…things we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from the children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. -Psalm 78:3-4
I did not grow up with a father who taught biblical stories and precepts to his children. I learned many things from both my father and mother, but biblical training was given over, almost wholly, to the church. When Dedra and I had been parents for about five years we began the practice of family devotions under the influence of some Christian friends. It was new to both of us, so we simply did our best. Our devotions were mainly reading Bible stories and praying, which is actually a wonderful pattern for devotions. Over time we developed more teaching practices, and I incorporated some readings in addition to the Scriptures (Little Pilgrims Progress, The Chronicles of Narnia, Little House on the Prairie, The Boxcar Children, even The Hobbit) and used those stories to draw out both biblical and moral lessons. In time they memorized some Scriptures, the Nicene Creed, some basic biblical facts, some lessons from the Westminster Shorter Catechism and Luther’s Shorter Catechism, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, etc. Pretty simple really, but our children learned to see me as the leader of the home and the primary teacher of Scripture and the Christian life. In addition to that, we now have memories of countless hours of praying, reading, and just plain being together. It continues to be what I miss most about the days when our daughters were young and in our home.
Not all of you are a part of a traditional family. I realize how difficult it can be to start a devotional life when you are a single parent, have a child with special needs, live with an unbelieving spouse, or even live as a single adult. God isn’t caught off guard by your life situation. Pray, seek wise counsel, and simply do your best. Two devotions a week are better than none when you are just getting started. A devotion over FaceTime or some other media is very doable in our world today if you travel for work. And do not let guilt side-track you. Our enemy loves to keep you away from Scripture and prayer. When he fails at that, he loves to make you feel guilty for missing those times in hopes that you will throw in the towel. Moving forward is moving forward, even if the progress is slow. Do not fall for his lies.
With this being said, don’t be lazy either. Television brings some value to life, but it is limited at best. Hanging out with your buddies or your girlfriends is fine in limited quantities, but should never eclipse regular time at home with your spouse (and children if you have them). If you are single or married; work, sports, friendships, gatherings, etc. are all helpful, refreshing, and non-sinful — this should almost go without saying. However, if they keep you from regular time with the Lord there is clearly a problem. Family and/or personal devotions take time, discipline, and intentionality. Consistency is the key, particularly for children. Work on consistency, and depth and quality are almost sure to follow.
Time in God’s word and in prayer is vital to your spiritual health and the spiritual health of your family. I honestly believe that if husbands and wives would consistently pray together, out loud, for their marriage and their family (with children present if they are part of the family), 90% of marriage and family issues would either never appear or would never threaten the family in any significant way. There may be some naiveté in that statement, but it is based on over 25 years of ministry and counseling. I find that the majority of Christian married people do not pray together with any regularity. I find that many self-proclaimed followers of Jesus do not read God’s word with any regularity. The church of Jesus Christ, and our witness to this world, are weakened as a result, and many lives suffer loss that simply does not have to occur due to a lack of intimacy and wisdom.
Single, divorced, married, widowed, young or old, regardless of your station in life, God is waiting to meet you in the quiet part of each day. If you are parents, your children will be blessed to meet with you in that quiet time as well. Will you join me in 2021 in redoubling our efforts to discipline our lives and commit ourselves to regular time in God’s word as families and individuals, and to abiding in prayer with the God who has saved us? I believe we, and our church, will benefit greatly as a result.
Grace and peace,