What is Family Worship? Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Updated: Oct 13, 2022
Often in America worship is consigned to Sunday and if you are truly zealous Wednesdays. The thought never occurs to us that worship should be continuous. Not just worship by yourself but worship with your family!
So what is family worship? Family worship is the participation of the family unit in worshipping God in their homes. God is not just God of the parents but of the children as well (Genesis 17:7), and God has commanded His people to love Him wholly and completely in the family, workplace, marketplace, public place, and religious place (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Instructing us to teach our children to love Him and serve Him all of their days. For family worship to be beneficial it must spring forth from a parental devotion to the Lord! The parents must know the Lord to instruct the children to know the Lord. Historically family worship has consisted of Bible reading, songs of praise, and prayer.
With family worship being such a neglected topic in our culture it is important to take a closer look.
Is it Biblical?
Some may say, 'well there is no explicit command of family worship in the Bible, so it's not important.' Though they may be correct in that there is nothing that says, 'You shall worship God with your family,' we would be very remiss to say that it's not Biblical nor important. Charles Spurgeon said,
"I trust there are none here present, who profess to be followers of Christ who do not also practice prayer in their families. We may have no positive commandment for it, but we believe that it is so much in accord with the genius and spirit of the gospel, and that it is so commended by the example of the saints, that the neglect thereof is a strange inconsistency." Joel Beeke, Family Worship (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 2002), 3.
You don't have to look very far in the Scriptures to find the importance of family worship, instruction, and male leadership. Just one example is as early Genesis 18:17-19,
"The LORD said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him."' -Italics added for emphasis
It is clear that it was expected that Abraham would lead his household in the worship of Yahweh (the LORD), instructing them to keep His way. He clearly did this, for the example of the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22 when Isaac was just a little boy shows that Abraham clearly practiced family worship. Why do I say that? Well, Isaac clearly knew what and understood what it meant to offer something to the LORD. He said to Abraham, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" (Genesis 22:7)
Abraham practiced family worship, and so did Joshua,
"And if it is evile in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." -Joshua 24:15
This verse, or at least some of it, is wall art worthy. I have wall art in my home that says it and so do most "Christians" today. But how many of them actually serve the LORD as a household? How many families truly serve the LORD together, worshipping Him in the home, in public, and in the gathering? Unfortunately, not many...
There is also the example of Job, who clearly made a practice of family worship,
"When the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them 9that is, his sons and daughters0, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, 'It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.' Thus Job did continually. -Job 1:5
After His children would throw a feast, Job would send for them and when they were together (a family) he would lead his family in worship of God by offering sacrifice for them! What an example of the father leading the household. He wouldn't take a chance and allow his children to neglect the Lord in lieu of entertainment, but he interceded for his children and demonstrated the cost of following the LORD.
Then there is the song of Asaph who declares the importance of fathers teaching their children, Psalm 78:1-7,
"Listen, my people, to my [b]instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will tell riddles of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, But we will tell the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His power and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they were to teach them to their children, So that the generation to come would know, the children yet to be born, That they would arise and tell them to their children, So that they would put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But comply with His commandments. -Italics added for emphasis
Asaph understood that it is a commandment from the LORD that fathers would teach their children the ways of the LORD. Why? So that the children would put their confidence in God!
Let's not forget Deuteronomy 6:4-9, this is probably the commandment that Asaph is referring to!
“Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. And you shall repeat them diligently to your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. You shall also tie them as a sign to your hand, and they shall be as frontlets on your forehead. You shall also write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." -Italics added for emphasis
This was a HUGE declaration and command in the nation of Israel! This same declaration and command apply to us today. We cannot nor should we want to escape it! Lest you think it doesn't apply you only have to look to Paul's words in Ephesians,
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Hiself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word." -Ephesians 5:25-26
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." -Ephesians 6:4
The man, being the head of the house is commanded to love their wife and disciple her, and if he has children to "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." This command is given to the fathers! Yet, if there is no father, or the father isn't a born-again believer then the command of family worship will fall upon the mother. This is unfortunate but I do believe the Lord will strengthen and encourage you in this great task!
These passages are just some key examples that make the case that family worship is not only Biblical but is expected of the family unit.
What is Family Worship?
Worship is not simply singing songs, praying, or reading your Bible. It is all of those things, but so much more! The Apostle Paul tells us that worship is presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to the Lord,
"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." -Romans 12:1
This spiritual service of worship that "ALL" creatures owe to God as their Creator is nothing short of presenting all that we are and have for all that He is and desires. This isn't reserved for just certain moments of the week, but for every space and moment. In truth, even to the most basic of functions of eating and drinking we are to be worshipping Him (1 Corinthians 10:31).
How are we as individuals and families to present our bodies and our families as a holy sacrifice? How are we to worship God? Romans 12:2,
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformend by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
We are to worship God by conforming our individual lives and our families to the will of God. It is God's will that we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37). Thus, every moment of every second of every day we are to love Him in every way! This means in the family unit, with your spouse, and with your children.
Thus, family worship is the participation of the family unit in worshipping God in their homes. It is the family unit being set aside as a holy sacrifice. Where the family grows in the knowledge of God and in their service of His kingdom. Where the family in their home is devoted to praise, thanksgiving, and the reading of the Scriptures.
These are the common areas of family devotion through the ages. A time of praise, thanksgiving, Bible reading, and devotion. It is not a difficult formula and even the youngest of Christians can do it. For, their help doesn't come from themselves but from the Lord who has designed the family for worship.
If you haven't made it your practice to worship the Lord as a family every day, I urge you to do so now. Husbands, lead your wives in family worship. If you have children most certainly lead them as well! Fear the Lord, worship your God, and instruct your family to do the same.
Valuable Resources on Family Worship
Jeff Pollard and Scott Brown, A Theology of the Family
Voddie Baucham Jr., Family Driven Faith: Doing what it takes to raise sons and daughters who walk with God
Voddie Baucham Jr., Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes
Terry L. Johnson, Understanding Family Worship: Its History, Theology and Practice
Jon Tyson, The Intentional Father: A Practical Guide to Raise Sons of Courage and Character
Donald S. Whitney, Family Worship
Jonathan Williams, A Practical Theology of Family Worship: Richard Baxter's Timeless Encouragement for Today's Home