I've been working on coming up with a good model for family devotions for some time, and after much experimenting and many failures this is something that we have found works quite well, especially with small children.  It's almost directly taken from Concordia Publishing House's The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism, with only slight changes here and there.  Many of the other models we've tried, while good, have just proven to burdensome and at times bordered on violating the command not to exasperate one's children.  I like this because it is fairly short and simple, yet incorporates a number of things I value and wish to teach my children including call and response, some simple prayers to be memorized, Biblical collects, sung or chanted Psalms, Bible reading, and a time of prayer for specific needs and thanksgivings.  Further, it allows for growth as children mature, having a place for more singing through moving from the simple Song of Simeon to working through the Psalms, and allowing for longer Scripture readings or the addition of readings from a Bible study book or devotional work.  It's not perfect and I'd appreciate feedback or suggestions as I continue to work on it, but we've been more faithful to do devotions somewhat regularly with this model than any other we've tried.  


The sign of the cross may be made by all in remembrance of their baptism. (1, 2)

In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praise to Your name, O Most High;
To herald Your love in the morning,
Your truth at the close of the day.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

Other readings: Micah 7:18-20; Matthew 18:15-35; Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 11:1-13; Luke 12:13-34; Romans 8: 31-39; II Corinthians 4:16-18; Revelation 21:22-22:5

Alternatively, a longer passage may be worked through night by night, one or two short section(s) at a time.  Examples include, the Creation account, the Ten Commandments, selections from the Wisdom Literature of Solomon, the Sermon on the Mount, the Crucifixion (particularly during Lent or Holy Week), or even an entire book of Scripture such as one of the epistles.

Depending on the age of the children this may be followed (or preceded) by a reading from a devotional or Bible study book and/or discussion. (3)

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word,
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people,
a light to lighten the Gentiles
and the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.  
(Luke 2: 29-32, The Song of Simeon or Nunc Dimittis) (4)

Alternatively, here may be sung or chanted another canticle such as the Magnificat (Song of Mary), or a Psalm. (5)

  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Prayers for others and ourselves
  • Concluding collect:
We thank You, our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ , Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept us this day; and we pray that you would forgive us all our sins where we have done wrong, and graciously keep us this night.  For into your hands we commend ourselves, our bodies and souls, and all things.  Let Your holy angels be with us, that the evil foe may have no power over us.  Amen.  (Adapted from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism)
  • Threefold Amen.
Then go to sleep in good cheer!

1. Bold type indicates read by all,
Regular type indicates read by one, Italicized type indicates instructions.
2. Adapted from the Close of the Day prayer (p. 474) in The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism published by Concordia Publishing House.
3. E.g. "A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament," Peter J. Leithart.
4. A good tune for this canticle is that used by the Lutheran Church, a sample of which may be seen here.
5. Concordia Publishing House has also provided the Church with an excellent resource for chanting the Psalter using the ESV translation in their small volume, "Reading the Psalms with Luther," which includes among other helpful things a set of chant tones and the Psalter pointed for chanting.  It is available here.

In reading Jamie Smith's excellent book Desiring the Kingdom, I've come across what I perceive to be a fairly serious mistake.  Towards the end of the book he spends some time going through a basic liturgy in order to show how different elements of the liturgy shape and form us by training not just our beliefs but our desires and thus our basic posture in the world.  He uses a fairly generic Western liturgy, noting places where various traditions may differ slightly, but basically following something like the near-universal Roman rite in terms of structure.  However, when he comes to the offering he places it after the Eucharist and suggests that after having been granted all the gifts of the liturgy we respond with our offerings.  While he makes a number of worthwhile points about the offering and about our attitudes towards it, I feel that he completely misses it's relation to the liturgy as a whole in a chapter where his intent is to show the flow of the liturgy and the relation of one 'liturgical moment' to the next.

While he is right to note that the offering is not just a contribution 'for the show,' he fails to note that the reason for this is that the offering is integral to 'the show' (so to speak).  The offering (or oblation) is the point in the liturgy at which the gathered present the fruits of their God-blessed labors to God himself so that he can take them up, transform them and return them to his worshippers as his very flesh and blood, his blessing, and his Amen! on their cultural endeavors.  The offering historically would have consisted of the very bread and wine that would be offered in the Eucharist, as well as any number of other things (chickens, livestock, coins, clothing, etc.).  The point is that in the offering, we as worshippers offer ourselves symbolically through our gifts, just as ancient Israelites offered themselves symbolically through sacrifices, and then, and only then, God gave a portion of what they had offered back to them through the peace offering which they ate as a meal at table with God himself.  Likewise, in the offering we offer to God our gifts, a portion of what he has blessed us with through the work he has given us to do, and in the Eucharist he returns to us much more than we could have ever given, namely fellowship with him and a seat at the table of the King with all of our friends (i.e. Christians... notably if the overlap is not strong there may be much to work on).  

The Eucharist follows the offering because of a reciprocal relation.  Just as I give my child to God in baptism and he gives her back to me but better, marked with the name of Christian and child of God, so I give my offering to God in worship, and he gives it back to me in the form of bread and wine which are his very flesh and blood - my life.
Peter Leithart's new First Things article, "How the Church Lost Her Soundscape" is an absolute must read.  I've excerpted it below, but please go read the whole thing.

"The desire to make worship more appealing to young people was a major impulse behind the development of contemporary Christian music in the first place. The magnitude of this shift cannot be overestimated. Culture is a gift from the old to the young, and the younger generation’s grateful reception is a sign of honor for fathers. Cultural transmission has been thrown into reverse, also in the church."

"For all its variety, pop music is dismally monophonic. Transgression is encouraged, so long as it doesn’t get too close to the music. Lady Gaga wears her meat dresses and Rihanna feigns sex on stage, but when the music starts they are both as frothy as Justin Bieber. There can be no Stravinsky of pop music."

"Expertise is one of the values of modern culture, but expertise has always had a limited scope. We trust experts in physics and computer programming and perhaps foreign affairs. But the suggestion that there are experts in aesthetics, musicians who know what music one should appreciate, is greeted with hostility, also in the church. 'I know what I like' stops every argument, buttressed by 'Musical taste is subjective.' Lebanese organist Naji Hakim has lamented that in the Catholic Church 'many in positions of liturgical responsibility, with no musical education as regards technique or aesthetics, have come to believe in a tabula rasa, denying any lineage whatsoever.' Professional musicians have been 'sidelined' as 'the least common denominator has become the rule.' He wonders whether Catholics 'realize the level of mediocrity which the present liturgy has reached.'"

"The church created the soundscape for Western Christendom because she cultivated her own musical life in the liturgy that united human voices with the angelic choirs of heaven. I can hardly imagine a more worrisome sign of worldliness, or clearer evidence of the church’s identity crisis, than our eager renunciation of our own soundscape and our determination instead to reproduce the world’s."

A friend reminded me of this great little bit of wisdom from Lewis earlier today.

“Every church service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore.  And it enables us to do these things best– if you like, it ‘works’ best–when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it.  As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice.  Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling.  The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.  But every novelty prevents this.  It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshiping…  A still worse thing may happen.  Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant.  You know what I mean.  Try as one may to exclude it, the question ‘What on earth is he up to now?’ will intrude.  It lays one’s devotion to waste.  There is really some excuse for the man who said, "I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was 'Feed my sheep;' not 'Try experiments on my rats,' or even, 'Teach my performing dogs new tricks.’"  Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put.  But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel a home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship.”

–C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (San Diego: Harvest, 1964), 4-5.
"Let's return to our worship setting.  The milieu of the space--its color and adornment--has given us an indication of the unique temporatility of this peculiar people.  But the very next thing we should consider is something that easily slips from notice: the very fact that we're here--that on a Sunday morning, one of the few times that the city's streets are quiet and even the steady hum of consumption and production gets a bit quieter, here we find people streaming into a space to gather for worship of the triune God.  Singles and families, seniors and toddlers, make the effort to gather together at an appointed time not of their choosing.  We could be still snug in our beds at home, or enjoying The New York Times Magazine with a coffee on our front porch.  But instead we are part of--let's be honest--a rather motley crew that has made its way here.  Families have wrestled with children to make them presentable, and some probably argued in the car on the way here; students have perhaps only just felt the warmth of bed after a Saturday night of entertainment when they "have" to emerge, bleary-eyed, to "go to church"; senior citizens who find themselves secluded in the nursing homes have been craving this day all week, when a deacon or friend drops by to pick them up to gather with the saints for worship.

Week after week, for millenia and around the globe, a peculiar people is gathered by a call to worship--a call that, in a sense, goes out before the service begins, but that is then formally declared in the opening of the service in the "call to worship," often from the Psalms:

     Come, let us bow down in worship,
     let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
     for he is our God
          and we are the people of his pasture
          the flock under his care. (Ps. 95.6-7 NIV)


     Praise! Praise God in the temple, in the highest heavens!
     Praise! Praise God's mighty deeds and noble majesty.
     All that is alive, praise!
     Praise the Lord.
     Hallelujah! (Ps. 150.1-2)

The rather mundane fact that people show up is, however, an indicator of something fundamental: that  a people has gathered in response to a call.  "Whenever we gather for public worship," Horton declares, "it is becasue we have been summoned.  That is what 'church' means: ekklesia, 'called out.'  It is not a voluntary society of those whose chief concern is to share, to build community, to enjoy fellowship, to have moral instructions for their children.  Rather, it is a society of those who have been chosen, redeemed, called, justified, and are being sanctified until one day they will be glorified.  The very fact that we gather says something, implicitly trains our imaginiation in a way.  "Gathering indicates that Christirans are called rrom the world, from their homes, from their families, to be constituted into a community capable of praising God... The church is constituted as a  new people who have been gathered from the nations to remind the  world that we are in fact one people.  Gathering, therefore, is an eschatolgoical act as it is the forestaste of the unity of the communion of the saints."

James Smith, Desiring the Kingdom
“Any service of Christian worship that is given to a more dualistic or gnostic conception of the body (e.g., tending to see the body as a “prison” and the material world as an evil distraction) will actually be a performative contradiction, since any service of Christian worship will be inescapably material and embodied, even if it might not be considered liturgical or sacramental.  Indeed, there is a sense in which human worship is inescapably sacramental insofar as it will always and only be an event of material meaning-making.  Even the most didactic, minimalist “talking-head” kind of worship will require tongues and ears.  Our essential embodiment will keep interrupting our Platonic desire to do away with the body, will keep insinuating itself into our dualistic discourses to remind us that the triune God of creation traffics in ashes and dust, blood and bodies, fish and bread.  And he pronounces all of it “very good” (Gen. 1:31).”

--James Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 141