in praise and thanksgiving to what you just read. If you have extra time, feel free to study the catechism, memorize scripture, or read other books.
After speaking with a number of leaders at Veritas about family worship, (by the way, we have amazing leaders! Let’s keep praying for them!) I saw a theme of their family worship being regular, reverent, and realistic.
Pick a regular time when the family can all be together. The consistency of daily Bible reading builds a habit of faith that will last a lifetime. Also consider how much your children are seeing you in the Word. I’m starting to consider more how reading my Bible app affects my children. Is it showing them a value for God’s word, or just my smart phone? And as much as I love having a “quiet time” away from them, I’d love my children to actually see how the Bible is my lifeline.
John Piper says, “No one can truly worship God without enjoying him.” Teach yourselves and your children who God is. When we look at His attributes and what He’s done for us, it makes us respond reverently in worship.
“True worship is based on a right understanding of God’s nature and it is a right valuing of God’s worth. And of course His worth is infinite and thus true worship is a valuing or a treasuring of God above all things.” – John Piper
In his book Family Worship, Donald S. Whitney recommends an average time of only 10 minutes to go through the three parts. Longer times can become tedious, and if children are small, a shorter time may be helpful. Garret Hufford, a Veritas elder and worship leader and father of eight kids and counting, chatted with me about the realities of family worship. “One might be crawling over me, a couple others wrestling and another falling asleep. But they are picking up more than we realize. One of our most important jobs as parents is understanding how big God is.”
The enemy knows the power of family worship. It brings unity, wisdom and knowledge of God. It makes sense that he would want to attack this precious time. So plan on distraction, discouragement and disunity. Pray against it and thank God for His abundant provision of focus, hope and unity. Pray for God’s peace to fill your hearts.
Then master the restart. Don’t allow guilt or fear to keep you from trying again. It won’t be easy. It will be worth it.
My weapon is a melody.
Questions about extenuating circumstances? Want more practical help? Check out some great answers in the 70 page book Family Worship, by Donald S. Whitney.