Devotional Life at Home
Home – The Laboratory of Christian life
We cannot overemphasize the fact that the most important framework for our life as followers of Christ is our immediate circle of people. For many of us, it means our home. There is also such Christianity that is at its best outside the home. However, we must not be blinded by those living like angels outside their homes. We should ask, how do we live at home? It is behind the scenes, in everyday life, that many saintly haloes lose their brightness. Genuine Christian living is found where family life is in harmony with how the person is known in wider circles.
Some of us have had the good fortune of an upbringing in a Christian home. Even if these homes vary and deficiencies are painful, many things were learnt even as children. But there are numerous believers who are painfully aware of never having lived among professing Christians. They may be perplexed at what family life should be like. Even married couples brought up in Christian homes need to consider what ideas to take from their childhood homes and what to determinedly leave out. Many people live alone, but they can apply those guidelines, too.
Sinners living together
The realism presented to us in the Bible may seem harsh at first: where there are people, there is also sin. We must set aside all our glamorous illusions. “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” – Romans Chapter 7 holds true also in all Christian homes. Christians are sinners but through Christ also redeemed and forgiven children of God who want to listen to the voice of their beloved Lord and learn how to live by it. A sinner and redeemed, redeemed and a sinner – these two opposites encompass all the joys and sorrows of our life as followers of Christ. Acknowledging these basic facts will cast out all illusions and put things back on a realistic footing. We are no angels, but we also have no right to live like devils. The life of a Christian is continuous striving, falling, and getting up, and those nearest to us know this.
Devotional life is a personal matter
God created all of us different, and everyone’s relationship with God is naturally different. That is why there is no reason to even try using the one-size-fits-all approach to our Christian devotional life. The prayer life and devotions of two people may have some common features, but they are never identical. These matters are so personal that they are naturally different also between spouses. Someone may be an avid reader, and another one is not interested in books. One wants to engage in conversations, the other is usually quiet. It is liberating to realize that there is a great deal of variety in our devotional lives; someone uses books, another one uses prayer journaling. One enjoys the tranquillity of nature, the other one absolutely wants to socialize and meet other Christians. Nevertheless, there are things in Church and at home that we all do well to embrace.
To the Sunday Service
The Book of Ephesians teaches us how a Christian is not created to live their private spiritual life but to be a member of the shared life of Christ’s Church. Even though we can see many deficiencies in various denominations – also in our own – the Church, founded by Christ, is a group of God’s own people on its way through the wilderness towards the glory of heaven. The Book of Ephesians calls us to share a sense of community. The worship service is Christian communality and at the heart of all spiritual life. The Eucharist is where the sinners encounter the Holy and receive his grace. The devotional life of a Christian living alone as well as that of a Christian family should be directed towards the worship service. Our everyday life and our daily devotional life receive empowerment through the worship service.
Some practical instructions
Following an old Christian custom, it is good to have morning prayers first thing in the morning. With us at least, when our children were still living at home, we were terribly busy in the mornings; the family members woke up at different times and went their ways by different rides. We were not able to have a time of prayer to suit everyone. We found great relief in adopting an old custom: when waking up, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer. As people get up at different times, also the prayer will be said at different times. One group of people first, another maybe later, and someone perhaps alone. This is a good way to start for the day, with our Heavenly Father. When riding the bus or walking, there will then be time for a longer prayer, and everyone can do it individually.
Saying grace before meal is a little but important habit. If we have plenty of food, we tend to start putting our trust in ourselves and our own resources. In his Large Catechism, Luther teaches us to look beyond our breadbasket and to contemplate the whole long process that God uses to feed us. Our daily bread is not self-evident. It calls for quite a lot – world peace, for one thing. Those who have experienced war will never forget the times of shortage.
In the evening, we have evening prayers. It is an especially important time; before we go to sleep, we will safely leave ourselves and all that we have under God’s protection. Like this, it is good to rest and wake up to a new day. The evening is also the time when we confess all our wicked works to God and believe that through Jesus, they are forgiven us. It is also the time to ask our family members for forgiveness so that there will be no discord when going to bed. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. As God forgives us all our sins, likewise we want to ask our family members for forgiveness and forgive them.
Let me also say a few words to the parents. Do not confine yourselves solely to evening prayers. The more you can read the children’s Bible to the children at home, the better. In this, it is especially the mothers who are doing incredibly valuable work. A Bible story is read to the children evening after evening, and when one book is finished, another one will be started. And when the children grow older, it is time to choose yet another devotional book; the need for evening devotionals will not end when the children grow! And, if possible, it is good for the children to have their own Bible, as it is important to start reading the Gospels early on.