Paul Martin has been married to Susan for 29 years, and together they have four children who are now between the ages of 17 and 25, three of whom still live at home. Paul is the lead pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Toronto, and a council member of The Gospel Coalition Canada
When did you first start practicing family worship?
We made many attempts at family worship over the years, but it was not until our kids were all older that it got easier for us. Mind you, this had little to do with the kids and almost everything to do with me. It was not until our younger two entered public school that I finally woke up to how necessary it was to get the Truth into the hearts of us all. So, when they moved from Christian School to public, we became family devotion fanatics. I knew the only way I could get myself faithful at this was to stay simple.
We had tried lots of different things. Some lasted. Some didn’t. But it was not the material; it was me. I wish I had been more faithful early on.
How does your family practice family worship?
We meet at 7:00 am every weekday morning. That is the one time we can get the most of us together.
Word. We read one book of the Bible at a time. We always read the entire book (we are currently working through the book of James). Unless something catches somebody’s fancy, and we stop to think and talk, we read one chapter per day. Then might ask some questions or make a couple of comments, and then we pray for the day. All in, this usually lasts between 12–15 minutes. We have been doing that steadily for many years now.
Interaction really varies. If my teens are tired, I don’t demand a whole lot out of them—well, at least from my perspective! You just have to be there at 7:00 am and be awake. But there are times we end up on long and very interesting conversations. I like to let that happen more naturally than scripted; and I am content if we go a while and do not have any long talks.
Prayer. Our prayer time in the morning is usually just a few minutes long. We see who has what going on that day, any special needs or requests, that type of thing. Lately, in the evenings we have been praying for all the families that sent us a Christmas card. That has been great and another wonderful idea from my wife, Susan.
Some friends like to include singing or the catechism or devotional books or Children’s Bibles in their time of family worship. We have done all of those at various times, but our stripped down model of Word and prayer seems to work best for our family at this time in life.
What advice would you give to someone who desires to start family worship?
I would recommend starting doing something small, even just a few verses and a prayer. We tend to overestimate what we need to do in the immediate and underestimate what a little bit of faithfulness can do over the long haul.
Once you are older you realize the Lord can be doing lots of things in people’s hearts that you have no idea about, especially because they are giving no outward signs of such at the moment. Just be a good farmer. Spread your seed on the soil and some of it will bear fruit, but if it is real fruit, it wasn’t you making it grow anyway. The important thing is to be deliberate and faithful to do something, even if it doesn’t look exactly like what others are doing. Do what you can and trust the Lord to bless your efforts!