In my library I have a book by an obscure puritan minister, Philip Henry. The book, Christ All in All, extols all that Christ is to the believer. You may have never heard of Philip Henry,but you may know of his son, Matthew Henry, well-known for his five volume set of commentaries on the Old and New Testaments.
In the preface of Christ All in All there is a description of the Henry’s family life. Each day began with morning prayers so that the worship of God “should not stand by and wait for other things.” After supper it was time for evening prayers; Philip Henry said evening prayers was “like a hem to all other business and kept it from raveling.” Everyone in the household participated, the servants, and visiting guests or relatives, all were included in daily prayers.
They would sing a Psalm together, listen to a Scripture passage that Philip Henry would briefly expound and then the family would pray usually employing the themes from the Psalm and Scripture in their prayers.
On Saturday night Philip Henry set the daily pattern aside to quiz the family on the things they had spoken of during the week. This he called, “gathering up the fragments, that nothing might be lost.” While all of this seems excessive and perhaps a little tedious to us, Matthew Henry in his memoir of his father’s life, says that his father managed the prayer times so that they were a pleasure and not a task for his children.
Whenever I read Matthew Henry’s Commentaries I think of the home that produced a man like Matthew Henry, a man of scholarship, insight, clarity and deep piety. Men like Matthew Henry do not spring from the ground uncaused, they are shaped and nurtured in homes in which God is worshiped and served.
My personal commitment to family worship does not only spring from puritan history; it also comes from my life-experience. Our family started each day with a time of Bible reading and prayer. While I am sure we must have missed some days, I have no recollection of a day that did not begin with family worship.
It is not possible to overstate the benefits of family worship. God is acknowledged, not just theoretically, but practically; God is in each day’s agenda. Family needs are brought before God. Each member of the family is reminded daily that in God we find the life that is truly life. Hearing members of the family pray provides insight into their thoughts of God. Each day provides new opportunities to impress children with the importance of knowing God. Organizing life around God is a powerful expression of family priorities.
When I speak to young men about leading family worship I find they are lost. Most have never experienced family worship; they feel ill-equipped. Here is a suggestive, not exhaustive list of resources: Jerry Marcellino, Rediscovering Family Worship; Don Whitney, Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in your Home; Family Worship, Joel Beeke; A Long Story Short, Marty Machowski; Herein is Love Series, Nancy Ganz.
I have a friend who was interested in sailing. He took classes and gained an impressive list of certificates about sailing. The only trouble was he had never been in a boat. Reading about family worship can be like that. Get the books, read what you can; but don’t just read – get in the boat!