Family devotions is spending time with God and your family, reading Scripture, praying, and singing a song as praise to God. In theory this sounds easy, but I have always had a hard time doing daily family devotions.
At the Desiring God 2011 Conference for Pastors, Joel Beeke gave an address, “Leading Family Worship,” in which he offered a helpful piece of advice for doing family devotions. He encouraged parents to “aim for brevity.” Beeke explains that devotions don’t have to take a long time; in fact, they shouldn’t:
Ten minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening is sufficient for most families. Don’t overdo it. Don’t do forty-five minutes on Monday and skip it on Tuesday. Do it every day.
Beeke’s advice is helpful, but it’s still difficult to do family devotions well. It’s easy to go too long or wonder what to do. Here, I want to share a simple method that has helped my family have more joy-filled family devotions. This approach is short and simple.
First, use a good devotional.
This will keep things orderly and short. I am currently using Paul Tripp’s New Morning Mercies. It’s gospel-centered, short, and has a Scripture reading for each day. Tim Keller’s The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms is a great way to focus on the Psalms, what Luther famously called “the little Bible.” To Live with Christ: Devotions by Bo Giertz is a classic Lutheran devotional arranged according to the church year. All devotionals have weaknesses, but a good devotional will include 1) a Scripture reading and 2) either a gospel-centered comment on the passage or a prayer that is birthed from a reflection upon the passage.
Second, begin with prayer and end with either a prayer or song.
In the beginning, pray that God might open your mind and heart to understand why the reading matters to your life and that of your family’s. After the reading, end with a prayer for application that grew out of the time you spent with your family talking about the reading and life. If you have extra time, use your church’s hymnal and sing a hymn. It’s good to have a hymn for the week: that way the whole family begins to learn the songs you sing in church.
Lastly, if you don’t know a lot about the Bible or theology, don’t worry.
A devotional makes things easy and allows you a lot of flexibility. In the beginning, you may only be able to read the section, realizing that you have little to talk about as a family. As your understanding grows, the devotional allows you to come to new insights as a family or simply remember that which we all tend to forget: the goodness of God.