|by Mrs. Vesta J. Farnsworth
A missionary who had returned to America after twenty-five years abroad, said that that which impressed him most while he was journeying through the homeland was the broken-down family altars found everywhere.
In Nehemiah's time, when a great task was to be accomplished, every one began building "over against his house." The work in which we are engaged is that of home reformation. All need to begin at this point. The life in our own home is what counts. Many men who have gained public success are private failures, because the religious life at home is neglected.
Robert Dollar, millionaire lumber king and shipowner of San Francisco, when invited to give a talk to hundreds of young men in Shanghai, China, chose as the basis of his address: "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." Joshua 1:8, 9.
His theme was "God's Help in Business." He interpreted his text as a command to read the Bible every day. He said concerning his own experience:
"I attribute much of my success to the teaching I have received from reading the Bible daily. Reading the Bible thoughtfully inspires reflection. It helps to give you the right perspective. It tends to bring home to you the things that are really worth while. It inculcates the homely virtues which are too often forgotten in the heat and the battle and the bustle of life. It imparts to the spirit a certain calm, a poise, a steadying and strengthening of the mind which tends to improve judgment and clarify vision. You feel that after all, there is a God in heaven, a God that is almighty, a Supreme Being that rules the universe, a God that is on the side of righteousness. In time it begets a peace of mind and a resoluteness of purpose that the ever-shifting events of the world cannot shake. If our purpose in life is right, the very stars in their courses are on your side.
"There is not enough money in the world to tempt a man to barter away this peace of mind, this faith, once he has experienced it."
For thirty years, Captain Dollar, though he has large interests at home and abroad, has not once missed giving time in the morning to Bible study. If he could give it, why not we? ...
The best hour of the day is when father, mother, and children come together to read God's Word and to worship Him.
It is then that the "glooms" are driven out, and Jesus Himself draws near to speak peace and to give His blessing to the group bowed before Him. Hearts are united in love and sympathy, wrongs are righted, peace takes the place of discord, and all are strengthened for life's duties and trials....
When the hour for family worship comes, all are expected to be present, and an air of pleasure and expectancy is seen on all faces. In the morning, as time is limited, there is no long chapter read. The Morning Watch text may be memorized, and repeated in concert. Perhaps two or three questions of the Sabbath school lesson are studied, the central thought being mentioned as worthy of study and meditation during the day. The shepherd psalm may be repeated together.
Then all reverently kneel while a short, simple, earnest prayer is offered by one member of the family, for strength to meet the tasks and tests of the day. Father's and mother's burdens will be remembered before the throne. The temptations and associations Adolph and Elizabeth will meet in their school life, the particular situation each must face that day, will be the subject of prayer. Past blessings will be gratefully mentioned and strength sought that each individual may lead a life in which he will be victorious over sin. In closing, all may join in the Lord's Prayer. On rising, each will feel that he has talked with God as with a friend. The impatient word will be unspoken, the irritation of spirit soothed. Such a season of prayer will be a bond of union which will comfort and protect and bind hearts together. It throws about every member of the family an influence which will pervade the whole day.
If the father must be absent in the morning, it is the mother's privilege to conduct the worship, praying as only a wife and mother can for the loved ones needing so much of the Father's help, including the absent husband and father who is toiling and planning for all.
Even in homes where the husband is not a Christian, the wife may gather her children about her each day for Bible study and prayer. The following story illustrates the influence of such a custom, not only in the home, but outside of it:
"Ten years ago I boarded in the family of a pious woman whose husband was not religious. There was a daughter nineteen years of age, another of fourteen, and a son of ten. E very morning, I heard that humble woman gather her family in the kitchen, and read a chapter, verse about, in the Bible. Then, as I could not help listening, there was a peculiarity of service that mystified me.
"At last, one day, I asked if I might remain. She hesitated; her daughter blushed; but she said I could do so if I really desired it. So I sat down with the rest. They gave me a Testament, and we read a verse in turn. Then, kneeling on the floor, that mother began her prayer audibly, for her dear ones there, for her husband, and herself, and then, pausing a moment, as if to gather energy, or wing her faith, uttered a tender, affectionate supplication for me.
"She closed, and her daughter began to pray. Poor girl, she was afraid of me. I was from college; I was her teacher; but she tremulously asked a blessing as usual. Then came the other daughter, and at last the son, the youngest of that circle, who only repeated the Lord's Prayer, with one petition of his own.
"His 'Amen' was said, but no one arose. I knew, on the instant, they were waiting for me. And I, poor, prayerless I, had no word to say. It almost broke my heart. I hurried from the room, desolate and guilty.
"A few weeks only passed, when I asked their permission to come in once more; and then I prayed, too, and thanked my dear, patient Saviour for the hope in my heart and the new song on my lips." ...
In the early evening, the worship may be the best and brightest hour of all the day. If there are young children, have it appointed before they become tired and sleepy. A stanza sung of some well-known hymn may be the signal to begin. "Music hath charms," and the home hymns which are sung until they are memorized can never be forgotten. They will ever thrill the heart in after life....
In a well-remembered family, father's tenor, mother's and sister's soprano, brother's deep bass, and a sweet alto sung by younger sister, made a harmony that seemed sweet as the song of angels....
In one home, at the evening worship hour, the topic of study was the family of earth and heaven. (Ephesians 3:15; 2:19). That day, one of the girls had treated another unkindly. After the question as to who composed the family of heaven, the question was asked how the members of the family in heaven would treat one another. Would they be unkind, manifest temper, and act hatefully? With our heavenly Father as the head of the family, would He not be grieved if He saw His children hateful and spiteful to one another? God's Spirit sent the arrow home to the heart of the young girl. Before the good-nights were said that evening, the child confessed her fault to her sister, saying she did not wish to be the hateful, unloving member in the family of God. No personal reproof had been given; but prayer and faith, connected with Bible study, had remedied the wrong without it....
Children trained to be quiet at family worship from babyhood will be orderly and reverent in church services. Let each child have his own chair, suited to his age, in which he can sit comfortably. Some simple question may be directed to them if their interest is seen to be lagging; and the habit of orderly, quiet worship will become firmly fixed....
Those who early learn to pray at home are better prepared to take part in public worship without embarrassment, as they grow older. It will not be so difficult to pray before others outside the home circle....
The devoted missionary John G. Paton thus writes of the influence daily morning and evening prayer exerted in the home of his childhood:
"And so began that blessed custom of family prayer, morning and evening, which my father practiced probably without one omission till he lay on his deathbed, seventy-seven years of age, when, even to the last day of his life, a portion of Scripture was read, and his voice was heard joining softly in the psalm, and his lips breathed the morning and evening prayer, - falling in sweet benediction on the heads of all his children, far away, many of them, over all the earth, but all meeting him there at the throne of grace. None of us can remember that any day ever passed unhallowed thus; no hurry for market, no rush of business, no arrival of friends or guests, no trouble or sorrow, no joy or excitement, ever prevented at least our kneeling around the family altar while the high priest led our prayers to God, and offered himself and his children there.
"And blessed to others, as well as to ourselves, was the light of such an example. I have heard that in long after years, the worst woman of Thorthorwald, then leading an immoral life, but since changed by the grace of God, was known to declare that the only thing that kept her from despair and from the hell of suicide, was when in the dark winter nights she crept close up under my father's window, and heard him pleading in family worship that God would convert 'the sinner from the error of his ways, and polish him as a jewel for the Redeemer's crown.' 'I felt,' said she, 'that I was a burden on that good man's heart, and I knew that God would not disappoint him. That thought kept me out of hell, and at last led me to the only Saviour.'" ...
John G. Paton's father was but a man. The life he lived before his children, other parents may live. There is such a thing as a spiritual atmosphere in the home. Children learn more by example than by precept. They take in by absorption, and they absorb what they find in the home, - its spirit, its influence; and what the child takes in, makes or unmakes him. Prayer will drive away unkindness, complaining, and anger. It will silence criticism, and soften the heart and the voice. The day is not past, but is now here, when the hearts of the fathers shall be turned first to God, and then toward their children. "Effectual fervent prayer" will avail now as in the days of Elijah, and in no place is it needed more than in our homes.
Mrs. Adelaide Bee Evans tells this story, which will interest parents:
"'I must talk with God,' said a tired mother to a guest, as she cleared away the last vestige of the midday meal. 'That is my duty and my greatest privilege. I am sure you will gladly excuse me a little while, will you not?'
"Her friend assented, and the mother went to her room, tired and heated with the duties of the day. She bathed, put on a loose gown, and lay down for a few moments to rest. When she arose, she dressed neatly, and sat down, her Bible in her hand, as if she expected a visit from some loving friend. She read for some time, then knelt in prayer. When, after a time, she returned to her guest, Mrs. Paull exclaimed, 'How refreshed you look!'
"'Yes, I am refreshed,' replied the mother, 'both in soul and in body.'
"'Tell me why you look so composed and happy. Have you received good news?'
""The mother sat down, and looking straight into the eyes of her guest, said: 'Three years ago I gave my heart anew to God. Before that time, I had been greatly discouraged. My health was failing. My duties, as you know, were increasing with my large family, and I had no heart to live and face the future. I had been a professed Christian for many years, but I had grown peevish, fretful, and faultfinding both with my husband and with the children. Nothing seemed to suit me. My own life was far from happy, and I made others as unhappy as myself. During that time, a sister came to visit me. I noticed how different she was from me. She always seemed reconciled and contented. She spoke so cheerfully and hopefully of her husband and her children, of the church, and in fact, of everybody.
"'One day, I said to her, "Tell me how you can be so contented and happy with all your work and poverty."
"'She looked at me for a moment, her eyes filled with tears, and she said, "Well, will you go up to my room and let me tell you?" Of course I consented. When we were seated, she said: "I too used to fret and worry. The harder I worked, the crosser I grew. I felt ugly at times. I complained at my hardships. I scolded my children almost continually. My husband never seemed to please me. One time, a minister came to our place and preached a sermon which greatly touched my heart. I do not remember now his exact words, but I resolved, while listening to his discourse, that I would get the victory over these things. Then and there I set apart one hour of each day to reading my Bible and prayer. I began at once, and I have never failed to meet God daily since that time."
"'Then we knelt in a season of prayer together. It broke my heart to hear that woman pray. God showed me what a sinner I had been. There came to me an impression of my utter worthlessness. My supreme selfishness overwhelmed me. I cried to God with all my heart to save me from these failings, and He gave me a new experience. Never shall I forget the moment when I found my Saviour. I promised that sister that I would not allow any family cares to intervene, but would undertake to seek God daily.
"'I have tried now for three years to lead a Christian life. This season of prayer has been the keynote to all the victories I have gained. Every day, I spend an hour or more in meditation and prayer, always first letting God talk to me through His Word. Sometimes I feel God's presence in the room in a very definite way. Then I talk to Him. I tell Him some of the promises He has made in His Word, and ask Him to fulfill these promises to me, and make them very true in my life. I ask Him for cleansing, that I may be made pure and clean. I place before Him all my troubles, all my little worries, all my cares and burdens. If I have any special hurts or particular trials that are pressing me sorely, I make all these known to the Lord. Nor do I cease praying until the load is lifted and I am reconciled to His will. I never come from this audience with God until I know that everything is right between us. He has all my burdens, and understands them; and I have His peace, and am in harmony with His will concerning me.'
"Mrs. Paull sighed, and said: 'Is that experience for all? Would God hear me pray if I talked to Him as you do?'
"The mother answered: 'When I began this communion, I doubted as you seem to doubt. I wondered if God did hear me. Once, after a very earnest season of prayer over a sever perplexity, I said to myself: "I will watch and see if God answers this prayer. If He does, then I shall know that He hears me." But to my surprise, the answer did not come. I was disappointed. I did not know what to do. I had made this case a test in my mind, and what I had expected, did not come true. As I was brooding over this condition, the thought came to me like a flash of lightning: "You do not believe God. Until you truly believe, He cannot answer you." Then I began to pray in faith. It did not come to me in any miraculous way, but by degrees. I tried to believe God. As I persisted in prayer, I learned to act as if God had done the thing. I left the entire responsibility with the Lord. But in all my actions and planning, I sought to work on the side of God, with the understanding that He had answered me; and things were changed.
"'Now I never worry concerning any of our troubles, but trust the Lord to see that His will is fully accomplished. As a result of this experience, my health has greatly improved. I enjoy almost uninterrupted peace. My whole life and the life of my family have been entirely changed. My children have found Christ, and my husband has given his heart ot the Lord. I can only say that this daily season of prayer has done more for me and my family than anything else that I know.'"
Time devoted to Bible study and prayer is a paying investment. Not one day in the week, but every day, we need communion with God. As the body needs daily food, so the soul must be fed, or it will weaken and die. Here is found wisdom to meet the problems and perplexities of family discipline, and to enable us to bear the wear and worry of daily life....
Children cannot forget the prayers of a godly father or mother, one who has learned the secret and power of prevailing with God. Many perplexities of management and discipline will vanish before the voice of fervent prayer. Wisdom will be received for the asking, and prayer will be the lubricant that will oil the wheels of family life, causing them to move without friction.
This article is Chapter 15 of the book "The Real Home" and is in the public domain
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