The Praying Parent

In my study for this week’s message on Joshua 24:14-15 and the importance of Family Worship, I came across these two paragraphs from James Alexander’s “Thoughts on Family Worship.”  Keep in mind, this book was originally printed in 1847, and while the language is a bit out of date, it is incredibly accurate and relevant for our families today.  Whether you are considering family worship for the first time as part of my sermon series, or have come upon it randomly on this blog, I pray that this will help to encourage and motivate you in the practice of worshipping together as a family.

I’ve highlighted some of the more powerful sentences.

In the rage for amassing wealth, which threatens the church among us, and especially in our great commercial cities, there is an estranging process going on which I fear is too little observed. Such is the insane precipitation with which the man of business rushes to his morning’s task and such the length of his absence from home, often extending till the hours of darkness, so that he gradually loses some of that parental tenderness which Providence keeps alive by the presence of those whom we love.  The long continuance of such habits cannot fail to affect the character. Of all persons in the world, he should be most willing to take time for family devotions who is, by his very employment, shut out from his home most of every day  The paternal heart demands this hour of culture. A deliberate service in which the voices of infancy and age unite in praising God, amidst the flow of mutual affection, is a blessed means of countervailing the hard and selfish world which surrounds them. But above all the Christian parent needs something to keep him constantly in remembrance that his children have souls, that they look to him for more than their earthly support, and that there are means whereby, under God, he may be the instrument of their salvation. If, amidst the avocations of this life, he seldom finds time to deal faithfully with their souls; if he rarely conveys to them any sign of fear for their safety; if he is dumb in respect to Christ and eternity; here is a daily service of which the direct tendency will be to arouse him to these duties.  Can it be possible for a man to pray earnestly for the salvation of his children in their hearing, representing them to God in earnest supplication as dead in trespasses and sins, while at the same time he leaves them to wonder why no syllable ever falls from his lips on those momentous subjects? The praying parent has a daily reminder of these and the like obligations; and while he asks heavily good for his household, he will sometimes cry to God for grace to fulfill them. The answer of such prayers will not be withheld. The prayer-hearing God will render him a better parent, will endow him with those peculiar gifts for which, alas, professing parents are slow to seek, and will cause him to discharge the obligations of this fearful station in a better manner, to say the least, than those who hasten through life without any token of family religion.

Prayerless parents have cause to tremble.  God’s anger may light upon them in their parental relation, as Eli’s neglect was visited (1 Sam 3:13). They have no right to expect parental happiness. They place themselves and their household in the defenseless condition of the heathen. “Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know Thee not, and upon the families that call not on Thy name” (Jer. 10:25). Family prayer invites and bespeaks the blessing of God on all concerned, but chiefly on him who leads in it. Better a roofless house than a prayerless one; better beg one’s bread with prayer than deny God by a neglect of this chief means of domestic property. One who has any genuine religious faith, and any trust in God’s promises, must be assured that in the rearing of his household, in providing for their support and education, in governing and restraining them, and in laboring for their souls, no good can ensue but by the blessing of God. And for this blessing, in the way of direction and grace, the Christian parent should join with his family in asking everyday. In so doing he will not only be a better man, but a better father. He will love his children more, and more wisely. He will be doubly a parent to them by the power and affection of a holy example. He will better be able to bear those reverses and bereavements which may befall him.*

* Alexander, James W. Thoughts on Family Worship 2002 (Soli Deo Gloria Publications; Morgan, PA) Pg. 30-32.

Make It Known

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”
(Psalm 145:4, ESV)

Have you established an inheritance for your children and grandchildren?  It’s something I think everyone hopes to do, leave something behind as a blessing for our children and their children.  When I go, I will leave everything behind.  I would leave my family with their debt of gratitude rather than simply in debt.  As a pastor and father of four, to leave my family with a financial inheritance will take a lot of planning and discipline, but the joy of giving the gift to future generations will be worth it.

However, the generations that follow us will inherit a great many things above and beyond a financial gift or obligation.  I have inherited my father’s sense of humor (or lack thereof), his sense of physical discipline (or lack thereof), and his astonishingly good looks (or lack… wait a minute).  Whether intentionally or not, we pass along from one generation to the next our priorities, passions, perspectives.  Our children may gain their inheritance directly, through our instruction and advice, or indirectly, by what they observe and overhear in our lives.

Have you given any thought to the Spiritual Inheritance that you will leave behind?  If your family were asked today to describe your faith, could they give an informed response?  Have they seen your faith evidenced in the way you live, the way you work, the things you say?  Have you shared your faith with your family, have you passed it along to the next generation?

Consider Psalm 78:5-7, “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments,” and Psalm 145, “One generation shall commend your works to another.”  Even Paul, in his letter to Timothy said, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt secure first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5).  God’s word teaches us that our faith is handed from one generation to the next, like a baton in a relay.  If we do not actively share our faith and teach it to the next generation, we have dropped the baton and set our children up for failure.  John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, once wrote, “Your children have souls, and they must be born of God as well as of you, or they perish.  And know also, that unless you are very vigilant in your behavior toward and before them, they may perish through you: the thoughts of which should provoke you, both to instruct, and also to correct them.”

What can you do then, to be sure you pass your faith along from generation to generation?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be faithful in worship, and bring your family!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “I won’t be coming to church this week; we have family/friends visiting.”  Can they not come to church?  Invite them, urge them, implore them to worship with you.  Nothing shows your love for your family and friends more than providing them an opportunity to come before the Lord in worship and praise, to hear His Word proclaimed, and to receive the blessing of His presence.
  • Worship as a family.  This doesn’t have to be complicated.  Read one of the devotions provided by the church together each day, and pray the suggested prayer.  If you are inclined, sing a hymn or praise chorus too.  Mathew Henry wrote, “They that pray in the family do well; they that pray and read the Scriptures do better; but they that pray, and read, and sing do best of all.”  If you’d like more resources on starting family worship visit: http://familyworshipguide.net/.
  • Read your Bible often, and discuss it as a family.  Whatever you do for family worship, make sure that you also spend time reading the Bible, both personally and together as a family.  Every evening, I read to our children one chapter from the Bible.  If they have questions, I try to answer them.  Sometimes I try to clarify what we’ve read.  Other times, I ask them what they think about the passage.  More than just reading the Bible let it engage you and your family.  Share with your wife, kids, friends, your favorite book of the Bible, tell them what passages have great meaning for you, ask which ones they like.  John Quincy Adams noted, “So great is my veneration for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read it the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens of their country and respectable members of society.  I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once a year.”

Let it be known, from generation to generation, that your faith was genuine and sincere.  Let there be no doubt of your love for God through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit.  May we never forsake this sacred duty to make known God’s faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 89:1).