Simplify Family Worship – Don Whitney

A man who is like a spiritual father to me began what he called a “family altar” with his
wife before they were married, and has faithfully continued the practice through the
arrival of children and grandchildren for more than fifty years. Sadly, it seems that few
men among even the best evangelical churches today could speak of daily family
worship in their home. In the minds of some, active church involvement eliminates the
need for family worship. For others, Bible reading, prayer, and singing praises to God
together as a family have been crowded out by the television, the Internet, and a non-
stop schedule that makes even meals together a rarity.

But the father (and in his absence, the mother) of the family has the responsibility from
God to provide spiritual leadership for his household. As He did with Abraham, the Lord
wants every father to “command his children and his household after him, that they
keep the way of the Lord” (Genesis 18:19). Each one should raise his children “in the
training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Every husband should love his
wife as Christ loves His bride—the church—and follow Christ’s example of washing his
wife with “the washing of water by the word” of God (Ephesians 5:26).

While it isn’t the only way, the simplest method of applying all these texts in a steady,
practical way is through daily family worship. This is how generations of Christians have
understood them. For instance, both Baptists and Presbyterians in the 1600s saw this
biblical teaching, and incorporated identical language about the expectation of family
worship into the most influential confessional statements in their respective histories. To
this day, many churches still maintain (at least officially) that, “God is to be worshipped
everywhere in spirit and truth; as in private families daily.”

Somehow, though, many men have gotten the idea that family worship is complicated,
or that it requires time-consuming preparation. But it need not require any more
preparation than your personal worship of God. And the entire experience can be
reduced to three simple elements: read, pray, sing.

Read. The centerpiece of family worship is the Bible. Read a passage of appropriate
length for your family, making any impromptu comments that come to mind. Those with
younger children should emphasize the narrative portions of Scripture, and possibly the
Proverbs. Eventually, most seem to work up to about a chapter a day, reading
consecutively through a particular book of the Bible. I recommend that you ask a few
questions to determine comprehension, or just ask the children to repeat what they

Pray. Let the words of the passage you read suggest matter for prayer. The
husband/father should pray, and perhaps one or all the rest of the family members.
Most days this will be brief.

Sing. Use a hymnal and sing a cappella, or sing along to a recording, or let a family
musician lead the way. Sing as little as one verse, or for as long as the family enjoys it.
Any order of “read, pray, sing” is fine. It doesn’t have to be long to be effective. Be
patient with the interest and attention span of the younger ones. Remember that you’re
not only fulfilling a responsibility to God by leading family worship, you’re also
introducing your children to Him. In these moments together, your children can see your
love for God and for His Word, and some of the most teachable moments of their
childhood will occur. So start family worship in your home today. It doesn’t matter when
you have worship. For some, early morning is best. For others, it’s mealtime, and for still
others, it’s bedtime. Just start. Whether you’ve been married fifty years or newly
engaged, just start. Keep it simple, and keep it up.
London Confession of Faith (Baptist) 22.6; Westminster Confession of Faith
(Presbyterian) 21.6.
For more details on this subject, see Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In
Your Home by Donald S. Whitney at


From Donald S. Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, Colo.:
NavPress, 2003).
Copyright © 2003, Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved.

Copyright Disclaimer: All the information contained on the Center for Biblical Spirituality website is copyrighted by Donald S. Whitney. Permission granted to copy this material in its complete text only for not-for-profit use (sharing with a friend, church, school, Bible study, etc.) and including all copyright information. No portion of this website may be sold, distributed, published, edited, altered, changed, broadcast, or commercially exploited without the prior written permission from Donald S. Whitney.

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