Published on September 29th, 2014 | by Josiah Batten

Family Worship: Its Nature and Necessity

One of the great difficulties in writing about family worship today is the fact that so few people even know what it is. It is not the case that many people are strongly opposed to family worship, but rather that most simply have never even heard of such an idea. If a Puritan were to approach us today and ask “Do you lead family worship?” we would be like the Ephesian disciples of Acts 19, saying “We haven’t even heard that there is such a thing as family worship.” What was once required for church membership is now not even nominally promoted among most Evangelical Christians.

Hence this essay, which is the introduction to a series of essays. I want to define what family worship is, discuss why it is a biblical duty, offer some practical advice for its implementation, and introduce you to resources that may be consulted in starting it in your home.

Family Worship is the cultivation of love for the Triune God, through singing, prayer, and reading and instruction in Scripture, as a husband and wife (and children when applicable).

Some call this “family devotions,” and that is a perfectly suitable title. What is important is the nature of family worship, not the title by which we call it.

The Biblical Necessity

Some question whether such a thing as family worship is biblically required. Here we should remember Creation itself, the only type of worship possible, before the fall, was family worship. J. H. Merle D’Aubigne points this out, “It is evident that the first worship which the first man and his children paid to God could be nothing else than family worship, since they constituted the only family which then existed on the earth.[1]” Throughout the entire book of Genesis (and Job), before there is a Levitical Priesthood, fathers represent their families before God and represent God before their families. Fathers offered sacrifices on behalf of their children (Job 1:5).

Perhaps the most compelling biblical admonition to family worship comes in Deuteronomy 6:7-9. God’s words and commands are to be repeated to our children, spoken of in our houses when we sit up and when we lie down, written on the doorposts of our houses. In the New Testament, Ephesians 6:4 tasks fathers with raising their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (ESV). A. W. Pink points out that, according to Jeremiah 10:25, families/peoples who do not offer prayers are strongly condemned [2].

The historical example of the Patriarchs, the positive commands to teach God’s Word to our children, and the condemnation of those who do not offer prayers to God, all serve as biblical support for the practice of family worship. If fathers take seriously the command to raise their children in the ways of the Lord, family worship cannot be neglected.

Historic Precedent

While the Bible needs no extra support, and it is itself the final authority, the practice of Christians throughout history is illustrative of the practice of family worship. Our modern neglect of family worship is a breaking of fellowship with the great saints of the ages.

Clement of Alexandria “enjoins upon Christian married persons united prayer and the reading of the Scriptures, as a daily morning exercise” [3]

In more modern times, Luther Rice (an associate and supporter of Adoniram Judson) would often stay in people’s homes in his travels. In his biography we read that “he went about, entering into the homes of the people, a participant with them in their table talk and in family worship” [4]. It is noteworthy that Rice’s biographer lists family worship as part of the normal routine, attesting to how common the practice was at one time. The biographer further enumerates that these family devotions include singing a hymn, reading from the Scriptures, and prayer [5].

Theological Motivations

In addition to both the Biblical necessity and the historic precedent of family worship, there are theological motivations for it:

First, all Christian parents should desire the salvation of their children. This requires teaching the Gospel to said children.

Second, husbands and wives should seek to see one another built up in the faith. This requires mutual prayer and discussion of God’s Word.

Third, falsehood and lies now abound in our society. We cannot take for granted that our family members know how to resist these, and so they must be instructed in the way of the Lord. The only way to combat lies is with truth.

Fourth, men are the head of their families, and so are required to lead them spiritually.

Fifth, children naturally ask questions. Using a catechism in family worship will engage their mind and answer many of their questions. Family worship will be a safe haven for asking real questions.

Sixth, we should do everything in our power to resist sin. Family worship is a great barrier to the spread of sin in the family.

Seventh, those who lead in the church should have experience leading in the home. Family worship is the great testing ground to see if a man is fit for leadership in the church.

Eighth, your deepest connections to others will only be cultivated and promoted by praying with and for them. If you want true intimacy with your family members, you should pray with and for one another as a family.


There are good biblical, historic, and theological motivations for the practice of family worship. While it is not common or popular in our society, we have an obligation to conform ourselves to the Word of God over the opinions of man. Christian husbands and fathers have a positive duty to lead their families in the ways of the Lord.

[1] J. H. Merle D’Aubigne, Family Worship (Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library, 2001), 4.
[2] Arthur W. Pink, “Family Worship” (Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library).
[3] Philip Schaff, The History of the Christian Church, Volume II, 333. (accessed September 29, 2014).
[4] Edward B. Pollard and Daniel Gurden Stevens, Luther Rice: Pioneer in Missions and Education (Columbia, SC: Richbarry Press), 79.
[5] Ibid., 81.

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