I grew up with family devotions. My parents read Egermeier’s Bible Story Book to us in the evenings when we were small. We learned the little prayer, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.” As we grew, so did family devotions time, and I confess I was a very impatient girl. Why spend so much time with prayer requests, if you had to start all over later and pray for those things? Why not just do the praying and get it over with?
Not a good attitude, but maybe I was typical. Maybe—make that certainly—my heart attitude wasn’t where it needed to be. I felt rebellious about the whole idea of family devotions.
So, when our kids were little, we tried not to let devotions drag on, get long, and cause impatience. Let me share a few ideas. (Most of these we tried on our own guinea pigs.)
1. Have devotions at the table after dinner. This is a win-win. The kids are with you at the table. (You don’t have to call them to come; everyone is already together, plus everyone’s fed and happy.) Take time to talk and pray and read the Bible. Keep the Bible reading time proportionate to the ages of your children.
2. Change it up. Sometimes, my husband would read a devotional from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening. Sometimes, it would be a page from Our Daily Bread. On other days, it would be a passage straight from Scripture. We tried not to get in too much of a routine.
3. Do Deuteronomy 6:5-7. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Notice two important points:
Notice two important points:
- It starts with you. Love God with all your heart, soul, and might. Know the Bible and take it to heart.
- Teach Bible precepts to your children all day long. (I loved homeschooling, since it gave us the opportunity to be with our kids all day. But, even if you send your children to school, you can teach biblical principles in a flowing natural way when you are with them. This means you need to understand practical applications of God’s Word, first.)
4. Make prayer an integral part of your daily life. Children learn to rely on God when they watch Mother and Daddy pray. Pray about every situation of life. Pray for a parking spot. Pray for something to turn out well. Pray for strength. Pray for sick people. Pray for help in a task. Do it openly and out loud. Let your kids watch you pray, and ask them to join you in prayer. When children see praying, answers to prayer, and praise for answered prayer, they learn to pray effectively.
5. Let kids participate. As soon as Suzy and Johnny can read, they can read a Bible verse or two. Talk about the verse(s) afterwards. Discuss how to make the verse practical for them. Sing hymns together.
6. Even before they can read, they can memorize Scripture. Memorize key verses that will help them learn to honor and obey God. Ephesians 6:1, Psalm 23; Psalm 100; Psalm 1, and John 3:16 are good passages for starters. Does your child get anxious? Philippians 4:6-7. Is your child a scaredy cat? Psalm 56:3. Does your son or daughter always ask “why”? (I’m not talking about three-year-olds, here—older children who need to know why.) Proverbs 3:5-6. There are many more that will help your child form a biblical understanding. Memorize Scripture together as a family. You can do this while working together in the kitchen or as part of your devotional time just after dinner. You can go over Bible verses in the car. It’s amazing how easy it is for very small children (three and four year-olds) to memorize portions of Scripture.
7. Apply the Bible. While I’m not at all opposed to Bible quiz teams, Bible trivia contests, games, and other Bible knowledge efforts, I’ve observed that many young people can quote a passage and know the numbers and facts, but they have no grasp on the practical applications of what they’ve spent hours learning. I firmly believe that it’s way more important to understand the practical applications of the Bible than only the facts. They need to know their Bible stories and certain facts, yes! But, they also need to understand what Jesus was teaching when He said, of such is the kingdom of God. Why does every person need to go to Jesus like a child? What does that mean? It’s important to know! People need to know how to live what they know. Application is important for all your family.
8. Share the gospel. The whole message of the Bible is the gospel. From before the foundation of the earth, God planned to save sinful man. 1 Corinthians 15:3b-4 defines the gospel like this: how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. Help your children know what Jesus did, why His death was necessary, and how to repent of their sins and place their faith in Him for salvation. Do not push them. Just make sure they hear the gospel. When the Holy Spirit opens their understanding, they can respond. After your children have accepted Christ as their Savior, make sure the gospel is always in their minds, so they can share Jesus with their friends.
9. Be creative. Especially when your children are small, think of interesting ways to teach the Bible. Will they enjoy a game? Will they learn by acting out the story? Maybe use some coloring pages? Do different things along the way. Make the learning fun.
10. Show love. Time around the Word of God and in prayer should be a special time with family love. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him (1 John 3:7-9).
When you see impatience in your children at family devotions, try to find out what’s causing it.
- Does your child have something he needs to do, and he thinks he won’t have time?
- Is it true that family devotions are dragging? (Too many prayer requests, very long Bible passage for little children, an obscure passage to understand—like the begats in Genesis or 1 Chronicles.) Can we act something out to make the Bible passage come alive? Do we have a book with pictures? Can we mention a prayer request or two and immediately pray? Can we choose Bible or devotional readings that will be practical for your children?
- Let everyone in the family discuss biblical truths. Listen, and make sure everyone has a part.
Sharing Jesus with our children, reading the Word together as a family, and praying together is fundamental to training our children. God help us make family devotions a delight.
What ideas can you share? What worked in your family?