14 October, 2005

Family Worship I: Prayer

One of the duties of the Christian family is to come together to worship God on a daily basis. Our Puritan forefathers referred to this as family worship. In a post-Christian society a lot of families have lost this means of grace in their homes. The Puritans understood the home as a "little church" with the father being the minister to the home.

As minister of the home, the father is to lead his family in the duty of family worship. The family is to read the scriptures, sing Psalms, catechising, as well as prayer. All of this needs to done solemnly and without a feeling of being rushed. It really is a time for the family to commune with Christ and to be strengthened to face an unbelieving world. A daily Sabbath, if you will allow me the term.
For those of us who came out of non-Christian families, this duty can be difficult to establish in the home. It is very important though for maintaining a God fearing family that loves the Lord Jesus Christ and his Word. Below is a family worship prayer that was written by the Puritan Lewis Bayley. This prayer can help us to see how far we have fallen in the praying of men for their homes. This is full of more meat than a modern minister's "long" prayer. May the Lord revive the worship of Jesus Christ in the homes of the faithful!

Morning Prayer for a Family.

O Lord our God and heavenly Father, who art the only Creator and Governor of heaven and earth, and all things contained therein, we confess that we are unworthy to appear in thy sight and presence, considering our manifold sins which we have committed against Heaven and before thee; and that we have been born in sin, and daily break thy holy laws and commandments, contrary to our knowledge and consciences; although we know that thou art our Creator, who hast made us our Redeemer, who hast bought us with the blood of thine only-begotten Son and our Comforter, who bestowest upon us all the good and holy graces which we enjoy in our souls and bodies. And if thou shouldst but deal with us as our wickedness and unthankfulness have deserved, what other thing might we, O Lord, expect from thee but shame and confusion in this life, and in the world to come, wrath and everlasting condemnation?

Yet, O Lord, in the obedience of thy commandment, and in the confidence which we have in thy unspeakable and endless mercy in thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, we thy poor servants, appealing from thy throne of justice, where we are justly lost and condemned, to thy throne of grace, where mercy reigneth to pardon abounding sin, do from the bottom of our hearts most humbly beseech thee to remit and forgive unto us all our offences and misdeeds; that by the virtue of the precious blood of Jesus Christ, thine innocent Lamb, which he so abundantly shed to take away the sins of the world, all our sins, both original and actual, may be so cleansed and washed from us, as that they may never be laid to our charge, nor ever have power to rise up in judgment against us.

And we beseech thee, good Father, for Christ's death and passion's sake, that thou wilt not suffer to fall upon us that fearful curse and vengeance which thy law hath threatened, and our sins have justly deserved. And forasmuch, O Lord, as we are taught by thy word, that idolaters, adulterers, covetous men, contentious persons, drunkards, gluttons, and such-like inordinate livers, shall not inherit the kingdom of God, pour the grace of thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, whereby we may be enlightened to see the filthiness of our sins, to abhor them, and may be more and more stirred up to live in newness of life, and love of thy majesty, so that we may daily increase in the obedience of thy word, and in a conscientious care of keeping thy commandments.

And now, O Lord, we render unto thee most hearty thanks for that thou hast elected, created, redeemed, called, justified, and sanctified us in good measure in this life, and given us an assured hope that thou wilt glorify us in thy heavenly kingdom when this mortal life is ended. Likewise we thank thee for our life, health, wealth, liberty, prosperity, and peace; especially, O Lord, for the continuance of thy holy gospel among us, and for sparing us so long, and granting us so gracious a time of repentance. Also we praise thee for all other mercies bestowed upon us, more especially for preserving us this night past, from all danger that might have befallen our souls or bodies. And seeing thou hast now brought us safe to the beginning of this day, we beseech thee protect and direct us in the same. Bless and defend us in our going out and coming in this day, and evermore. Shield us, O Lord, from the temptations of the devil, and grant us the custody of thy holy angels to defend and direct us in all our ways.

And to this end we recommend ourselves, and all those that belong to us, and are abroad from us, into thy hands and almighty tuition. Lord, defend them from all evil, prosper them in all graces, and fill them with thy goodness. Preserve us likewise this day from falling into any gross sin, especially those to which our natures are most prone. Set a watch before the door of our lips, that we offend not thy majesty by any rash or false oaths, or by any lewd or lying speeches. Give to us patient minds, pure hearts, and all other graces of thy Spirit which thou knowest to be needful for us, that we may the better be enabled to serve thee in holiness and righteousness. And seeing that all man's labour without thy blessing is in vain, bless every one of us in our several places and callings; direct thou the work of our hands upon us, even prosper thou our handiwork; for except thou guide us with thy grace, our endeavours can have no good success. And provide for us all things which thou, O Father, knowest to be needful for every one of us, in our souls and bodies, this day. And grant that we may so pass through the pilgrimage of this short life, that our hearts being not settled upon any transitory things which we meet with in the way, our souls may every day be more and more ravished with the love of our home, and thy everlasting kingdom.

Defend likewise, O Lord, thy universal church, and every particular member thereof: especially we beseech thee to continue the peace and prosperity of these churches and kingdoms wherein we live. Preserve and defend from all evils and dangers our gracious Queen, with all the royal family; multiply their days in bliss and felicity, and afterwards crown them with everlasting joy and glory. Bless all our ministers and magistrates, with all graces needful for their places; and govern thou them, that they may govern us in peace and godliness. And of thy mercy, O Lord, comfort all our brethren that are distressed, sick, or any way comfortless, especially those who are afflicted either with an evil conscience, because they have sinned against thy word, or for a good conscience, because they will not sin against thy truth. Make the first to know, that not one drop of the blood of Christ was a drop of vengeance, but all drops of grace, powerful to procure pardon upon repentance, for the greatest sins of the chiefest sinner in the world. And for the other, let not, O Lord, thy long sufferance either too much discourage them, or too much encourage their enemies: but grant them patience in suffering, and a gracious and speedy deliverance, which way may stand best with their comfort and thy glory. Give every one of us grace to be always mindful of his last end, and to be prepared with faith and repentance, as with a wedding-garment, against the time that thou shalt call for us out of this sinful world. And that in the meanwhile we may so in all things, and above all things, seek thy glory, that when this mortal life is ended, we may then be made partakers of immortality and life eternal, in thy most blessed and glorious kingdom.

These, and all other graces, which thou, O Father, seest to be necessary for us, and for thy whole church, we humbly beg and crave at thy hands; concluding this our imperfect prayer, in that absolute form of prayer which Christ himself hath taught us, "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name," &c.

Discussion Points:
-How do have family worship in your home?
-Do you have a family liturgy that you follow?
-What are some ways to improve our family worship?

3 comments:

notliberal said...

What family?

maggie said...

Nate!

I agree, this is very very important!

Growing up we'd always get up early before dad went to work and all sit and read (we often read through the Bible in a year, which I now think is pretty awesome) and then all have to pray outloud. It's good practice!

BTW, I'm so encouraged by you and Lydia's efforts to be really Godly parents. I mean *really* encouraged. :-)

shawn said...

Once again, an edifying post, Nate. I hope my blog can be half as good as yours someday.

We do have a direction known as the Westminster Directory for Private and Family Worship.

http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_sub_standards/direct_fam_worship.html

It is a good read and a standard in the RPNA. I am sure one thing that would encourage families to be more faithful in it would be for the elders to require it, as the Bible does.

It is a question asked in both Family Visitation and prior to coming to each LORD's Supper.

Other things the General Assembly of Scotland saw as uses of Family and Private worship were "cherishing piety, maintaining unity, and avoiding schism and division."

As for those who are more consistent I have seen set habits.

-Same time each day, whether in the morning, after dinner, 7pm, etc. Just do not wait til the last minute.

-Don't let other activities interrupt family worship

-Having all the family members who can read to read some of the Scripture passage, asking all members of the family a couple questions each from the passage, if you have little children line the Psalms out so that all can sing praises unto God so that all participate. Do not tolerate non participation.

-Catechising at a different time of the day with one of the parents (like before bed, or during homeschooling) so that when they come to Worship, there is not a longer process of repition, but a shorter time testing on what the kids have already worked on. When they get older, you can spend more time during worship to ask for their understanding of the catechism.

Dr Beeke has a great sermon on this here:
http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?currSection=sermonsspeaker&sermonID=92604181044