Enjoying the Journey
The term has been lost with the passing of time – and so has the use. Few people today think much about a “family altar.” Yet in days of revival in our nation the principle of families praying and worshiping together was vital. True revival does not start at the church house, it starts at our house!
The family altar does not mean that we build a physical altar in our homes. It means that we build into our schedules and routines the priority of praying with the family and talking about the Lord. The home altar is greater than the church altar in this way: it can be accessed every day!
Matthew Henry wrote, “Wherever man has a tent, God should have an altar.” In the Old Testament, Abraham practiced this principle. As he moved from place to place he erected altars to worship the Lord. And in doing so he taught his children what it meant to look to God for every need (Hebrews 11:9). Jacob learned this principle from his father, Isaac, and his grandfather, Abraham, and practiced it with his family (Genesis 35:1-7). This is a household essential in every generation.
In the New Testament, the church moved forward as prayers and the preaching of God’s Word went beyond public places into every home, “house to house” (Acts 5:42, 20:20).
I believe in corporate worship. I believe in the gathering together of the assembly. There is no substitute for the local church. The goal is not “house churches” (though that is necessary in some places due to persecution or a pioneering work) – the goal is household worship! Every Christian family should learn what it means at this time to pray and worship God together.
Norman Williams said that “the greatest Bible institute in the world is a father reading the open Bible to his family.” Think of all that can be learned and taught in the home where God’s Word is central and God’s Spirit is free to work! We need a revival of the family altar…a time where we speak to God and God speaks to us.
Last evening, like many believers in our nation, we sat as a family in our living room and watched a church service online. It is different from being there and we all agree that we can’t wait until the church can meet together again. But it was good for us. When the meeting was done we had our own family meeting to talk about what God was speaking to each of us about. Two of our children said that the Lord was showing them that there is no excuse for them not spending time with Him every day. Perhaps the reason that we never develop a family altar is that we have not truly developed a personal one. The place God has in our homes simply reveals the place He holds in our hearts.
I am deeply convicted about this myself and simply sharing a truth that God is using in my life at this time. Permit me to share a few ideas:
- Set a time and place. Choose a time that is not hurried and when everyone can be present. You don’t have to be in bondage to a time but it will help each family member remember if it is at the same time each day.
- Remove distractions. Turn off all media and lay the mobile devices down. Quiet is a wonderful thing!
- Make much of the Word of God. Each person should have their own copy of the Scriptures and follow along as it is read. With little children you have to be creative and appropriate. Use Bible stories and some sanctified imagination.
- Talk. This is one thing families fail to do in our busy world. Ask questions. Discuss what God is saying to each person.
- Pray together. Pray for each person by name and allow each member of the family to voice their prayer to God. My pastor always said that you really don’t know a person’s heart until you hear them pray. Take requests and remember to emphasize the lost, the pastor and church, missionaries, and the needs of hurting people.
We have been praying for a spiritual awakening in America. Now God has us all in our homes for an extended time. What is He saying to us?
Thomas Boston was burdened over the cold spiritual state of his church in Scotland. He began visiting in the homes of his members and dealing with them specifically about their spiritual needs. He discovered that some of his people were not even sure they were saved and many were led to Christ. In each home he read the Bible and prayed and challenged the head of the house to begin a family altar each day. In a matter of months a revival broke out in their community that filled the church house and changed the lives of people forever. It all started with a family altar.
The English Puritan, Richard Baxter followed the same pattern in his pastorate and found the same results. When people get right with God and each other at home the church moves forward. Revival starts in our hearts and homes.
Let’s pray for an old-fashion, Heaven-sent, God-honoring, sin-defeating, revival of the family altar! It may be the first step toward revival in our land.