(Excerpt from The First Institution – Thoughts on Family Worship)
The godly impact of family worshipis found not only in the explicit message given through Biblical instruction, but it is also found in the implicit message of the father’s faithfulness. As the father leads his family in worship, he should consider the following principles: 1. Prayer must be a high priority. By prayer the worshipper enters into the presence of God by the merit of Christ and calls upon the Lord for the Spirit’s guidance, leadership, illumination and aid in worship. By prayer we confess sinand acknowledge our need for Christ’s daily graceto stand firm and serveHim as His children. Christ taught His disciples concerning the of importance and need for prayer as being the means by which we hallow God’s name, admit our dependence upon His sovereign care, confess our transgressions and petition for His shepherding guidance (Matthew 6:5-15). The time of family worshipis but a mere mechanism if it consists of Scriptural study without the discipline of prayer. The father should lead his family in a time of prayer requesting the Spirit’s work in their midst so that they might genuinely worshipin spirit and in truth (John 4:24). 2. Praise must saturate the time of family worship. It is important to understand that when we use the word worshipwe are speaking of the specific act of ascribing to God his worth, that is, declaring to God His worthiness to be praised. While the study of God’s Word is central in family worship, it must also be recognized that corporate praise and thanksgiving are also very crucial. The Old Testament book of Psalms is filled with profound expressions of praise and thanksgiving, such that even in the darkest moments of despair and anxiety, the psalmist frequently resolves to praise God and give Him thanks in everything. The importance of this aspect of worship should not be overlooked, for the act of praise and thanksgiving nurtures humility and joy in the heart, and is therefore critical medicine for the soul (Psalm 33, Psalm 43:4). The time of family worship may even be focused on a difficult subject, or may even emphasize a family’s tragedy, and yet it can always be said that declaring the blessedness of God is good and pleasing in His sight (Job 1:20-22). 3. Biblical instruction should be central. The time of prayer and praise is centrally aided by the truth of God’s Word. There is an interdependency between prayer, praise and Scripture that must be recognized. Without prayer and praise, we could become like the Pharisees who viewed worship as a mere mechanism. But without God’s truth, we are left with a form of prayer and praise that is devoid of genuine substance. Therefore, the father should often seek to make the time of Scriptural study that which is central to the family worship time. The truth of God’s Word should not just be studied, but also meditated upon through prayer and praise. The following are some helpful ideas for fathers as they seek to establish a pattern of teaching in their homes: 
- The family worship time should be clearly led by the father, but also involve members of the family at the same time. It should be presented in a manner that will ultimately seek to engage all of the children at their various levels. The father should carefully prepare his lessons in such a manner that addresses the various stages and capabilities of his children: their age and spiritual condition should be carefully considered in this way. The father’s priority in the time of family worship should be to teach the Word of God in such a way that his family can have time to listen and respond with questions, as often as possible.
- The family worship meeting should be held at a time that will make maximum use of the family’s schedule, not as a mere add-on, but as a climax of the day. There will be nights where the father’s work schedule may prevent him from leading a family worship time: of course, in lieu of the father’s presence, the mother can guide the children in a time of worship and prayer in his stead. But it should be noted that there is a great need for parents not to treat a family worship hour with superstition (i.e., it must be done every evening or else!); but neither should the family justify the habitual neglect of family worship for the sake of a schedule and routine that should ultimately be trimmed back in order to restore the priority of family worship. It is helpful for the father to outline a schedule for his family, at least for his own sake, and then to approach that schedule with the understanding that he may need to adjust it according to the needs of his family. His drive in this should not be a schedule or calendar, rather it should be born out of an earnest desire to shepherd his family in Christ.
- The father’s lessons can consist of studies in various books of the Bible, or in other books that focus the reader’s attention to the Scriptures themselves. His overall goal must be to present a Christ centered and Christ glorifying message to his family. Here are some suggested materials for the family worship time:
» The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
» The Pilgrim’s Progress (Retold for Children), Christian Literature Crusade
» A Token for Children, James Janeway and Cotton Mather
» Outlines of Sermons to Children
» A Catechism for Boys and Girls, Carey Publications (Reformation Today Trust)
» Thoughts for Young Men, J. C. Ryle
» Boys & Girls Playing, J. C. Ryle
The word worship comes from the old English word weorthscipe (weorth ~ worth and scipe ~ ship). The primitive idea of this English word is that of “the condition (in a person) of deserving, or being held in, esteem or repute; honour, distinction, renown.” The Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition (
For additional resources on this subject, please consult Family Worship: Jerry Marcellino, Rediscovering the Lost Treasure of Family Worship (Audubon Press, Laurel, MS).