What comes to mind when you read the words “family devotions”? Maybe you picture long hours at a table, laboring over difficult passages of Scripture. Maybe you think about having deep, meaningful conversations, and your kids keep getting distracted and out of hand. Maybe it’s something you never tried, but have been meaning to.
No matter where you land on the “family devotions” spectrum, it is a practice worth fighting for. We are called to be disciples who make disciples, and this requires giving attention, individually and collectively, to the inerrant and instructive Word of God. It requires consistency, frequency, and intentionality. So how do we bridge the gap between desiring a good thing and developing this as a good practice?
As Leo and I have prayerfully developed our own family devotional habits (I don’t say “traditions” since we haven’t been doing it that long), there are two clear commitments:
- We need to have a “follow our lead” attitude. We set the stage, we assemble the parts, and we are the most enthusiastic participants. “Devotions” shouldn’t mean something we read, but a state of being: devoted. My visible posture needs to be present and interested, just like my responses need to focus on how it applies to me. Through this, my kids learn that I submit to and delight in the Word just like I am teaching them to do. It requires modeling honesty, humility, and worship.
- We need to look for “God is greater” moments everywhere. As parents, it can be a temptation for us to primarily foster in our children an awareness of our personal love for them, rather than drawing their gaze higher up to their better parent, their heavenly Father. It can seem easier to develop a strong familial love and bond, while not developing stronger individual relationships with the Lord. We must teach our kids that lasting joy only comes from a delight in the Lord (Psalm 1). I love being with my husband and my kids and just doing things as a family. But the root of my joy cannot be in the close relationships we are developing or the fun we have. If I do that, I will find my joy ebb and flow based on how well we are relating to one another, how close I perceive us to be, and how much time we have to spend with one another.
Through the gospel, we receive provision for our physical needs and encouragement for our spiritual ones. There are so many ways to build an appreciation for this in simple reactions to everyday reality. We want them to enjoy the fun presents Daddy gets them, but remember the greatest gift-giver is their Heavenly Father. We want them to love each other as brothers, but be most grateful for their brotherhood with Jesus. We want them to look forward to spending time together with us, but to anticipate even more our eternity in Heaven.
It’s a tall task and it starts with us. It starts with leading by our own example of passionate, expressive delight in the Lord. We want our kids to see that nothing makes us happier than thinking and talking about Jesus. We want to build into our times together natural, normal meditations on the riches we have because of the gospel. Our greatest goal is to plow the field of their hearts where the seeds of the gospel will be planted, and tend to the soil so that what grows isn’t just a healthy love for our family, but a holy heart of adoration of Jesus.
So parents, more important than the plan you pick or the Scripture verses you select, pay attention to the state of your own soul. Refresh your own spirit; drink to fill your own well. And remember to be a disciplined disciple yourself, even as you prayerfully make “littler” disciples in your home. The same grace you want for them is available to you right now.