Establishing a Family Altar
by Tesh Njokanma
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When does your family gather to pray and fellowship together? Is it when there is a special occasion such as a landmark birthday? Is it when there are bills to be paid and there’s nothing in your account? Is it when your child is seriously ill or some other crisis hits your family? The word of the Lord in Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deut. 6:4-7). This scripture teaches that worship of the Lord should not just be on Sundays or Tuesdays but in the home and with the whole family involved.
If a census were to be taken today of Christian homes, we would discover that just about 20 per cent of Christian families pray together. It is amazing that few families’ even families of great men and women of God don’t take seriously the need for a family to gather together unto the Lord. But someone may ask, ‘I know it is good to pray and I believe in prayer, but can’t the individual prayer time of each family member suffice? Does the entire family have to gather together to pray, especially as we have different work schedules, different views on prayer, different needs and desires?’ Private or personal devotion is great but it can’t take the place of family devotion. Busyness, indifference, diverging views on prayer and the likes are keeping so many families from praying together. The result is that little cracks are daily being opened up for the devil to come in and wreck havoc in homes and families. And any damage done to the family affects the church and also the society at large.
What is a family altar? Is it a part of the house that is built and designed to have some semblance with the kind of altars we have in churches? A family altar is simply having the presence of God abiding and filling your home. It is creating an opportunity for family members to come together and bring their needs, burdens and concerns to God. It is crowning Jesus as the King and Lord of your home.
This family gathering could take place in the bedroom, living room, dining room or any part of the house that can accommodate your family. It shouldn’t be a long prayer time or a mini church service, but a consistent time no matter how short where God is adored and appreciated and His help and direction is sought. It must also be a flexible gathering of God’s people in the home; flexible enough to accommodate the different prayer styles or preferences of each member. And very importantly it should be kept simple; simple enough to appeal to all age levels and all spiritual levels in the family. A family time of prayer with young children of ages 3 to 5 is not the time to start dissecting Revelation 10 to 13. If you do this, your children will just be lost.
One of the biggest hindrances to a consistent family altar more than even the busyness or diverging views on prayer each member may have, are the things that happen after the family gathers together to pray. In other words, the lifestyle of family members affect how those in that home will respond to the family altar. How do the father, mother and children in that home live their lives? You can’t expect your child to have much regard, respect and interest in a family altar if after a time of prayer, what the child sees is a father who verbally or physically abuses his wife. Or a very quarrelsome mother who always seems to want to prove that she’s the one in charge. Let’s not even take it that far, ‘little white lies’ like tell the carpenter I am not at home when you are can put off your child from the family altar. The whole essence of Christ wanting to be in our home and have us commune with Him is so that we can live the life and walk the talk, not just talk the talk.
The family altar will not guarantee that your family never faces any difficulty or hardship, it may not instantly solve all the problems in your family, but if it is done seriously and with a right heart, it will certainly bring the ark of God; the presence of God into your home and build faith and confidence in God. What better thing than to daily have God’s abiding presence in your home to help, shield and guide your family.
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