ARThe Family AltarLife is a process. We grow up, we get married, and we establish a family. Now that we’ve welcomed the children into our lives, what’s next? What kind of homes are we supposed to raise them in? This article stresses the importance of building up a life of prayer starting from our homes. When we establish a family of our own, we need to realize that bringing up our children in the words of God and encouraging them to lead a prayerful life is the greatest offering we can give to the Lord.
The best of spiritual judgment tells us that every Christian home should establish a family altar because its effects have everlasting benefits.
Would you say that worshiping together is your family's most important function—the most needed get-together? Is there anything more vital than daily worshiping together as a family unit?
Families plan many things they would like to do together. If a planned trip to the mountains, or to Europe, or to the moon (if such plans ever become a reality) never materialize, it may not affect your family very much.
But if your plan to establish a family altar never materializes, it will affect your family much more.
THE NEED FOR FAMILY WORSHIP
The family altar must first be established in the hearts of the parents, for they provide the leadership needed to direct and guide the spiritual life of a family. This is a major project because the most important church is the church in your house!
Private devotional reading by each member of the family is commendable, but it will never produce the benefits and fill the need that is realized when the family worships together.
Although Jesus spent much time alone in prayer and devotion to God, and no matter how busy He was, He always had time for the little ones. By His example, we need to recognize the value of our children, and the importance of drawing them close to the Lord Jesus with every opportunity.
The family that worships together at home will have little difficulty gathering together to worship with other families, known as "going to church." The home and church are dependent on each other, and worship should begin at home.
Establishing a family altar may not guarantee a problem-free life, but it will guarantee a place of refuge and a place for the sharing of family problems. Children will hear their names mentioned with the concern laid at the feet of the heavenly Father, and parents will hear their children pray for them in a way that no one else can.
The family altar is very much needed. A number of values grow out of the practice of family worship. And the quality of your relationship with the rest of your family is dependent on whether or not you are able to share your faith with one another.
Sometimes, we think that it’s always the parents that give much to the children. But if we raise our children in the Lord, we will gradually realize just how much they teach us about God’s love. And they teach us a lot, just ask your parents.
How much time they spend worshipping God is a reflection of how much time we spend with God, and how much they know to rely on God in their adult life depend on how much we rely on God as a family when they are young.
Setting an Example
Paul wrote, “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men?(2 Cor 3:2). Or, as Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Mt 5:16).
Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:4)
We should let others know that we have a new life—a life that is set apart from the world. And the family worship time can be a means of letting our light shine, and when we put it to practice; it will serve as an incentive for others to try the same good habit.
REACH OUT WITH GOD’S WORDS
We also need to emphasize the importance of God’s words within our family because it provides the best spiritual resources for our faith:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Tim 3:16, 17)
Sometimes, it is hard for us to reach out to our children, especially when they are in their adolescence because they may think we are incapable of understanding what they go through.
If we are able to inspire and encourage them by God’s words, we may gain their respect and, at the same time, pass on the most important life instructions to help them learn to rely on God to resolve their own challenges.
Why is it that our children seem to have much respect for the pastors in the church? When they attend a church seminar or retreat, why do they come home feeling spiritually nourished? We need to ask ourselves, what is that missing link in our homes?
That missing link has a lot to do with whether or not we incorporate Bible reading and the studying of Scriptures within our family. Do we feed our children with the spiritual food that they may not know they are lacking?
In the early years of parenthood, we need to instill the words of God and exalt the words of God within our children so that they learn to do the same. By paving their spiritual journey early on, we will run into a lot less trouble trying to figure out how and why our family unit has grown distant and apart.
Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law. (Deut 31:12)
One way to observe all the words of God is to speak to our children with God’s words. Because children hold us accountable to the things we say, and if we say the truth about God’s wise instructions, we will also raise spiritually wise children.
With God’s commands as the guiding light for our family, we can walk into the unknown and face all the challenges that are ahead with faith and confidence that God is walking right beside us.
PRAY TOGETHER, STAY TOGETHER
The family altar is the private place where the family is able to pray about problems and matters the family would not pray about in the presence of others. It is like closing the doors about the family unit and having a sweet fellowship with God.
It is the type of prayer mentioned in Matthew 6:6—the closet type of prayer where only God's ears are welcome as the family prays for an answer to particular problems.
How wonderful it would be if our children learns from young that their house is a house of prayer (Isa 56:7), which God will graciously consider good and acceptable—a pleasing offering and sacrifice.
We can begin with baby steps, starting from the initial understanding to give grace before each meal, to say the Lord’s Prayer with understanding, to encourage them to pray before bed, and to pursue after the Holy Spirit when they are old enough to recognize its importance.
The act of prayer teaches our children to put their trust and reliance in the Lord; to focus on the promises of God instead of the limits of their parents. Slowly, our children will grow up to honor and communicate with us through the love of Christ.
Praying together will strengthen the relationship between parents and children, as well as children and their siblings. It will strengthen our trust in each other so that, with time, every member of the family will learn to open up and discuss their personal needs.
When the family’s spiritual growth are in harmony with one another, we will notice that the spirit that bind us together only makes us stronger as individuals and as a member of the family.
Also, our children will appreciate and value their importance and spiritual contribution to the family. If we as parents are the only ones who are growing in spirit but our children are not, then it is time to examine the larger picture.
Invite Others to Join Our Family Altar
On the other hand, while the family altar is pretty much the private prayer life of the combined family, there is no need to shy away from the practice when visitors arrive.
When the prophet Daniel knew that his daily routine of praying to God three times a day was decreed forbidden by King Darius, it did not stop him from worshipping and praying to God. Instead, he “prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days?(Dan 6:10).
I remember one time, as our family was kneeling in the living room praying, a neighbor boy who had come on the porch, noticed, and knelt on the porch until we were through.
The family that prays together stays together.
MY HOUSE WILL SERVE THE LORD
We may live in a time that does not value the importance of the family altar and worshipping God. Others may be raising their children to conform to the ways of society so that their children are not ostracized or made fun of.
But we are a chosen nation of God, set apart and holy in His eyes. What decisions are you going to make about the family altar that God commands us to establish in our homes?
In times like these, we need to faithfully adopt Joshua’s determination to live for Christ—not just for himself, but for his entire household.
Now, therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose lands you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Josh 24:14, 15)
One way to serve the Lord is to work tirelessly to raise God-fearing children. This is probably one of the hardest commission that Christ has entrusted to us—especially in the twenty-first century, where sin and temptations attract us in every shape and form.
The foundation of establishing the family altar must begin before children are born. It must begin in the hearts of young people who walk away from the marriage altar to establish a family altar.
The family altar will be a place where they will meet daily to quiet their hearts and strengthen their purposes to live out the covenant they made with God when they became Christians, as well as when they became husband and wife.
When family worship is a daily practice, the dedication of our children will not be a mockery or a mere formality, but it will be the dedication of our own lives passed on to our offspring as a heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul experience.
The family altar is a means by which Christians can grow in grace, and we need to pursue to be strong in grace. The daily reading of the Scriptures (God speaking to us), and the daily practice of prayer (our speaking to God), will strengthen our inner spiritual lives.
The family altar may not cure all the ills, but it will bring faith and trust and comfort and peace and hope and assurance to the family, in a way that nothing else will. There is no substitute for a family's gathering together and worshiping God within the doors of the home.