Are you convicted that family worship is biblical and pleasing to the Lord, but wondering how to get started? Here are some pointers, practiced by our church.
The main elements of family worship are as follows:
1. Opening prayer
2. Psalm singing
3. Scripture reading & catechism
4. Closing prayer
Opening prayer is relatively brief, compared to the closing prayer. The head of the house calls upon God to receive the family and bless them with His presence and in the ordinances (i.e., the singing, reading and praying).
Singing is from the Psalter, using a metrical version of the Psalms, without the addition of instruments. (See Resources page for literature on this topic as well as psalter melodies.) The leader first reads out the lines of the Psalm to allow everyone to better focus on the words when they sing.
Scripture reading is from a portion of God’s Word (typically one chapter of the Bible - alternating between Old & New Testaments), read with reverence. Each family member that is capable of reading has a Bible, opened to the passage being read by the head of the house. Young children who cannot yet read sit quietly and listen. (Deut 6:6-7, Gen 18:17-19, Ps 78:5-7)
Catechism is sometimes integrated with the Scripture reading, but normally undertaken with the children at another time. A parent asks their children questions relating to the Scripture and/or the Shorter Catechism.
Closing prayer is normally by the head of the house with everyone kneeling (2 Chr 6:13, Dan 6:10, Luke 22:41, Acts 9:40, Acts 20:36, Acts 21:5, Eph 3:14 and Ps 95:6).
Family worship is held twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening (Ps 4:8, Ps 5:3, Ps 92:1-2, Ps 113:3, Ps 141:2, 1st Chr 16:40, 1 Chr 23:30, Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12, Acts 2:15, Acts 20:7), typically followed immediately after a meal.
When present, the father leads family worship (Deut 6:7). When absent, normally the mother leads worship, but another person of sufficient age, maturity and piety, may lead.
Most families worship away from the table.
[Sins of the second commandment include] the neglect of family worship, and prayers particularly. Christian families should be churches, wherein God should be worshipped. It is the sin of the whole family, especially of the heads thereof, when it is neglected.
Families sin, mincing God's worship and ordinances. Some will sing and read, but not pray; some pray, but do not read and sing. Some will worship God in their families in the evening, but no morning-sacrifice can get room there for their throng. Some will do all, but neglect family catechising or instruction.
[Families sin in] the neglect of singing the Lord's praises, whether in public or in private. There are some who sit mute like fishes in the congregation praising God, who are ready enough to rant in the congregation of drunkards. There are no psalms sung in their families, for they are strangers to spiritual mirth; but they can laugh and sing to express their carnal mirth.
– Thomas Boston