Do you have a habit of family devotions? Last week, three mothers shared some ways that their families gather around God’s Word. Today we hear from three more mothers.
“Into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.” The words of this prayer begin and end our days. Over the years, our family devotions have grown and adapted as our family has grown. I’d like to share a few different scenarios for worship in our family.
The following is the bare-minimum of what we do during times of travel or stress, a skeleton around which we have built the rest of our family worship. As a family, Luther’s morning prayer is said upon waking, and Luther’s evening prayer sung before bedtime. In addition, we pray before meals and make the sign of the cross on each child’s head when we tuck each one in for bed, saying, “May the Lord bless you and keep you,” reminding them of their baptisms.
Normally our family worship is fleshed out as follows. Every school day, our family gathers in our living room at 7 A.M. with our hymnaries in hand. Together, we sing at least one verse of our “hymn-of-the-week,” often nominated by the children and chosen by my husband from one of the hymns sung the previous Sunday at church. My husband reads a chapter from the Bible, following a four-year reading plan. Then, we recite Luther’s morning prayer and go about our day, preparing for breakfast and doing chores. On Saturdays, my husband usually reads aloud our chapter of Scripture during lunch, without a formal devotion. On Sundays, we head to church, and instead, do a longer devotion in the evening, summarizing and reviewing the lessons and message at church. Babies usually sit in my lap during this time, often nursing. Toddlers may quietly play or look at books. School-aged children who read are expected to participate.
There have been seasons in life when we have done longer morning devotions, including praying the Suffrages or Litany in the front of the hymnary, or we have participated together in the liturgy of Matins or Vespers. We also have done a group recitation of the catechism section. When we have time, we will sing more or all verses of our hymn. We are getting to the point, too, where sometimes one of the older children can accompany our family singing with an instrument, which is really special!
Every week for academics, each child of school age has a selection from Scripture and the Catechism to memorize and recite. As part of school, I read a Bible story or devotion book to my younger children daily, and my older children either work on their assignments from Confirmation Class or read their Bible on their own.
It is also the goal of us as parents to have our children observe both mother and father reading the Bible for themselves regularly, not just picking up the Bible as part of family devotions. However, often my husband finishes his daily reading before the children are awake. And since I do not always prioritize my own Bible readings, I am especially thankful to my husband for prioritizing our family devotions so I still hear God’s Word daily.
In the evening, we have often sat in the living room and gone around the room, each praying ex-corde, giving thanks to God for something, as well as requesting something. We sing a verse of a children’s or evening hymn, such as “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb” or “Now the Light Has Gone Away.”
We sing Luther’s Evening Prayer together, and bless the children, sending them off to bed. “Let Your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.”
Marie MacPherson, wife to Ryan, mother to six children ages 2-14
Our family has been blessed with four children whose ages range from eight months to six years old. With four young children, our devotional life is less focused on a traditional devotion book. To start our school day, we begin with prayer, memory work and a Bible story. While we use several children’s Bibles, we have found the Story Bible to work well for our young family. At supper, we close our meal with a hymn. We chose to study and learn a new hymn every month based on the church year. At the beginning of the month, we spend time during our school day studying the text, writing the stanzas and learning the melody. My husband plays the hymn on his guitar each night when we sing. This routine has proven to be one of the most joyful parts of our day and something that our children eagerly look forward to. At the end of the evening, we say our prayers. One activity that my children have especially enjoyed is praying for other families using the Christmas cards we have received that year. After Christmas, we place all the cards on a ring and use one card each night to pray for a different family. The children contribute prayer ideas and have the opportunity to practice leading a prayer. As with most things, our family devotional life is evolving. Our older children are now able to sit and listen more attentively, so we have recently begun adding a devotion to our evenings a few nights a week. It can be a challenge with two wiggly babies, but it is worth the effort.
Emily Shoop, wife to Andrew, mother to four children ages 8mo-6
For the last several years our family has fallen into a routine of daily devotions, prayer, and Bible study throughout the day. The routine has changed as our children have grown older. We have added things and removed things. We have had seasons of doing less and seasons of doing more. What we do now falls into a few different categories.
We open each day with what I call “morning time.” This usually begins during or right after breakfast and is our time for truth, goodness, and beauty. Among other things, we sing a portion of the liturgy, recite part of the catechism, sing a hymn, recite a psalm, and pray. Despite wanting to have the kids grow up learning and reading from the physical Bible and Hymn book, I decided it was easier to be consistent starting off our day this way if I had pre-printed plans. Each child who can read gets their own copy. At the beginning of the school year my husband and I pick out selections from each of the categories listed above and only rotate our selections four times a year. We like the idea of providing few but longer selections to meditate on as well as memorize. The first several weeks of each quarter I take a few minutes at the end of our morning time to delve into the meaning of a word or a portion of the liturgy to explain, but for the most part we just recite and sing the entire thing every day in unison.
For Bible Study during school, we have been using the Memoria Press Christian Studies curriculum. This program walks through the Golden Children’s Bible over several years. Based off the King James wording, this is the most beautiful and comprehensive Bible text I have seen for children. The Memoria Press curriculum guide has historical background information, vocabulary, and geography, and lays out the connection from the Old Testament to Christ in every lesson. We have been going through this very slowly and it is one of my favorite curriculum resources I have ever used. Following the Charlotte Mason method of education, I do not drill facts or fill out the worksheets that correlate with this program. The kids narrate after I read and we use the curriculum guide to discuss the text in context. Because this takes about thirty minutes we only do Bible time 2-3 times per week.
Before bed every night my husband does devotions and prayers. This changes every few months. We have not been strictly using one thing or another. At times we just pick whatever Bible story is of interest at the moment or whatever devotional book seems right for the time. During these past winter months, he read from the book of Psalms; one chapter a night. The kids narrate or answer questions when he is done. I have found that this is a perfect way to make organic connections to what we are doing in school or church. We often do a Bible book geared towards the younger kids during this time as our morning time devotions are usually geared toward the older. After devotion we say prayers, starting with Luther’s evening prayer, followed by individual petitions, and concluding with the Lord’s prayer. We end the night by reminding each child of their baptism, placing the sign of the cross on their foreheads.
Before meals we pray the common table prayer, and occasionally we do an adult devotional book after supper.
Overall, the biggest blessing of homeschooling has been that our days can be ordered around the liturgy, a routine that ebbs and flows, but most importantly a routine that is guided on the principles of sin and grace. We fall. We repent. We are forgiven. We miss devotion and Bible time. We are given another day. Consistency is sometimes boring, but I have found that in following the consistent forms of the church, we have been able to add a liturgy of life into our home that creates grounding in an otherwise unstable world.
Laura Mears, wife to Josh, mother to four children ages 2-11