Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Family Dinner Times

Written by Mr. Jack Westerink
A local public high school teacher recently asked his class of 30 students how many of them had dinner together with their family every night. Only one student put up her hand. The average Canadian family in fact rarely has dinner together anymore. In many homes supper is eaten in a hurry, at different times, often while watching TV, and off they go to their separate activities. Piano lessons here, baseball practice there, hang out with my friends, etc. Parents are running around frantically like a taxi service trying to schedule all the pick-ups and drop-offs. This is a sad development that is a sign of the times we are living in. We are becoming a society of individuals, each doing our own thing. The family unit is under attack.

Satan is working very hard to destroy the Church, and one of the avenues he is using is the breakdown of the family. SocietyÕs definition of what constitutes a family is rapidly changing to fit a whole spectrum of dysfunctional combinations. His kids, her kids, our kids--what confusion! Same sex parents, single parent families, live-in boyfriends or girlfriends are slowly becoming the societal norm, rather than the exception. We need to protect and guard against this invasion and attack on our families.

Every family has its necessary routines. One of the good ones that is worth preserving and protecting is the family dinnertime. Breakfast time can sometimes be difficult to arrange together. Dad may leave for work early, especially if he has to commute, perhaps even before the children are getting up for school. Lunchtime is also spent apart. The children have lunch at school, Dad has lunch at work, and mom has lunch at home or at her work. But the dinner hour can usually be scheduled at a time when everyone can be present to spend some quality time together.

What a wonderful opportunity a family dinner is for a father and mother to instruct their children. ÒThy children like olive plants round about thy tableÓ (Psalm 128:3b). Olive plants require tender care so that they can grow into healthy trees. They need to be exposed to sunlight, to be watered, fertilized, and pruned so that they will maintain a proper shape. So too, our children need to be nurtured and instructed in the ways of God. ÒBut bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the LordÓ (Ephesians 6:4).

Joyful children, sons and daughters,
Shall about thy table meet,
Olive plants in strength and beauty,
Full of hope and promise sweet. (Psalter 360:3)

Not only is it important to begin our family supper with prayer, and to end it with devotions and prayer, but everything else that happens in between is very important too. From the oldest family member to the youngest, this should be a time of active communication. There should be lots of participation: output as well as input. It is not good if mom and dad dominate the conversation all the time. The children should be encouraged to participate as well. This is the time when we talk about our day, what we experienced, what we learned, and what we did. It is a time to ask questions, and to be given good answers based on the Word of God. It is a time to share our joys, accomplishments, and victories in the battle of life, and it is a time to unburden our sorrows, our problems, and a time to bind up one anotherÕs wounds.

As parents, we should try to ask the right questions to provoke good discussions. For example, parents of school-aged children should ask specific questions about what went on at school. If you ask the question, ÒWhat did you learn today?Ó you will usually get the answer ÒNothing.Ó It would be better to ask, ÒWhat did your teacher talk about in Bible class today?Ó If one of the children has been struggling in a relationship with a friend, it could be useful to hear the advice and input of the rest of the family. Sharing and bearing one anotherÕs burdens can be done beautifully at the dinner table. The family is to be a haven of rest, a place where you can be yourself, where mutual love and fellowship can be displayed openly.

Many families use the suppertime to review memory work or to sing the Sunday school Psalter together. This is an excellent practice because all of the members of the family benefit. Although the father is the head of the household, and thus responsible for leading the family in devotions, it is good to involve other family members as well. Some families read Scripture by turns. Another idea is to have everyone follow along in his or her own Bible. After Bible reading it is good to talk about what was read. This is a time to give biblical instruction to our children. ÒAnd 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.Ó (Deuteronomy 6:7).

At some point in time it is good to involve the children in family devotions and prayer. The home is the best place for that instruction. The LordÕs Prayer can be memorized and recited. Perhaps another prayer could be read. Many years ago, Pastor Pronk printed a table prayer in The Messenger. When I was young, my parents cut this prayer out, put it in the family Bible, and we took turns reading it at the end of the meal as part of our family devotions. It wasnÕt long until we all knew this prayer and could recite it from memory.

O Lord, we thank in adoration
Thy name for food and drink we have shared.
While many suffer near starvation,
Thou hast for us enough prepared.
But grant that this life of today,
Be not for heart and mind enough.
Teach us Thy precepts to obey,
And prepare us for the life above. Amen

As our children grow older, it will be appropriate for them to formulate their own prayers. These prayers could be short and very simple at first. With time and experience, their prayers will become more developed and mature. An excellent acrostic to guide the prayers of our children is ACTS: A Ð Adoration of God, C - Confession of sin, T - Thanksgiving for all GodÕs blessings, S - Supplication for all our needs. In the safety and security of the home, under the careful supervision of the head of the home, prayer life can be nurtured in our children. It is important that our sons, who are the future heads of households, learn to pray in the Òcomfort zoneÓ of their family. We have all heard the saying, Òthe family that prays together stays togetherÓ.

The strength of our nation does not reside in individuals, each doing their own thing, but it is founded on families. If the family unit is strong, loving, supportive, and united in the service of the Lord, then the nation will be strong and blessed. ÒBlessed is the nation whose God is the LordÓ (Psalm 33:12a). Satan knows very well that the strength of the Church is closely linked to the unity of the family. Let us be aware of his attack, and protect our family dinner times as opportunities to praise and worship God.

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