- In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
- In light of Jesus’ return, how can you grow in faithful prayer, love, hospitality, or service?
- What ways of thinking are currently hurting your ability to pray?
- What is the difference between passing by an offence (Prov 19:11) and covering a sin (1 Peter 4:8)? What happens when a church holds onto offences but ignores sin?
- Why is love a primary requirement for the church?
- How have you benefited from the hospitality of others?
- Looking at the next two-three weeks, who can you invite into your home to share a simple meal? Make that invitation.
- How can you help your family be more hospitable? What work can you contribute?
- Is your spiritual gift in the speaking/word category or the serving/deed category?
- If you increased your hospitality, how could you also use your gift more?
- We depend on God through prayer. How does praying before, praying during, and praying after the use of your gift look in your situation?
- Why does all glory and dominion belong to God? Worship God!
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 1 Peter 4:7
Wayne Grudem gives some good advice in his commentary on 1 Peter 4:7, “Christians should be alert to events and evaluate them correctly in order to be able to pray more intelligently. Peter’s words also imply that prayer based on knowledge and mature evaluation of a situation is more effective prayer (otherwise there would be no relationship between being ‘sane and sober’ and one’s prayers). TNTC, 57
- In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
- Who’s the boss in your home (who’s attitude and actions set the tone for the family)? Does anything need to change here to reflect Jesus as the boss?
- What hesitations or doubts do you have about Christianity? Who can you talk with to help you think through what the Bible says about these difficulties?
- Why is the resurrection of Jesus the demonstration of his power over all things?
- Where do you struggle to believe Jesus is exercising his sovereign rule? What questions do you need to ask about this situation and your interpretation of it?
- What does it look like for you to make disciples? How are you sharing the life and joy of Jesus with others?
- Who is on your most wanted list? List three people you are seeking to win to Christ.
- Baptism marks at least three truths. First, the one being baptized is in a covenant relationship with God through repentance and faith. Second, the one being baptized is united to Jesus through repentance and faith. Third, the one being baptized has received the Holy Spirit who enables a new life of holiness. Have you been baptized? Why or why not?
- Who is teaching you to obey Jesus? Who are you teaching to obey Jesus?
- Why is the presence of Christ necessary for us to fulfill the mission of Christ?
- How is your current practice of family worship making disciples? What needs to improve?
- Looking at your interactions with your children or grandchildren, what do you want them to become?
Main Point: Praying together is an essential part of family worship.
If four bankers live in a home, does that make that home a bank? No. In order to be a bank, those people must engage in banking there in that place. If four Christians live in a home, does that place become a Christian home? No. In order to be a Christian home, those people must engage together in the worship of God.
Jason Helopoulos asks these penetrating questions about bankers and Christians in his book, A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home (page 26). Jason writes, “A few Christians living under the same roof does not make a place a Christian home any more than two or three bankers living in a house makes it a bank. A Christian home will seek to be centered upon Christ, and if it is centered on Christ, then it will be filled with worship. As a Christian’s life should be marked by setting time apart for secret worship, and just as our gathering together as the Christian community should be centered upon corporate worship, so should the home of a Christian family be marked by family worship.”
So, what is worship? Put simply, worship is a right response to God. Worship is the right response to God who is revealed perfectly in Jesus Christ. Worship includes listening, singing, praying, obeying, working, eating, and drinking. Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). John Piper helps us here when he writes, “This is worship: to act in a way that shows the heart’s valuing of the glory of God and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Or…worship means consciously knowing and treasuring and showing the supreme worth and beauty of God” (Expository Exultation, 27).
Read, sing, pray,
Think, work, rest, play,
Eat, drink in such a way
That faithfully puts on display
The infinite worth of God.
Gather together in such a way that displays your joy in God.
Piper labors in his book, Expository Exultation, to prove that worship is not simply something we ought to do; worship is something that is fitting to do. We were made to live in glad dependence upon God because we are weak, and he is strong. We are empty and God is overflowing with sufficiency. We are darkness and he is light. We are are marred by death and God is eternal life. We are ignorant and God is all-knowing. Psalm 33:1 says, “Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.” It is right to worship God because he is good and does good.
Psalm 78:4 says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” And why will we be bold and joyful in our telling of God’s greatness? Yes, it is so that our children and grandchildren can be saved. But deeper still, we are bold and joyful in our telling of God’s greatness so that the children and grandchildren of this church will worship God.
Family worship provides a daily opportunity for moms and dads to gather the family to listen to, sing to, pray to, and work out obedience to God. I offer this call to families to worship together because it is fitting for the upright to praise the God who is there and who is good. I want to narrow our focus now and issue a more specific call to pray together as a regular part of your family worship.
I can only introduce or remind you of these ideas, but I want to strengthen the foundation of family prayer by giving reasons to pray to God, reasons to pray through Jesus, reasons to pray by the Holy Spirit, and finally, reasons to pray together as a family.
Our call to prayer comes from Ephesians 6:10-18
I. Reasons to pray to God
Let’s start with this simple question: What is prayer to God? Prayer to God is talking to God about his Word and your situation. And we pray because
- God knows
God knows everything. God knows the number of hairs on everyone’s heads (Mt 10:30). God knows the number of hairs on all the feral pigs in Texas. God knows your thoughts and your plans and your hopes (1 Chron 28:9; Ps 139). God knows your words before you say them (Ps 139:4). The beginning of all things is in the knowledge of God and the end of all things is in the knowledge of God (Is 46:10).
And God knows how everything is made to work. The Creator of all things made all things for a purpose. The Maker of male and female knows how we males are to live and how you females are to live. God made sexuality, marriage, work, rest, music, logic, church, and government. Listening to God’s Word, we look at our circumstances, and we talk to God. God speaks to us through the Bible and we speak to God through prayer. We pray because God knows, and we pray because
- God cares
Believing 1 Peter 5:7 is essential for prayer. 1 Peter 5:7 calls us to cast all our anxieties on God because he cares for us. But how do we know God cares for us because often it feels like he does not? What are the unchanging proofs of his love? Jesus tells us to look at the sunrise each day and know that sunshine is evidence of his love (Mt 5:45). The rain falling is proof of God’s care for us all. So, don’t look to your Christmas list as reason to pray; look at the sun rising and pray. God is doing that for us all.
Deeper still, look at the cross as evidence of God’s love. Romans 5:8 points us to the cross, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 8:32 calls us to pray in secret, in our homes, and together as the church, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.” Pray to the God who has already given you his best. Surely, he will give you what is good.
We pray because God cares for us and wants to do good to us. We pray in order to ask for those things and we pray because we often don’t understand why God hasn’t given us our requests. “Why, O Lord?” and “How long O Lord?” are prayers of faith to the God who cares.
Now, what underwrites God’s knowledge and God’s care is God’s sovereignty. We pray because
- God is sovereign
As a person who is glad to affirm the sovereign rule of God over every square inch, there are two passages that help me understand God’s sovereignty and prayer. Philippians 2:12 says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Ephesians 1:11 tells us God works all things according to the counsel of his will.
The Bible paints a picture of God drawing us, giving us ability, teaching us, opening our eyes, enlivening us, and giving us new hearts. So, God is working around us and in us so that we willing choose to go his way. We can fight against him, as we do each time we sin, but God is working his plan and will bring his plan to his intended goal.
In light of God’s sovereignty, prayer is not meaningless but is exceedingly meaningful because it is through prayer that I become aligned with God’s will. Through the Word (God speaking to me) and prayer (me speaking to God), I become aligned with God’s will the easy way. When I talk to God about all things and when I measure all things against God’s will revealed in God’s Word, then sin is more easily avoided, and obedience is more easily identified. I pray because I would rather God work my hunger for righteousness according to the counsel of his will then for God to work my disobedience according to the counsel of his will.
God has a plan and God will surely accomplish his plan. The question is if you will fight and lose or if you will pursue and gain the good? Through prayer we pursue God and gain the good. So, pray and lead your family to pray.
II. Reasons to pray through Jesus
And, what is prayer through Jesus? Prayer through Jesus is a person’s clear, intentional, and explicit dependence upon Jesus for the ability to live life with God. Jesus is the vehicle, credentials, and sonship through which we have access to life with God.
- Jesus is the only way to the Father
John 14:6 tells us that Jesus is the only way to the Father, no one gets to the Father except through Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5 tells us that there is only one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.
The reason you and I pray to the Father through Jesus is because there is no other way to pray to the Father. We pray in Jesus’ name because he is the only mediator for humanity. Mary, the mother of Jesus, cannot get you a hearing with God. There is no saint who can get you a hearing with God. We go to the Father in Jesus’ name because Jesus is the beloved and therefore heard Son of God.
You cannot get to Barak Obama, but Malia can get to him. You cannot get to Donald Trump, but Donald Jr. can get you in. This is because of the access of family. Jesus is the only Son of the Father. Our access, our sonship, our rights as children of God, are based solely on the person and work of Jesus. The only way to get to God the Father is through God the Son. Depend on Jesus. Pray in Jesus’ name knowing
- God hears the prayers of the righteous
James 5:16, “the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective.” So, the prayers of an unrighteous person are powerless and without effect. We need to be made righteous! Isaiah 59:2 says, “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
We pray in Jesus’ name because we need him to make us righteous. Praying in Jesus’ name is believing he alone is the reason you are heard. Jesus took your iniquities that separate you from God and Jesus took your sins that keep your prayers from being heard. In Jesus, believing in Jesus, trusting Jesus means you are depending on him for righteousness. We pray through Jesus because he is the righteous One who makes us righteous. Being righteous with Jesus makes us capable of prayers that are powerful and effective.
Every now and again, after you hear your children pray “in Jesus’ name. Amen” ask them what they mean by that. Teach your children why we pray in Jesus’ name and teach your children
- The Father’s goal is to glorify the Son
Jesus promises us, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” That’s John 14:13. Jesus said something very similar in John 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Access to the Father through the Son and being clothed in the powerful and effective righteousness of the Son, are both for the purpose of lining us up with the Father’s plan to glorify the Son. God saved you to make much of Jesus. Salvation is for worship.
Think about your job. The owner of the company does not hire you so you can do whatever you want. You are hired to help accomplish the mission. Think about what it means to be made in the image of God and through salvation to be brought back more and more into an accurate reflection of the image of God. God has not redeemed you so you can do whatever you want but so that you will live as an accurate reflection of the image of God.
We are distorted and small image bearers; Jesus is the perfect image of God. What I am saying is, God’s plan is for you and me to listen to his Word and through prayer be made more and more like Jesus. God wants us to pray about our fear, anger, and selfishness so that we will look more like Jesus.
Through prayer we are made to look more like Jesus. Through prayer we confess our sin and ask for his righteousness. When you and I become like Jesus we put his glory on display. We glorify Jesus when we love like Jesus and serve like Jesus and pursue the right like Jesus.
Lead your family to pray in Jesus’ name and lead your family to pray to become more like Jesus; by this the Father is glorified in the Son. We pray because of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So, let’s think about
III. Reasons to pray by the Holy Spirit
First, what is prayer by the Holy Spirit? Prayer by the Holy Spirit is the sheer grace of God by which the Spirit prays to the Father according to the knowledge of God’s will for ignorant fools like me. We need the Spirit because
- We often don’t know what to pray for
Talking to a teenager, a common answer is, “I don’t know.” The work of the Holy Spirit is evidence that we really never grow out of that ignorance. Romans 8:26 says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
I haven’t done this with my children but studying God’s Word shows me that I need to teach my children how to pray for the Spirit’s help when they don’t know how to pray. God has graciously given us the Spirit because the Spirit knows the will of God and will pray for us and lead us according to the will of God. When you begin praying, ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. We need help because we are ignorant and
- We are often weak in energy and affection
Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Yes, if your diet is terrible and you’re tired then you will have a hard time keeping up with God in prayer. But Jesus is pushing us further than “eat right and go to bed on time.” There are spiritual resources to help our weaknesses. When you find yourself falling asleep, ask for the Spirit to give you strength and power. When you feel your heart is cold or numb, pray for the Holy Spirit to work in you to love the things of God. The Spirit has been given to you to help you pray; depend on him.
Parents, we are right to tell our children to trust Jesus because we can do nothing without him. Let’s do the same with the Holy Spirit. Let us lead our children to depend on the Spirit to lead us according to the Son to the Father. Let’s pray together in our homes. Here are
IV. Reasons to pray as a family
Psalm 78:5 says, “God established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach their children” These fathers teach so that ultimately this generation and generations to come “should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”
Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord.” You see, this is gloriously more than spank your disobedient child. This is teach your child to set his hope in God and be mindful of God and obey God. Fathers, we want our children to worship God. Lead your family to worship.
What then is family prayer? Family prayer is that time when we gather together to praise God for who he is, thank him for what he has done, confess sins we have committed, and ask God for his help. Here are some reasons to pray together as a family.
- Prayer is worship and worship is fitting for the upright
The person who never worships is the person who has never seen God. To feel one’s needs and to see God’s sufficiency is to be led to pray. The teaching and confession part of family worship sets up the prayers. Seeing our needs and God’s sufficiency leads us to pray. We should pray together as a family because we are looking at God together as a family. I hope this point has already been established, here is a new reason to pray together as a family
- Family unity is strengthened through prayer
This is the day of silent suffering with each family member in solitary confinement with a screen or earbuds. To gather together to pray with and for one another is to necessarily hear one another’s joys and sorrows. A need voiced in family prayer is then taken individually into each person’s secret prayer. Conversations begin and encouragement can be offered. We pray together as families because we know one another, love one another, and care for one another. How can a Christian family do this but through prayer?
To put the truth another way,
- Prayer for one another is necessary
I used Ephesians 6 as our call to prayer. I end with it now, “pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Fathers, your prayers for your children are necessary. Let them hear those prayers. Mothers, your prayers for your children are necessary. Let them hear those prayers. Children, your prayers for your parents are necessary. Let them hear those prayers. We are each daily in a battle. May our homes be filled with fighting as we fight for one another in prayer. Conquerors are formed in secret prayer, corporate prayer, and family prayer.
Let us each make progress. Start by praying together and for one another before a shared meal. When that prayer is common, add a short Scripture reading. When prayer and a short reading are common, add a song of praise. When prayer, reading, and praise are common, add a brief word of explanation. Fathers, bring your children up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. Lead them in family worship.
God we praise you because you know us, you care for us, and you are sovereign over all the details of our lives. Help us. Help us to pray depending on Jesus. He is with you and you cherish him. We come to you in Jesus’ name. Make our prayers powerful and effective. Make our prayers for the salvation of our children and grandchildren powerful and effective. Make our prayers for love and unity in our homes powerful and effective. And please give us the Holy Spirit so we can know what to pray for and what to do. Give us the Holy Spirit because we are weak. In all of life we thank you that we are no longer slaves but you call us sons, daughters, and friends. Amen.
- In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
- What makes a home a “Christian home”?
- How do you define worship?
- How does the fact that God knows all things, cares for you, and is sovereign encourage you to pray?
- What is the significance of John 14:6 and 1 Timothy 2:5 for prayer?
- We glorify Jesus when we become more and more like Jesus. How can prayer help you take one step toward becoming more like God the Son?
- Read Romans 8:26. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our praying? How does this encourage prayer?
- How do your diet and sleep habits affect prayer? What changes can you make to encourage a more Christ-like prayer life?
- How do Psalm 78:5-7 and Ephesians 6:4 encourage fathers to teach their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren to pray?
- How does praying together as a family strengthen family unity?
- How do you plan to encourage family prayer in your home?
Read, sing, pray,
Think, work, rest, play,
Eat and drink in such a way
To faithfully put on display
The infinite worth of God.
I found this section in A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (pg 869) to be especially helpful. When it comes to praying together as a family, how should we pray?
Pray for the church, the nation, the family, and each member…
Be short. With few exceptions, don’t pray for more than five minutes. Tedious prayers do more harm than good. Don’t teach in your prayer; God doesn’t need the instruction. Be simple without being shallow. Pray for things that your children know something about, but don’t allow your prayer to become trivial. Don’t reduce your prayers to self-centered, shallow petitions.
Be direct. Spread your needs before God, plead your case, and ask for mercy. Name your teenagers and children and their needs one by one on a daily basis. Be natural yet solemn. Speak clearly and reverently. Stir up your heart to take hold of God (Isa. 64:7). Sleepy prayers will put your children to sleep. Doolittle advised heads of households to “come to prayer with a lively heart, and quickened affections yourselves; your heat might warm them.”
Be varied. Don’t pray the same thing every day; that becomes tedious. Develop more variety in prayer by remembering and stressing the various ingredients of true prayer, such as calling upon God to hear your prayers, adoring God for His titles and attributes, declaring your humble dependence and need, confessing family sins, asking for family mercies (both material and spiritual), interceding for friends and churches and nations, giving thanks for God’s blessings, and blessing God for his kingdom and glory. Mix these ingredients with different portions to get variety in your prayers.