Returning to Having a Family Altar

There was a time when what we now call family devotions was known as a family altar. Perhaps we should return to that term because it has significant meaning. Although it is similar in practice to what is done in family devotions, it signifies a more sacred understanding of families coming together for a spiritual time. Let’s look at the elements and the significance of having a family altar. It is more than just a time when we recite a few verses and say our evening prayers. It is a time of devotion and consecration to the Lord.


While the place is not sacred, it is wise for a family to have a particular place where they come together for their family altar. This place should be quiet, without interruption. Electronic gadgets, including phones, should not be a part of that meeting. Although the place need not be formal, it is best to have it in a place where everyone can be sitting upright and paying close attention. Merely kneeling by your child’s bedside at night and reading a few verses and saying prayers is not the same as having a real family altar. It is wise for every family to structure and to plan their daily family altar. A specific time of day should be set aside where all members of the family are able to attend. Every member of the family should also bring his Bible and perhaps even paper and pen to take notes on the instruction that is given by the parents.


The family altar should be a time of closeness for the family. Some joking and humor is certainly acceptable, just as it is acceptable in church. However, the mood should be a more serious one. There are several elements that should be included in the family altar.

  • Bible reading and instruction – There need not be a long time of reading, but a specific application to the lives of the children should be brought as a part of the Bible reading.
  • Scripture memorization is a good practice during the family altar time.
  • Praise to God for blessings He has given to the family can make your children more aware of the goodness of God in the lives of your family. Perhaps children grow up to be ungrateful because we do not teach them the things about which they should be grateful.
  • Practical instruction should be given. This is a good time to teach children practical things that will help them to be better men and women and to have a good testimony for Christ to others.
  • A time of prayer – This would include discussing needs about which your family is praying, not only for yourselves but also for others. Just as Jesus taught His disciples to pray, we should teach our children to pray; and the family altar is the best place for this to take place.
  • Tenderness and affection should be included. This is a wonderful time not only to train your children in the things of God but also to express your love and affection for them. Children need affection from the parents, and this is a specific time when this can take place.


A parent who merely says, “I give my child to the Lord” is not fulfilling his responsibility. A parent’s responsibility is to present his child to the Lord, prepared. If we sent our children to school and they sent our children back without teaching them, we would find that unacceptable. For us to present our children to God without personally training and consecrating time for training is foolhardy and disobedient. Perhaps children are disobedient to their parents because we are disobedient to our Heavenly Father in matters of teaching and training our children in the things of God. The family altar is a sacred time and place where we fulfill our responsibilities as parents.

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by pastor greg neal

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