MARRIAGE CLINIC – PART VII

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SIGNIFICANT ROLES OF PRAYER ALTAR IN MARRIAGE
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).
The title “family altar” simply means family Bible study and devotion time. Every Christian family should have such a wonderful experience daily. It is amazing how few families really take this earnestly and practice this regularly. It is the best assurance to have Christian children with good moral standards that do not drift through the teen years, to have a family that has a witness for Christ in the community, and to have a family that takes the church seriously and enjoys going to all the services.
It is well to remember the great command that the Lord gave not only to Israel as quoted above but also to all of us .
In a relay race, a large part of the training was concerned with handing off the baton. The idea was to run as fast as you could to the next runner on your team. His job was to meet you about fifteen yards before the hand-off and run with you, being careful to match your pace exactly. In this way, you didn’t have to stop to hand him the baton; you could continue the race without losing momentum. If everything went smoothly, the baton was passed from one hand to the next and the race progressed. The hand-off was the single most important part of the race. Not that it was that difficult, mind you; it just led to the worst of consequences if it wasn’t managed properly. The running part was easy. You simply did your best and that was that. But the hand-off had to be conducted with care, if not it costs your team precious time and probably the race as well.
Likewise in marriage, the main priority was how well is the passing of the parent’s faith to their children. Like a runner in a relay race, no one wanted to stumble. The consequences of doing so were more than any of us wanted to consider.
But as a practical matter, how do we pass on our faith to our children? How do we successfully hand off our faith to the next generation so that they can continue the race and do their part to advance the Christian mission? No doubt, there are a variety of ways. But I would suggest that one of the main ones is the practice of family prayer otherwise known as family aitar.
The Kingdom of God is the central reality of life. It takes precedence over every other commitment, over every other primacy. But that Kingdom is not some unearthly, faraway place. No, it is absolutely manifested in the life of the Church. In other words, if you want to experience the certainty of the Kingdom, look at the Church which is the principal portrait of that Kingdom. But if this is true, of what significance is the Christian home? Does it have a role in Christ’s Kingdom building?
The Church was a portrait of the home. I was convinced that the Christian home was the central institution of society and everything else even the Church was secondary.
This is far more than some mysterious theological point. It has important ramifications for our family life and especially for how we raise our children. Amazingly, this idea actually makes the home more important.
Parents, like priests in the Church, have a responsibility to shepherd the flock assigned to their charge (I Peter 5:1-4). And as parents, we must relive our roles as domestic priests and our corresponding responsibility to pass on our faith to our children.
There are, of course, many more matches between the Church and the home, but space permits me to mention just one: the uniqueness of the altar. The primary responsibility of a priest is to officiate at the altar. Similarly, the family altar should be the central features of every Christian home . The family altar is the primary place where we pass on to our children the “baton” of our faith.
But if this is true, what are some practical ways in which we can focus our family’s activities on prayer?
This special place of prayer does not have to be decorative, but it does have to be distinctive. Remember, it is a place where the family carries out its most vital activities: prayer, the reading of the word of God, and the announcing of important events in the life of the family right in their living room.
0. Suitable time for family altar: When is the right time to gather at the family altar? Anytime, of course. The family include father, mother and children who gather at least twice a day for corporate prayer: morning and evening.
0. Purpose of family altar: Morning prayer gives us an opportunity to appreciate God for His eyes that neither sleep nor slumber and bring our needs and concerns to God before we embark on the day’s activities. It also helps each person “set his mind on the things above” (Colossians 3:1) where he can address the bustle and anxieties of the day from a spiritual frame of reference.
Evening prayer, on the other hand, is an opportunity to appraise the day, to confess where we have failed, and to give thanks to God where we have succeeded. Other purposes of the family altar include:
 To reverence God’s Word, grow esteem for it, and to live by it. James says, “But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Home is a good place to practice the counsel, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). In these days when we have put God’s word out of our schools, we need to put it back in our homes and teach our children from it.
 To establish the family in the faith, personal convictions, and doctrine. Children and young people need convictions to stand up against their peers. They must understand their faith and know something of good Bible doctrine so they know what they believe and why. The home makes a good Bible school where the children can be grounded as they face the humanistic philosophy of life.
 To pray and intercede for others such as the pastor, missionaries, sick folk, unsaved loved ones, the neighbors, fellow believers in need, the church, our nation, the shut-ins, those who are in trial or going through persecutions. Children who can learn to pray openly at home will have no problem praying publicly in the church weekly prayer meetings .
 To worship God together and learn more of His ways. What could be a better purpose. Children should learn to worship God in their early years that they might have respect for Him in the later years. They need to learn how to regard Him and to realize that He is the Creator, Holy, and to be honored in all that we say and do.
 To pray over family problems and needs, burdens the children may have, and that they may have confidence in the God that answers prayer in the everyday things of life. All the members of the family have personal needs. It would be good if they could learn to share them openly and take them before the Lord together. There are school needs, boy and girl friend problems, problems with play mates, character problems such as timidity and fears of all kinds, questions about amusements, finances. Teenagers have deep needs and hate to express them for fear of being misunderstood or embarrassed. Their problems are big problems to them and must be considered. Mom and Dad have needs of all kinds. Financial needs, Dad’s work needs, the car, moving, and all kinds of things can be prayed through with God. All the family need to know they can have trust in Him and that He will hear and answer prayer.
0. Duration of the family altar: Prayer during these two times doesn’t have to be lengthy; ten to fifteen minutes is generally adequate. The important thing is to be consistent. It’s far better to spend five minutes a day every day praying together than to spend fifteen or twenty minutes praying a couple of times of week. The general principle is to become faithful in little before we stretch ourselves and our family to become faithful in much ( Luke 16:10).
There are, of course, other times to pray. Whenever there is a special need in the family it’s a good practice to stop what we’re doing and gather for a few moments at the family altar. In like manner, whenever something especially good happens, it’s a good idea to stop and give thanks. These times of unprompted prayer are wonderful tools for communicating to our children the reality of God’s presence and His involvement in our lives.
0. Point of Prayer at the family altar: Once you’ve selected the appropriate time and place, you still have one important decision left to make: what to pray at the family altar. For many people this is the most difficult. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources available to help us. Devotional prayer books can be obtained from a variety of Conventional publishing houses. Regardless of which one you use, try to get a copy for each member of your family. This will encourage everyone’s participation and give you, as the leader, the option of calling on various members of the family to lead in certain prayers.
When using a prayer book, it all depend on the situation at hand,it is not necessary to say every prayer nor is it necessary to “stick to the writing.” If you’re just starting out or if your children are small (and their attention spans short),
One final note: prayer was never intended to be an epilogue or speech. In genuine prayer God speaks to us, and we speak to Him. Both are necessary for discourse. But how does God speak to us? Are we to expect an audible voice? Generally, God speaks to us through the reading of the Holy Scriptures. Thus, Bible reading should be an integral part of our family worship. God specifically charges parents to have His Word upon their hearts and then to pass it on to their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). What better context for Bible reading than as we are gathered together as a family for the purpose of prayer.
In conclusion, let me give you three brief tips, items that will go a long way toward making your family’s experience at the family altar a meaningful one.
0. Avoid Long prayers at start. You can’t run a marathon without training and neither can you engage in long prayers without training yourself in the short ones.
0. Be mindful of children’s attention spans. Yes, it’s good to stretch them, but don’t break them! The last thing you want is for prayer to be something your children dread. Again, it’s far better to keep it brief and meaningful than to frustrate your children – and ultimately yourself by reading long drawn-out prayers. Remember, the Publican was justified with a very short prayer: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” And the thief on the cross entered Paradise with one sentence: “Remember me, O Lord, when You come into Your Kingdom.”
0. Allow everyone participation. Although you will be tempted, don’t insist on doing everything yourself. Make sure everyone has a book (even the little ones that can’t read), and let your children lead some of the prayers. If they can read, let them read the Scripture lessons. If you follow this principle, you’ll find that they look forward to prayer and, little by little, begin to own it as their prayer. I earnestly pray that the presence of God shall not depart from your home in Jesus name.
Pastor Omotoso can be reached on 08029531853 or send an email to onwardforchrist2015@gmail.com.

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