It’s been one of my habits for some time now to give my children each a blessing before they go to sleep each night. As their father and spiritual head, I view it as my responsibility to teach, to discipline, to pray for, and to bless my kids. I want all of God’s blessing for them. First I sing them an old hymn or two, then I pray for them, with them, and then I bless them.
Pronouncing a benediction over them is a means of teaching them the word (I try to memorize biblical benedictions and use those), and invoking God’s blessing on them. It’s a joy to see how my girls have come to love it and expect it. Tonight I thought Caitie (my two year old) was asleep so I said her blessing silently–but then as I went to walk away, she sat up and asked me in her sleepy voice, ‘Daddy, do my blessing!’ How precious! I love how Susannah (my three year old) will regularly say the blessing along with me as well. Simply by the repetition, she has now learned a Bible verse that contains precious truths about who God is and what he does for his people.
While there are tremendous benefits of using the biblical benedictions, I’ve enjoyed modifying them to fit my growing understanding of who God is and what he says he’ll do. For example, when John Piper blesses his daughter, he says the Numbers 6 benediction (‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace’) he adds ‘… and someday, a godly husband.’ I love that! It reflects an understanding of God, his blessing, and what a father earnestly desires for his daughter.
When I do that same blessing, I’ll often fill out the blessing with some of the most glorious elements of the New Covenant that I’ve personally been overwhelmed to discover. So for me, it will often be, ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance on you and give you peace and life, and hope, and joy.’
Recently, however, as I’ve been greatly encouraged by reading through the opening books of the Bible I’ve been freshly reminded of the faithfulness and covenant-keeping nature of God. I’ve found my heart warmed by thinking about the fact that we are children of the promise to Abraham. I’ve been challenged by the faithfulness of God through all generations; he never changes!
I was also challenged recently by the testimony of William Kiffin who wrote a memoir not for publication (though he could have easily had it published) but simply as a testimony of God’s grace in his life for his children and grandchildren. He wanted them to know who his God was and what he’d done for him.
With those truths in mind, I created a new benediction for my children based on God’s self-revelation in Genesis and Exodus, Psalm 103 (which we’ve been memorizing at church), and the example of Kiffin. I’m still trying to work it exactly as I would like it, but here it is so far:
May the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God of your father
be merciful and gracious to you
and bless you with abounding steadfast love and faithfulness
so that by the power of his Spirit
you might know peace and life and hope and joy.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
How about you? Are benedictions a part of your family worship? How do you use them? What are your favourites?