Though the Puritans said the benefits of family worship are “impossible to describe”, I’ll be striving to highlight some of its blessings and advantages.
The first benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it creates family harmony.
John Paton was the great missionary to the cannibals of the South Seas.
His father was resolute to lead the family in morning and evening prayer, Bible reading, catechism and singing. If this family worship had been mere homework or simply a job to check off, the Paton children would have rebelled against such hypocrisy. Instead, this sincere worship solidified the children’s bonds with their father and with each other. Paton wrote in his Autobiography:
“None of us can remember that any day ever passed unhallowed thus; no hurry for market, no rush to business, no arrival of friends or guests, no trouble or sorrow, no joy or excitement, ever prevented at least our kneeling around the family altar, while the High Priest led our prayers to God and offered himself and his children there.” (p. 14)
Harmony through unity
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity” (Ps. 133:1)! How many millionaires would give all their wealth for peace in their home? Most people would rather be poor and unified than rich and divided (Pr. 15:17).
Family worship brings harmony to the home the same way hot coals bring heat to the hearth: togetherness. The family should assemble at least once a day for Scripture, singing and supplication. All should be present. And when all are subject to the Word of God, regardless of their individual gifts or preferences, the family at this moment is unified. Thomas Brooks wrote:
“Shall Herod and Pilate agree? Shall [Muslims] and pagans agree? Shall bears and lions, tigers, and wolves, yea, shall a legion of devils agree in one body? And shall not saints agree…?”
Harmony through rebuke
At family altar, father voices concern about the disrespect at breakfast. Mother states her fear that the eldest is not yet converted. Sister expresses frustration that her brother has still not apologized for tearing her blouse. And brother–of his own accord–apologizes for lying about his homework. Many of these anxieties arise only after the family has gathered around the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit has begun to work.
If the sun mustn’t set until our anger is assuaged (Eph. 4:26), then family worship is the day’s terminating signal that peace and closure must come.
When the fog of moodiness, ingratitude, petty squabbles, sulky faces, and bitterness hang over the home, what better time to banish these attitudes than at the family gathering for devotions? Wrongs are righted. Sin is confessed. The gift has been left at the (family) altar (Mt. 5:24) to seek forgiveness.
But now see the home without family worship. Here, bitterness finds fertile soil. Unsettled irritation broods. The wound of fury and wrath is cut open but never given the balm of reconciliation to heal. In this home, the wife buries her unresolved anger under years of never having to kneel in prayer beside her husband. In this home, children grieve at their father’s aloofness but are never given airtime to voice their concerns. Then there are the misunderstandings that get swept under the rug of resentment and heartache.
Harmony through encouragement
Family worship provides not only a wonderful time to confess but also an avenue to build up and praise. In our home we have something called “five-eleven time.” It comes from the command in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 to build each other up. We’ll go around the room every couple of weeks or so and edify that person in as many ways possible. “Audrey, I loved how you made breakfast this morning for the family without being asked.” “Mama, you were so patient with Owen when he couldn’t get his shoes tied.” “Nathan, thanks for modeling hard work for me by memorizing the poem two days in advance.” There are smiles and puffed out chests all around. Family worship brings family accord.
Harmony through prayer
Praying together is the best way to erect love and harmony in the home.
If you are tired of how your children fight together, tell them to pray for one another. “Those who pray for one another cannot but love,” JW Alexander says. It is impossible “for sons and daughters, every day, during all the sunny years of youth, to bow down side by side in common devotions and mutual intercessions, without feeling that their affection is rendered closer and holier by the very act.”
Joshua promised that he and his house would serve God (v. 15). Though the Israelite community was divided, his home would live in harmony. Family worship creates this unity through mutual rebukes, encouragement and prayer.