Robbie Low, writing in Touchstone (June 2003), points to an interesting 1994 study in Switzerland about the connection between the churchgoing habits of fathers and mothers and the effect on their children when they are grown.
Here’s a summary:
In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.
A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!
The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father’s influence, from the determination of a child’s sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is out of all proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society.
A mother’s role will always remain primary in terms of intimacy, care, and nurture. (The toughest man may well sport a tattoo dedicated to the love of his mother, without the slightest embarrassment or sentimentality). No father can replace that relationship. But it is equally true that when a child begins to move into that period of differentiation from home and engagement with the world “out there,” he (and she) looks increasingly to the father for his role model. Where the father is indifferent, inadequate, or just plain absent, that task of differentiation and engagement is much harder. When children see that church is a “women and children” thing, they will respond accordingly—by not going to church, or going much less.
Curiously, both adult women as well as men will conclude subconsciously that Dad’s absence indicates that going to church is not really a “grown-up” activity. In terms of commitment, a mother’s role may be to encourage and confirm, but it is not primary to her adult offspring’s decision. Mothers’ choices have dramatically less effect upon children than their fathers’, and without him she has little effect on the primary lifestyle choices her offspring make in their religious observances.
Her major influence is not on regular attendance at all but on keeping her irregular children from lapsing altogether. This is, needless to say, a vital work, but even then, without the input of the father (regular or irregular), the proportion of regulars to lapsed goes from 60/40 to 40/60.
Sanctus Real - Lead Me (Acoustic) [Album: Pieces Of A Real Heart (Deluxe Version)]
One of my favorite ways to pray the Lord’s Prayer is to fill each line with other related Scriptures. Pray with me:
Our Father in heaven
Everlasting Father of the fatherless,
Heaven is Your throne and the earth is Your footstool.
The heavens declare Your glory,
and the sky above proclaims Your handiwork.
O Father in Heaven…
Hallowed be Your Name
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
may Your Name be praised and be great among the nations!
Let Your glory be over all the earth!
Let heaven and earth praise You,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
Your Kingdom come
May all the ends of the earth remember and turn to You,
and all the families of the nations worship before You.
For kingship belongs to You;
You rule over the nations.
You are the strength of Your people -
the saving refuge of Your anointed!
Oh, save Your people and bless Your heritage!
Be our Shepherd and carry us forever!
You are our King, O God!
You are the King of all the earth!
Your throne is forever and ever.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Make us to know Your ways, O Lord.
Teach us Your paths.
Teach us to do Your will.
Let your good Spirit lead us on level ground.
Not our will, but Yours be done!
Give us this day our daily bread.
You, our God, will supply every need of ours
according to Your riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Give us neither poverty nor riches;
feed us with the food that is needful for us,
lest we be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest we be poor and steal and profane the name of our God.
Satisfy us with righteousness.
Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.
We confess our iniquity; we are sorry for our sin.
Have mercy on us, O God.
Wash us thoroughly from our iniquity,
and cleanse us from our sin!
For Your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon our guilt for it is great.
Lead us not into temptation…but Deliver us from Evil
We do not ask that you take us out of the world,
but that you keep us from the evil one.
Restore us; let Your face shine, that we may be saved.
For the glory of Your name, deliver us and atone for our sins,
for Your name’s sake.
You are our steadfast love and our fortress,
our stronghold and our deliverer.
For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever and ever.
David Jee [Eternity Bible College]
John Flavel, the Puritan pastor, helps us get past our complaining when we find it hard to obey Christ. He re-creates in his theological imagination the conversation between the Father and the Son in eternity past, when the Son accepted hard obedience for us:
“Father: My Son, here is a company of poor miserable souls that have utterly undone themselves and now lie open to my justice! Justice demands satisfaction for them or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them. What shall be done for these souls?
Son: O my Father, such is my love to and pity for them that, rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety. Bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee. Lord, bring them all in, that there may be no after-reckonings with them. At my hand shalt thou require it. I will rather choose to suffer thy wrath than they should suffer it. Upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.
Father: But my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite [cent]. Expect no abatements [discounts]. If I spare them, I will not spare thee.
Son: Content, Father. Let it be so. Charge it all upon me. I am able to discharge it. And though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures, yet I am content to undertake it.”
Then Flavel makes his point: “Blush, ungrateful believers. O let shame cover your faces. Judge in yourselves now, hath Christ deserved that you should stand with him for trifles, that you should shrink at a few petty difficulties and complain, ‘This is hard, and that is harsh’? O if you knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in this his wonderful condescension to you, you could not do it.”
John Flavel, Works (London, 1820), I:61.
Grace defeats complaining.
Thank you, Father, for my life.
Thank you for my precious wife.
Thank you, Father, for my girl.
Thank you for this deep-sea pearl.
Thank you, Father, for my sons,
Fathers, wives, the little ones.
Thank you for the church I serve,
Staff and friends I don’t deserve.
Thank you, Father, for my birth,
Who can measure parents’ worth?
Thank you, Father, for the schools,
Mental tools, and passion fuels.
Thank you, Father, for my eyes,
Wonders of the earth and skies.
Thank you, Father, for my ears,
Priceless music through the years.
Thank you, Father, for my friends,
Comrades, care, and common ends.
Thank you, Father, for the books,
Deeper currents, distant looks.
Thank you, Father, for my home,
Sweetest pocket of shalom.
Thank you for the maple tree,
The swing, the yellow canopy.
Thank you for the neighborhood,
The interwoven bad and good.
Thank you, Father, for the tears,
Dying darkness yet appears.
Thank you, Father, for your word
Silver, honey, eaten, heard.
Thank you, Father, for your Son,
Stripes, the bruise, the mission done.
Thank you for the Spirit too,
Wak’ning, filling, giving—You.
Father, Father, can it be?
Thank you for adopting me.
What God wants from us is not just that we feel gratitude, but that we show it, that we give our thanks to God with our lives.
What Are YOU grateful for? And How are you expressing it to “.. make known his deeds among the peoples!” [?] - 1 Chron. 16:8
David Jee [Eternity Bible College]