Puritan Family Worship
Chapter 53 - Walking Godly in the Home
How you live at home shows your true spirituality. "Follow hypocrites home to their houses, and there you shall see what they are" (862).
To lead at home well, delight yourself in the Lord (Psalm 101:1), commune with Him personally (Psalm 101:2), and maintain your integrity (Ps 101:2) and purity (Ps 101:3). Bunyan speaks of guarding your ear-gate and eye-gate.
The Puritans regarded family worship as the mark of a godly father and a duty for Christian families. 1 Tim. 2:8; Gen. 18:19; Deut. 6:6-7; Josh. 24:15; Acts 10:2; Psalms 127-128; and 2 Sam. 6:20 all show God's purpose for families to worship Him as families. "Those that love the Lord God themselves should do what they can to engage the affections of their children to him" (868). Fathers, or mothers in their absence, should set the Word before them (Deut 6:6-7), and lead them in prayer and praise (Ps. 118:15).
The Directory for Family-Worship by the Church of Scotland (1647) is a helpful resource. Family worship should not replace private devotions. Avoid dogmatism about time and place. Elements are:
Prayer - be brief, direct and varied, without asking for the same things, or shallow things, every day.
Praise - sing Psalms and hymns heartily. Don't sing erroneous lyrics no matter how great the tune.
Read the Bible - involve the whole family and teach them how to read for the family.
Catechize - use catechisms to keep discussion on track and help the leader know best where to go.
Conversation - ask questions, discuss and apply truth. Make children attend
Admonition - address them directly, calling them to believe and love and live the truth taught.
Be brief (but frequent) so you don't provoke smaller children, not trying to do all 6 of these at once.
Objections to family worship
"There is no command in the Bible to do this." Not explicitly, but the verses above give the idea.
"This is unique to the Puritans." They were following Scripture, and others like Chrysostom called for family leaders to shepherd their families.
"This limits God's Spirit." No, we put ourselves in the way for His grace to work.
"We don't have time for this." But you have time for your other entertainment?
"I'm not good at leading this." That's fine - learn as you go, from others if needed.
"Some children won't participate." Are they the master of your house, or the Lord? No worship, no food.
Motivations to family worship
To bring your loved ones to God.
To glorify and thank Him.
This chapter hits a strong point for the authors and the Puritans, who "warned against 'too much austerity and severity' on the part of fathers to their children such as 'sourness in countenance, threatening and reviling in words, too hard handling, too severe correction, too much restraint of liberty, too small allowance of things needful' " (861). The call to family worship and description of it is simple and clear for all to heed. They are aware of cries of legalism and address them quite well. But they know the greater danger today is trying to be spontaneous and thus not planning, and thus never getting around to devotional exercises. "Never separate the outward forms of worship from the personal practice of the fear of God" (876).