Mar 18, 2020

Read, Sing, Pray

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I recently watched several videos of people in Italy singing from their balconies with their neighbors, and playing instruments—guitars, clarinets, accordions, even pots and pans. It’s not a normal part of Italian culture as far as I know, but it is one way the Italian people have found to come together and encourage one another in the midst of a nationwide coronavirus quarantine.

Music can bring people together and lift spirits. But consider how much more when the Creator who designed music and every human heart fills those hearts with His Spirit to unite and encourage His people as we declare our hope in Him. That’s why we sing together every week.

This past Sunday, the plan was to begin our worship service by reading God’s Word, and then to sing together:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;

Our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.

But as you know, things don’t always go according to plan. We as pastors made the decision on Saturday morning not to gather as a church in light of the coronavirus health concerns. It was not an easy decision, but one we believed was best for individual church members, and for our community. While it seems that this could go on for some time, I want to encourage and even exhort you not to neglect worship—both personally and with your family.

We have committed to each other in our church covenant: “We will endeavor to maintain family and personal devotions.” For many this is a practice that you’ve been doing and will be able to continue, possibly even devoting a little more time to it as you’re together more in your home. For others, I’d like to encourage you to begin doing this today. I want to encourage you to spend time each week, and even to set aside time each day for family devotions—worshiping the Lord together.

It might feel awkward at first, but here are three simple steps from one of my teachers in seminary—Donald Whitney—that can help guide you and your family as you worship. Each can be as brief or as long as seems best for your family.

Read—Read a passage of appropriate length for your family. Those with younger children should emphasize the narrative portions of Scripture, and possibly the Proverbs. Eventually, most seem to work up to about a chapter a day, reading consecutively through a particular book of the Bible.

Pray—Let the words of the passage you read suggest matter for prayer. Perhaps one or all of the family members can pray. Most days this will be brief.

Sing—Use a hymnal and sing acappella, or sing along to a recording, or let a family musician lead the way. Sing as little as one verse, or for as long as the family enjoys it.

“Any order of “read, pray, sing” is fine. It doesn’t have to be long to be effective. Be patient with the interest and attention span of the younger ones. Remember that you’re not only fulfilling a responsibility to God by leading family worship, you’re also introducing your children to Him. In these moments together, your children can see your love for God and for His Word, and some of the most teachable moments of their childhood will occur. So start family worship in your home today. It doesn’t matter when you have worship. For some, early morning is best. For others, it’s mealtime, and for still others, it’s bedtime. Just start. Whether you’ve been married fifty years or newly engaged, just start. Keep it simple, and keep it up” (source: biblicalspirituality.org).

I know some who are reading this may live alone. I want to encourage you to practice these three steps even by yourself. The Lord is with you, and loves to hear you sing to Him! But I also encourage you to invite others (in very small numbers) to join you. You may not have a balcony close enough to sing with each other, but you can ask a neighbor to come read and sing with you on your porch, or even just pick up the phone to call someone and pray together. Choose a short passage of Scripture and let it guide your prayers. Here’s a great one for starters:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea… The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:1-2, 11 ESV).

**Photo credit Encouraging doctors and nurses from balconies in Milan.Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times