(3) Family Worship Improves the Mind

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” In this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The third benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it improves the mind.

The family learns to focus

I read recently about the terrible working conditions during the Industrial Revolution. The people worked 12-16 hours a day. A boss would often fine employees if he caught them gazing out the window. Children eight years old and up worked dangerously long days and were punished if they “made faces” at one another. This is a cruel way to teach focus.

Family worship is the sweet and joyful way to educate children how to maintain their intellectual concentration. Solomon pressed upon his boys the importance of focus. “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding” (Pr. 2:2, NLT). You’ll find some practical ways to do this below.

The family learns to pray

In family worship, a child can’t help but grow in knowledge and intellect. This happens not just through the study of Scripture but also through the discipline of prayer. The one who prays well has achieved an intellectual discipline, for one must be self-controlled over his thoughts.

On the previously pagan island of Aniwa, John Paton explains how new converts were expected to perform family worship every morning and evening. Initially, the gatherings were quite awkward. John Paton writes: “Doubtless the prayers [of the natives] were often very queer, and mixed up with many remaining superstitions; but they were prayers to the great Jehovah, the compassionate Father, the Invisible One—no longer to gods of stone!” (p. 356, Auto)

Is this not the way our children first learn to pray? They stammer out their petitions to the Lord. They copy every word their parents say. They often ask for the same trivial items over and over again. The disciples asked Jesus: “Teach us to pray” (Lk. 11:1). Family worship is where children should learn.

The family learns to read Scripture

The old adage says to “take heed of the man of one book.” But that is exactly what Christianity is—the belief in one Book. Other books may supplement, but all point to the Holy Scriptures. We believe not only in sola Scriptura (Scripture is the final authority) but tota Scriptura (all of Scripture is inspired). The family must ransack every corner of Scripture the way a thief plunders a vault.

If one child learns the Bible for 30 minutes a day in family worship for six days a week and 52 weeks a year, that is 156 hours. That’s equivalent to the classroom time of three, three-credit seminary classes.

In the early days, a toddler needs Bible pictures to keep his concentration. In time, he can follow a story line without illustrations. In time his mind has learned to grasp higher ideas about God and how the Bible connects.

Practical ways keep your family’s focus

  1. Keep family worship warm and enthusiastic.
  2. Be brief, perhaps 15-25 minutes and even shorter when the children are very small.
  3. Avoid distractions like electronics (turn off the TV and phone), clutter (and thus the temptation to clean up), fatigue (don’t gather too late), over comfortable couches (and thus slouching and nodding off), and hunger (gather after dinner).
  4. Get everyone involved. Discuss. Ask questions. Review.
  5. Require everyone to sit still, with their Bible open, and focus reverently on worship. Initially this may be difficult but in time it will become a habit and expected.
  6. Use variety. One month read a children’s Bible. The next an Old Testament book and the next the New Testament. Pray on your knees one night and standing around the table the next. Encourage mother to read, then the children, then just father.
  7. Sing! Do so zealously and with all your heart. Your family will imitate you.
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