Erecting Family Altars
I. What is a Family Altar?
A Family Altar is a spiritual practice where family members come together regularly in a pre-determined place to:
- Exalt God through praise & worship;
- Enjoy His Word by reading and sharing; and
- Encourage one another through prayer.
II. Why Should We Erect Family Altars?
A. Ascribe glory to the Lord our God.
28 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! 29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. (1 Chronicles 16:28-29, ESV)
20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in His heart, (Genesis 8:20-21a, ESV)
- Genesis 8:20 is the first time the word altar is used in the Bible.
- It was Noah who erected the first family altar to commemorate God’s saving act for him and his family, the animals and birds (two by two).
18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark. (Genesis 8:18-19, ESV)
21 “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:21-22, ESV)
B. Listen to One Another
Listening, or more importantly, careful listening by parents is key to understanding your child’s heart i.e. his|her feelings, fears and frustrations. It will give you the wisdom to re-establish your child’s self-esteem and relationship with you especially after he|she has been crushed by life’s pressures and|or your miscommunication.
Therefore consider carefully how you listen. (Luke 8:18)
Give undivided attention to the person who is talking because he|she is worth your listening to. Remember that you are sons and daughters of God’s royal family.
C. Teach and Tell the Next Generation
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NIV)
1 My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old— 3 things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done. 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which He commanded our ancestors to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. (Psalm 78:1-6, NIV)
D. Activate the Development of Faith and Obedience
7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands. 8 They would not be like their ancestors—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to Him. (Psalm 78:7-8, NIV)
Having been reminded of the sincere faith that is in you; which lived first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and, I am persuaded, in you also. (2 Timothy 1:5)
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15, NIV)
E. Release Prayers For One Another
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16, ESV)
“The answer to today’s disintegrating family is a spontaneous lifestyle of prayer. Prayer involves God, acknowledging Him as Director of our families. Only God has the power to reach down and complete the final healing step that mends the broken family members.” - Evelyn Christenson, What Happens When We Pray For Our Families
The family that prays together stays together!
III. Sample Family Altar Time
- 1. Start as early as possible when your children are young.
- 2. Be realistic with your plan. E.g. when one member is sick or overseas.
- 3. Ensure that your environment is conducive.
- 4. Choose a good family devotional guide and complete it unless family members agree to change it after a while or when there are different needs.
A Sample Format
- i. Greet our Triune God.
- ii. Praise & worship the Lord with 1-2 songs.
- iii. Read a passage of God’s Word using a family devotional guide.
- iv. Talk about what it says and means and how you can put into practice what God has shown you.
- v. Share prayer thanksgiving and needs and then pray for one another
- vi. End with the Lord's Prayer or the Aaronic Blessing, followed by a family hug.
NB: Avoid making it into a time of disciplining.
A good practice when reading God’s Word:
- At the end of the reading, the last reader says: “This is the Word of the Lord.”
- Family members reply: “Thanks be to God.”
Blessing of Psalm 20:1-5
May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; May the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May He remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests.
The Lord's Prayer
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (The Lord’s Prayer - Matthew 6:9-13, ESV)
NB: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.” is not in the original biblical text. It’s added later as a prayer ending.
The Aaronic Blessing (based on Numbers 6:24-26)
__________ (Name), the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His face towards you and give you peace, protection, healing, _________, obedience to daddy, mommy, grandpa, grandma, godpa, godma and Jesus. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Resources for Family Altars, Devotions and Prayer
- The Treasure Box - www.thetreasurebox.sg
- Big Bible Challenge by Scripture Union - https://www.su.org.sg/product-page/big-bible-challenge-to-order-contact-resources-su-org-sg
- Planting Seeds of Biblical Truth - https://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/planting-seeds-of-biblical-truth-52-weekly-devotions-for-your-family/
- On-The-Go Devotions by Focus on the Family - https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/on-the-go-devotions/
- Twenty Verses in 2020 - https://www.seedsfamilyworship.com/twenty-verses-in-2020/