With four children aged 7 to 15, we understand how chaotic breakfast can be, and how tiring dinner can be. Reading the Bible and praying together as a family can often feel like a real struggle.

And yet, family devotions at our breakfast or dinner times have been immensely valuable. By family devotions, we mean reading the Bible, briefly discussing it, and praying together.

Some of us might feel a pang of guilt at this point for not doing family devotions as regularly as you’d like—or not doing them at all.

This article, however, isn’t meant to burden us—it’s for us to pause and consider family devotions afresh, with God’s grace in mind. Unlike feelings of guilt, fear, or obligation, God’s grace can motivate long-lasting and meaningful change.

So, let’s start with the most basic question of all: why even bother with family devotions?

Give Us This Day 18

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Feeding Our Children Spiritual Bread

When our children are born, they know nothing. New sights, sounds, flavours, and people are introduced to them, and gradually they form an understanding of the world.

God, who gave life to our children, wants them to know Him.

Christian parenting, then, is the happy privilege of introducing our children to their Creator.

Perhaps you find yourself praying: “Lord, please work in the hearts and minds of our children.” But how does God do that? And, where does faith come from?

Sharing God’s Word can be like providing a meal. It may not seem spectacular. But just as we don’t remember what we ate last week or last year, those ordinary meals sustained us.

Theologians recognise the Bible as the first means of grace. That is, the Bible is the means through which God regularly and dependably does His powerful work in our lives.

So, just as we would never expect children to grow without food, we must likewise feed them with God’s Word so they can grow spiritually.

In both the Old and New Testaments, God’s Word is the powerful way through which He guides and blesses His people. Notice the lovely, nourishing image of God’s Word, as Moses urges Israel to love and obey God’s voice:

“Let my teaching fall like rain

and my words descend like dew,

like showers on new grass,

like abundant rain on tender plants . . .

They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.”
—Deuteronomy 32:2, 47

We might pray: “Lord, make Your Word fall like spiritual rain on our children. Make them healthy and strong in You and Your ways. May these saplings grow to become mighty trees—men and women devoted to their great God!”

Christian parenting is the happy privilege of introducing our children to their Creator.

Scripture is the way He engages the heads and hearts of His children. And all of Scripture points to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Malnutrition

If our children have not been nourished with a good understanding of His Word and of our Lord Jesus, and if their diet has only been an occasional chat, bedtime prayers, and Sunday school lessons, then we can expect to see the distressing signs of malnutrition.

Without God’s Word, we slip into our default worldly mode—such as focusing on their grades at school, their musical or sporting achievements, and their behaviour. And the good news of Jesus is drowned out in the noise of life.

Fellow parents, God wants to be known and embraced! He wants His character understood and trusted. He has so many good and life-giving promises to inspire and strengthen our children.

Let’s not withhold God’s wonderful Word from them.

As parents, we are privileged to be God’s vessels for teaching our children His Word.

Jesus prays for His disciples: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). As parents, we are privileged to pray the same thing for our children, and to be God’s vessels for teaching them His Word.

The good news is that God works powerfully through Christian parents who raise their kids in His way.

Christian growth is not automatic; it still relies utterly on God’s grace. But the means God ordinarily uses for the gracious work of His Spirit is His Word.

Three Tips (Not Rules) That We’ve Found Helpful

Tip 1: Keep it simple

The family devotion is not a lecture, nor is it a time to rebuke the kids about their behaviour.

Rather, it is a time we all sit humbly before God and listen to Him. Keep it simple. Aim for 5 minutes to start with, or 2 minutes if your children are little. Read a verse or a short passage, and try to stop before they start wishing you would.

Our kids happily listen to the Bible while they are eating. This is much easier for them than sitting still before or after their meal.

After the Bible reading, we would ask our younger children: “What did you notice?” and “What do you wonder?”.

With older children, we might ask them to summarise the passage in their own words, or to share what they’ve learnt about God or about ourselves. Then we would pray.

Tip 2: Variety is the spice of life, so mix things up

We use both the Bible itself as well as Christian children’s resources.

We have found kids’ Bibles to be especially helpful for children 8 years and under.
The pictures and stories engage them, but unfortunately they also avoid unpleasant but important themes such as God’s judgment (for example, the story of Noah depicted in kids’ Bibles often leaves out the devastating judgment of God).

When using kids’ resources, be aware that they often teach moralism (“be good!”) rather than to present the gospel of God’s grace (“trust Jesus for forgiveness!”).

Sometimes, we read books that convey biblical truth, such as The Pilgrim’s Progress (keep a dictionary close by!), A Young Person’s Guide to Knowing God (by Patricia St. John), as well as writings of Christian missionaries.

As you choose the right resource for family devotions, try not to underestimate your children’s ability to understand the Bible.

To our surprise, when our child was 3 years old, he loved having us read through Genesis, and 1 and 2 Samuel with him.

The themes can be confronting, and you may need to be ready to explain some difficult truths or return to some chapters at a later time. Moving regularly from the gospels to narrative to psalms offers the variety of Scripture itself.

Tip 3: If it feels like hard work, that’s okay—press on!

Sharing God’s Word can be like providing a meal. It may not seem spectacular. But just as we don’t remember what we ate last week or last year, those ordinary meals sustained us.

With the Spirit’s help, children raised with God’s Word become mature disciples of Jesus.

Christian disciplines are like this. From little things, big things grow—babies become adults, saplings become trees. And with the Spirit’s help, children raised with God’s Word become mature disciples of Jesus.

We were both blessed to be raised by Christian parents who opened God’s Word with us. God graciously used their efforts, and we grew to love the Lord Jesus.

How are your family devotions going? What changes can you make today so that God is regularly speaking through His Word to your children?

David and Ashleigh have three sons and a daughter. They like to get out of the house together to play or watch sport, finding pools or beaches, and meeting their church and extended families. They count it a blessing to be living on campus among the Sydney Missionary & Bible College community.
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