A couple years ago a friend of mine in Alaska told me how she had challenged her church with a question that went something like this, "What makes your home distinctly Christian?" I think most of us who call ourselves Christians know that just going to church on Sunday is not enough. Meeting together once a week is certainly a distinctive of Christians, but it doesn't necessarily make the nitty-gritty of our homes different.
Four things come to mind as I contemplate that question for my own home:
Bible reading/Bible study,
Character growth—being reshaped into the image of Christ.
Of the four, I think prayer usually gets neglected the most, although Bible reading and study probably take a close second. Character training seems to be the constant occupation of parenting. The need for it continually crops up throughout every single day, both in our children and in ourselves—our responses to their lack of character often reveals our own lack of character! Acts of service, a more tangible aspect of our Christian lives, can be quantified and pointed to as proof of God's influence in our homes.
Yet without the other two distinctives of a Christian home, Bible reading and prayer, how effective will we be in serving others and character shaping? Without our homes being "watered" with the Word of God on a daily basis, how will we know what character we ourselves should be growing into as well as shaping in our children? How will we (and our children) hear the conviction of the Holy Spirit for transformation or His gentle prompting regarding those who need our help? How will we learn justice and what the Lord requires of us? How will we come to understand the character of God and see through the character fallacies the world foists upon us at every turn? How will we become less self-absorbed and more others focused? Plants can't grow without water.
And without prayer—faithful, specific prayer—how do we teach our children to be dependent on God rather than on themselves? Prayer is the practical expression of those who know they can't lean on their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6); of those who know that apart from Christ's work within us, we can do nothing (John 15:5); of those who recognize their utter dependence on God (Acts 17:28). We pray for ourselves to be transformed in the ways God has convicted us through His Word. We pray for His power to fulfill the tasks He has assigned to us. As we pray for others, God can bring to our minds ways we can serve, comfort, and alleviate the distress of others.
If we don't pray and teach our children to pray, how will they learn that all the self-help manuals in the world will never be powerful enough to change their hearts? How will they learn to depend on God to meet their needs—whether spiritual, emotional, mental, or physical—instead of on their own striving, trying, and working harder? How will they learn that "pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps" or "running harder and sleeping less" won't ever be enough? How will they learn that there is a God in heaven who is personal and intimately involved in their lives, who loves them and cares about their needs? And how will they learn to love others, bearing the burdens of others by lifting them up to the Father and listening for His directives?
So what is it that makes your home distinctly Christian? Character training and growth; serving the needs of others; Bible reading, memorization, and study; and prayer that is faithful and specific don't just happen. They have to be planned for. Time has to be designated for them. A Christian home is intentional. As a new school year is about to begin, take some time before the Lord to ask Him how to make these things the daily center of your home.