Slowly but deliberately drip the truth into our children’s minds and hearts. By reading and re-reading the Bible together, we have introduced them to its primary themes, its main characters, and its central truths. By explaining the Bible as we go, I’ve been able to teach them how to personally apply the Bible’s truths. We aren’t just reading history or poetry together, but hearing divine truths that are meant to change the way we think and the way we live.
We don’t have little kids around here anymore. In fact, most of the time we now just have one kid around here, and she’s well beyond the little years. We’ve moved past parenting tiny children and into parenting young adults. Toilet training, bike-riding, and grade school drama have given way to navigating graduate programs, assessing romantic relationships, and even planning wedding ceremonies. Our family life has changed dramatically.
But one habit that has stuck is the habit of family devotions. Whenever two or more of us are under this roof, we stumble down to the living room first thing in the morning to read and to pray together. It’s a habit we developed when the kids were tiny, and it’s one that has endured through all the years, through all the change.
I was recently challenged with this question: What’s the point of family devotions? Though the question was asked in the abstract, I thought about it through the lens of my own experience. While I can’t speak to how it may function in someone else’s home, I can tell about the purpose it has served in ours. And maybe in its own way, that will prove helpful to someone.
Before I do that, though, I ought to be honest about a few things. We have never really attempted to do family devotions more than five days a week, so it’s not an every day habit. Sometimes when routines are disrupted we’ve neglected it for weeks at a time. The kids have often been far less than enthusiastic about participating (and sometimes the parents haven’t been a whole lot better). And we’ve rarely been successful at making devotions much more than simply reading and praying together. We have pretty much stuck with a simple formula of dad reading a passage, dad explaining that passage for a minute or two, then dad praying for the family. We’ve kept it consistent and consistently simple. So if I’ve got any authority or expertise to offer, it’s the kind that’s related to experience—to having done this thing many thousands of times.
So what’s the point of family devotions? I wonder if it would be helpful to first consider the purpose it hasn’t served in my family. Family devotions has not been a means through which we have obeyed a specific law or fulfilled an explicit command. There is no commandment in either the Old Testament or the New that tells Christian families they must spend time reading and praying together each day.