It was a Sunday night worship experience I'll never forget. There was singing, Scripture reading, and heartfelt prayer. No, it wasn't at church. It wasn't even a church service. It was a house blessing at the home of our close friends.
The concept of a house blessing isn't new. Moses talked about writing God's commands on our doorframes and our gates in Deuteronomy 6:9. In fact, many Christian traditions, such as the Episcopal Church, have used the house blessing for centuries. But while these formal house blessings are typically performed by a priest, anyone can invite God to be part of a family dwelling. It can be a quiet occasion, or a new take on a housewarming party. Either way, a house blessing will help your family feel settled in your new abode.
That sense of home is especially important for children. According to Carol Burge, a marriage and family counselor in suburban Chicago, children look at their home differently when it is set apart by prayer. She says, "Children need their home to be a place of refuge from the world. A house blessing reminds them that the Holy Spirit is present in every room of their house."
The Heart of the Home
Peter and Elizabeth Roskam, a couple in our church fellowship group, had just moved across town. In the midst of moving boxes and painting walls they asked if I would help them lead their young family in a ceremony of dedication. I'd never been asked to be part of anything quite like this before. It sounded meaningfuland funso I said yes.
When my wife, Wendy, and I arrived, we were greeted with hugs and smiles. In addition to Peter and Elizabeth and their four kids (ages 6 to 13), Peter's mom was on hand. We gathered in the kitchen where 13-year-old Gracey offered us just-baked chocolate chip cookies. As we nibbled away, I kicked things off by reading the story of the wise man who builds his house on a solid foundation (Matt. 7:24-27).
Then we all headed outside to the front entry. We gathered on the porch and thanked the Lord for giving the Roskam family such a beautiful home and asked God to bless all who would enter in it. (A few years ago, I traveled to Israel and carried back some Jordan River water. I brought a small plastic bottle of the water and splashed it on the front door as a way of acknowledging the Lord's presence. The kids thought it was cool!)
As we walked over the threshold, Peter prayed that family, friends, and guests would be able to sense the Father's presence in their home. Then it was on to each room of the main floor. We stopped in each room and someone prayed a specific prayer related to the use of that room.
As we approached the children's bedrooms, Peter and Elizabeth placed their hands on their kids' shoulders and prayed a special blessing on their children. They prayed that these rooms would be a safe and special place where the children would feel protected and cared for. Imagine the sense of comfort that can give a child who is adjusting to a new living situation.
Inviting God In
Before the Roskams' house blessing, I'd never really given much thought to the idea of asking God to be present in a new home. The best tradition I'd seen so far came from the movie, It's a Wonderful Life. After George Bailey helps Mr. Martini secure a loan for his first home, George and his wife, Mary, arrive at the front door with gifts. The Baileys bestow a benediction of sorts with a loaf of bread ("that this house will never know hunger"), a box of salt ("that life will always have flavor"), and a bottle of wine ("that joy and prosperity will reign forever").
My wife and were so impressed by that scene that we began to give those three symbolic gifts to friends who moved. Without exception, the unexpected presents were enthusiastically welcomed. But after our experience with the Roskams, I can't imagine celebrating a friend's new home any other way.
While you may want to have your house blessed by your pastor or other respected Christian, don't feel that it's your only option. It is consistent with Scripture for a laypersonincluding you!to perform this action. When Moses talked about writing God's commands on the doorframes, he was not speaking directly to priests, but to parents. Keith Bushardt, who recently moved to a new house with his family, notes, "Practically speaking, we didn't have a relationship with a church when we moved, and we didn't want to wait until then to consecrate our new place to the Lord. My wife, Linda, and I planned our own house blessing without the aid of a pastor and it was a wonderful ceremony."
A DIY Ceremony
To plan your own house blessing, consider these ideas for a stress-free, fun-filled do-it-yourself ceremony:
Plan the event as a family. Several days (if not weeks) before your house blessing, sit down with your children and discuss the ingredients that will make it smack of your family's tastes. Will it include music? Will the decorations be homemade? If you make a banner or family crest, who will do it? Who will you invite? If extended family lives nearby, be sure to include them. Don't overlook your new neighbors. This event could be a meaningful way to communicate the values you embrace as a family.
If your "new" home is truly new, try to do a house blessing before the drywall is painted. Then, have every member of the family use pencils to write "Dear God" letters describing their hopes and dreams for life in this house on the walls in each room. Even after the paint and paper go up, your kids will remember that their messages to God will always be part of their house. You can also take Sharpies and write Scripture verses on the sub-flooring before the carpet is installed. That way, you'll literally be standing on God's Word throughout your home.
Don't just have a token prayer in the entryway. Plan on winding your way through all the rooms in the house as a way of presenting the whole dwelling to the Lord. Have each family member choose a room for which they'd like to pray. Ask them to think about what will go on in each room, the people who will use it, and how God can be a part of your lives in that space. For example, as you pause in the family room, circle around the couch and ask that the conversations that take place there will honor God, and help you grow closer as a family. In the kitchen, thank the Lord for good food and ask that he continue to provide for your family's physical needs. In the dining room, thank the Lord for a place to entertain extended family and guests, and to fill you with a desire to extend hospitality. In the bedrooms, ask for God's protection for those who sleep there and the calming of fears that sometimes come at night. Give thanks for a personal sanctuary in which to retreat and a warm bed in which to sleep. In the yard, thank God for his creation and ask him to help you be good caretakers of the earth and all living things.
Include friends and family in the ceremony. If a grandparent is present, ask them to pray whenever they feel led. In the Roskams' family room, Peter's mother prayed that her grandchildren would grow up in their new home loving each other. Keith's good friend, a former pastor, prayed in the entry hall that warmth would greet all who stepped inside the front door. Invite your guests to offer their own form of thanks and worship through a song, a poem, or a passage of Scripture.
Don't forget the music. If someone in your family plays a musical instrument, encourage him to play a piece in one of the rooms to give him a sense of ownership in the ceremony and to flavor the atmosphere with celebration.
Moving into a new home is one of life's most stressful events, especially for children. By inviting God to be a permanent and meaningful part of your life in a new place, you'll give your childrenand yourselvesa sense of peace and comfort that can only come from the real Master of the house.
Greg Asimakoupoulos is a writer and the father of three daughters. He and his family live in Illinois.
Bless This House
Use some of the following Bible verses during your house blessing:
Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.
By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
(God said), "Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there."
2 Chronicles 7:15-16
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(Jesus said), "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."
Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today magazine.
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