The Family Altar

Author and preacher Franklin Ferguson (1866-1957) from New Zealand, who for 30 years edited The Treasury magazine, wrote a helpful article on the vital subject of “the family altar”, a term once widely employed to describe the habit of Christian families reading and praying together daily. His exhortations provide wise counsel for 21st century families too:

“There can be nothing of more importance in a Christian household than the daily reading of the Holy Scriptures, followed by prayer. Morning and evening seem to be the appropriate times. It is most suggestive that God ordained for His ancient people Israel the offering of two lambs of the first year, day by day continually, one to be offered in the morning and the other at evening. Likewise sweet incense was burned each morning and evening before the Lord (Exod 29:38-39; 30:7-8). Incense is associated with the prayers of saints (Rev 8:3). The lambs speak of Christ (1 Pet 1:19). If we wish for “the days of heaven upon the earth”, then let us give attention to family worship (Deut 11:18-21). Nearly all the troubles and sorrows befalling families is traceable to the neglect of it.

“The best time, generally, is immediately after breakfast and after tea [supper], before anybody rises from the table. The reading need not, and should not be prolonged, lest it become irksome to the child and its interest is lost. The father should take the Book in hand and reverently read the allotted portion, make a few simple comments suited to the intelligence of the children, and afterwards pray, all kneeling down. The Lord should be spoken to in a way that becomes us in addressing One so holy and so great, yet so full of love to us – the Friend that is above all others. Command attention and reverence, for in this brief moment we are approaching God. Instil into the young minds that ourselves and all we do should be committed daily to Him, thus fixing in the heart “that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6).

“Family worship is the only true preparation of the child for the dangers, snares, difficuilties and trials of life, that it may meet them successfully. “Train up a child in the way he shoud go” (Prov 22:6) is God’s all-wise appointment. No one is justified in being too busy to take a short while in bringing before the mind spiritual realities. Time is not lost but saved thereby, and things will go well throughout the day.

Let Christian parents guard this key-stone of the family arch, and thus insure the future well-being of their sons and daughters. Looking round about on the community in general, the condition of the rising generation is clearly appalling; for they know not the restraining power of the Word of God, being brought up in ignorance of it. Into this atmosphere our families are daily thrown. Therefore maintain at all cost the family worship; once a day is better than not at all but it seems to be the mind of God that it should be “morning and evening”.”