The Family Altar

Sylvia Stewart

altarinchurch"You sure have good kids!" Darla said to her friend Grace. "Did you do anything special in raising them?"

"We give the praise to the Lord," Grace replied. "Not everyone is as fortunate as we are to have children who grow up to love God. One thing we did that some people do not: We started having family prayers when our first child was only eighteen months old."

"Eighteen months!" Darla exclaimed. "That's pretty young to start learning about God, isn't it?"

Grace smiled. "Yes, it is young, but we didn't want to wait until the children were too old, either. If you have a family altar with children when they are very small, they will accept the Fatherhood of God easily. Our children started praying as soon as they could ask us for things."

"I see," Darla said. "That's good, I'm sure, but I wouldn't know how to go about starting to have family prayers. What did you do?"

Perhaps you, too, have seen the need to begin a time of family worship, but haven't known exactly what to include.

Six Components of an Effective Family Altar

Some of the components of an effective family altar are the following:

  1. A leader.
    Since the husband is the priest-figure in his home, it is best if the father can lead the worship time. However, in some Christian homes the father is absent or unwilling, so the mother will need to assume that role. Perhaps, as the children grow older, each can take a turn being the leader of the family's worship time.
  2. Time.
    Taking ten to twenty minutes in the morning or evening will not be too long for even very young children. When children become old enough for school, the worship time can be lengthened. Be flexible about the length of time for your worship. On evenings when the children are very tired, just a few minutes will suffice, without breaking the continuity of a daily worship time.
  3. Singing.
    Just as singing leads us into worship at church, so it will when we worship at home. Choruses that the children know from their Sunday school hour will help them feel comfortable. Learning new songs for their age-group is always appropriate. Sing hymns, too, if the words are not too "big" for the children.Every child's plea in prayer should be taken seriously
  4. Scripture reading and memorization.
    The Gospels read like a story for young children, especially if you use a modern language version. Memorizing Scripture will allow each family member to take God's Word with them throughout the day. Even very young children can memorize short passages.
  5. Worship and thanksgiving.
    Praising God for His goodness and giving thanks to Him for everyday blessings will help the family to be more grateful for each other. Complimenting each other will be easier. Giving thanks each day will help family members to be alert to the blessings of life. No matter how difficult a family's life is, there are always reasons for which to be grateful to God.
  6. Requests and prayer.
    Children's prayer requests may seem amusing to teens and adults, but every child's plea in prayer should be taken seriously. If a child's appeal is laughed at when he or she is small, that child may withdraw from any form of prayer or worship when reaching adulthood. Remind the family that God hears and answers every prayer, whether it is voiced in one's heart or at the family altar.

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