Deuteronomy 6 contains the text of the shema. That word literally means “hear,” and it’s the beginning of the greatest command:
“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:4–5)
This is the oldest fixed prayer in Judaism, and even today is recited at least twice a day by observant Jews. This is also the answer that Jesus gave when an expert in the law asked Him what the greatest command was:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command.”(Matt. 22:37–38)
This—loving God with all of our being—frames everything else. In fact, you might rightly say that if we get this right, every-thing else will fall into place because the love of God forms the framework for every other action, attitude, and decision we make. The text in Deuteronomy goes onto to emphasize just how important this is, and it’s in this emphasis that we also find a command for us as parents:
“These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.” (Deut. 6:6–9)
There is no doubt that we, as parents, should be the primary spiritual influence on our children. This responsibility cannot— and should not—be delegated to a church program, though we should work in concert with the church for the overall growth of our kids in Christ. One of the simplest ways we do that is through a devoted, regular, set-aside time to read and study the Bible together.
I’ve known that to be true, and yet I haven’t always been a family devotion guy.
It’s not because I didn’t want or aspire to be; I did. But we went a long time as a family before pulling the trigger and trying to integrate this practice into the regular rhythm of our family life.
There are a lot of reasons, I think, for my delay. Part of it was convenience; I wasn’t ready to alter our schedule to accommodate that fifteen or twenty minutes. Part of it was nervousness; I wasn’t sure if I could do this well. But the biggest part of the reason for my procrastination was really about having a clear direction to get started.
By God’s grace, we’ve been doing morning devotions together for almost ten years now—long enough for this practice to be ingrained in our regular routine. It’s a long road, as are most things, especially with young children. Though revival doesn’t break out every morning over eggs and toast, our continued hope and prayer is that times like these build into the love and discipline our children will have in the future when it comes to God’s Word.
The goal of this resource, then, is to put forth that simple, clear direction for other parents who, like me, find themselves struggling to get started or to remain consistent. Each daily devotion is meant to be simple and achievable, with five components:
Show: Each day begins with a simple object lesson or game designed to introduce the text. It’s an easy way to capture attention and generate conversation.
Read: Then there is a specific text of Scripture given. These texts are organized chronologically so kids can see that though there are many stories in the Bible, it’s really just one big story that has Jesus as the main character.
Explain: Next comes a brief explanation of the text. This is meant to help a parent not just read the text with their children, but then offer a little background and easy-to-understand commentary to help kids see not only what the text means, but where it fits in the overall story of the Bible.
Reflect: There are three reflection questions each day that are easy to answer, and will hopefully solidify the story for the kids and also help them see how that text applies to their daily lives.
Pray: Finally, there is a brief prayer to close out the devotion.
Repeat the Word of God. Talk about His commands when you’re coming and going, when you wake up and when you go to bed. They should be as ready in our minds as if we had them written on our hands and foreheads. In other words, talk of God and His Word should be the constant backdrop to every conversation.