One Sunday morning, I mentioned to my Sunday School class that our family has “devotions” each evening. A student asked “What are devotions?” This article addresses that question.
“I will give them a heart to know me,
that I am the Lord.
They will be my people, and I will be their God,
for they will return to me with all their heart.”
Jeremiah 24:7 NIV
A “devotion” is a daily family worship time when you gather together with those at home and read God’s word and perhaps a short lesson and pray together. Usually devotion-worship (in keeping with God's command that the man is the leader) is led by the husband (or older son), but if he’s not around, Mom or daughter can take charge.
WHAT TO DO
Simple Version ~ Family devotions can be as simple as reading from the Bible and saying prayers together. You can follow a one year Bible or on-line Bible reading plan. Read one chapter from the book of Proverbs each day (correspond to the day of the month, ie., on November 28, read the 28th chapter of Proverbs). Or read one chapter from Psalms each day.
Super Simple ~ Simply read from a devotional book, booklet or quarterly--most are based on a Bible passage and end with a short prayer. Check your church library for Bible study devotional materials.
Our church body publishes Meditations a quarterly booklet, as a subscription through Northwestern Publishing House. OR for free you can subscribe to daily on-line devotions, too.
Don't under-estimate your little ones' abilities to "get" God's Word. Dump the cutesy, baby-ish, and "dumbed down" versions. Graduate your little ones to God's Word as quickly as possible. They're ready for "meat" sooner than you realize!
Getting Fancy ~ If you have a hymnal, familiarize yourself with its contents. Hopefully you'll find a section with short devotions for morning or evening. Our Christian Worship hymnal and supplement has morning and evening devotions; they’re short and the structure is easy-to-adjust to individual needs or abilities. Just add psalms and readings in the right slots!
If you have singers in your midst (or even if you don't!), add some music to your devotion time. Jesus doesn't care if you can sing opera or can't carry a tune. He hears it all from your heart!
WHEN TO HAVE FAMILY DEVOTION TIME?
Establish family devotion-time while your children are babies; then you have a routine that brings joy to your home! If they're older, start now. The Lord says in Deuteronomy 6:6-9:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up….
Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.
Gather the family before breakfast or after supper, before bedtime or after baths, whatever. Adjust your gathering time as the years roll by when the kids have games or teens get jobs or Dad or Mom has an evening meeting or class.
Every family is different. My dad read from Meditations before we cleared the supper table, and we HAD to have our hands folded, we finished with either the Lord's Prayer or Luther's Evening Prayer. At my grandparents’ home, we gathered in the dining room, right before the children were sent to bed, and Grampa would read from the Bible and from Portals of Prayer. Then we'd all say the Lord's Prayer. Friends with young adult children read from a Bible commentary, that is very enriching!
When we first got married, it was real simple: we read our Bible together at bedtime and talked about what we read. When children arrived, we adjusted our agenda to accommodate their tender ages. Lately, we've morphed into saying bed-time prayers, then reading from Meditations or Daily Readings from the Life of Christ. Sometimes we do "prayer requests" and one person will do an excorde prayer based on all the requests. When we have friends over, they’re included too—and, so far, none of our kids (or their friends) have died from this! We also have “special” devotion books that we read at Lent/Easter and at Advent/Christmas.
Over the years, we’ve had evening devotions at the dining table, on the couch in the living or family room or gathered in the children’s bedrooms snuggling on the beds. We gather when we’re on vacation, too, in motels, in the car, in tents or cabins and around campfires.
Since we homeschool we start every weekday off with a morning devotion using the Morning Devotion liturgy in our hymnal. Then we read from a book for young ones or older children or topical studies or Luther's Small Catechism for the reading. We also use a morning prayer written by Martin Luther.
Show due reverence for God's Word, but allow for discussion and questions. Encourage active listening by telling the children you're going to ask them a question at the end and wonder who will be able to answer. Little ones will learn to sit quietly if you show them that you EXPECT them to sit on your lap the entire time (be consistent).
You will benefit, so will your children and grand-children. The habits you set today will bear much fruit in the future! Our Lord promises us in Proverbs 22:6:
Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.