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These days reading the Bible is out of vogue.  Furthermore, in a multicultural society, we are more likely to read ‘enlightened’ verses from other faiths than our own, whether in periodicals or books.

Yet, reading the eternal truth the Bible imparts can heal the most damaged soul.  Although I had Bible study of a sort at school, I never really had the habit of regularly reading it on my own until recently.  As I have said before, what wasted years I spent on temporal junk!

So, for those wishing to orient themselves and their children to daily Scripture study in our busy world, online columnist and blogger J Grant Swank has the solution: setting a devotional table.

Once you read his post, those who have not already done may appreciate this simple idea which really brings family conversation as well as prayer together at dinnertime.

Mr Swank describes an American childhood many of us who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s remember.  Dad worked.  Mum was at home.  The family ate together.  I still think it is almost criminal that families do not spend more time breaking bread together around the table!  Yes, I’m sure we all knew a few back then where the children ate separately except at weekends, and that still shocks me.  Talk about family communication breakdown?  This is partly the reason!  Eat together — you can do it if you really want to.

Mr Swank recalls (emphases mine) a brief Scripture study after dinner:

That daily bread was found in a devotional box filled with small cards. On each card was inscribed a Scripture verse on the one side and four lined poem on the other side. Before any of us left the table following the meal, we each read from a card. Then we would go around the table, each praying a short prayer. Or my father or mother would pray a single prayer. These prayers were always followed by all of us petitioning aloud The Lord’s Prayer.

As a youngster, I thought that every home in our neighborhood had such a welcoming table. It was not until I began to eat in my friends’ homes that I realized that our house was quite special—it served up not only food from the store but also the Lord’s daily bread.

When I got older and visited with Christian friends, I discovered that many of them had a devotional table.

You don’t necessarily need to use a recipe (index card sized) box, although, to me, it’s more convenient as it will hold more cards with more verses.

Some people prefer a devotional booklet, like Mr Swank’s friends Alice and Ollie:

instead of the devotional cards in a box, they had a daily devotional booklet—small and compact, easy to read and full of spiritual truths. Therefore, at the close of our meals together, Ollie would lift the small book from the side of the table and proceed to read its devotional page for that day. Alice would site the Scripture passages from the Bible. Then we would bow our heads in prayer together.

Mr Swank raised his own children with a devotional table and hopes that his grandchildren will enjoy similar nourishment and refreshment.

If I were doing it, I would probably:

opt for a recipe box and choose verses from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes as well as some well-known ones from the New Testament. The nice thing about Proverbs is the repetition of practical themes (e.g. obedience, wisdom), so you can gather several verses on the same topic. You can get a lot of dinners contemplating one topic, so mix it up a bit. You don’t want to spend a fortnight discussing one subject.

try not to have more than four verses to a card, preferably just one or two, although it will depend on the reading.

keep it simple and resist sermonising — total time would be five minutes after dinner.

let the kids choose the card and have Dad or Mum read it out loud, starting with the book, chapter and verse numberParents should briefly put the verses in context (perhaps written on the back of the card), which is a good reason to start with a small number of cards with verses children that can easily comprehend.

get a short discussion going afterward: ‘Why is this verse important?’ ‘What does this verse teach us?’

close with a brief prayer based on the verse and/or with the Lord’s Prayer.

The benefits of the devotional table are as follows:

children become accustomed to hearing the Bible at home.

reading the Bible, even in this way, becomes a spiritual discipline the family can share.

suppertime provides food for thought rather than just a rundown of the day’s activities.

children will remember five minutes every day spent together contemplating the Lord.

it’s a quiet, serious time of useful conversation.

If you have your own holiday home, you can take a few cards along in an envelope and have them handy for family suppers.

Clearly, the Swank family devotional table has had a lasting effect on Grant:

I have often thought if today’s American homes furnished not only the kitchen and dining room with our culture’s delicious foods but also the Lord’s daily bread, we would experience quite a difference in much of our family doings. God’s graces would be more evident because we remembered not only to place nourishing dishes on our tables but more importantly the Bread from above.

The only disagreement I have there is on the food — y’all gotta come to Europe for the very best variety and quality on offer!

Back on topic, though, and in a serious way. If you have a devotional table at home, I would particularly appreciate your comments.

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