Keeping the Sabbath – A Christian Liturgy for the Family

Keeping the Sabbath – A Christian Liturgy for the Family

“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.” (Exodus 20:8-10)

1. The Liturgy for the Family Table. (the night before the chosen Sabbath day, which officially starts at sundown)

a. Put fresh flowers, nice tablecloth, good dinnerware, two big candles on the table; No business as usual, eg, discussing homework, duties, logistics; All cell phones muted and in another room; Landline phone takes messages. A time set apart.

b. The Preparation Prayer (mother prays at sundown before lighting candles):

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who is the Author of peace. You who made the Sabbath, enter our home this night. Almighty God, grant us and all our loved ones rest on this Sabbath day. May the light of the candles drive out among us the spirit of anger and the spirit of fear. Send your blessings that we may walk in the ways of your Word and your light. Enter our hearts this night. You, who made the Sabbath, come sit at table with us. Embrace us with your Tent of Peace. Heavenly Father, we rejoice in your creation! It is from you that we receive every good and perfect gift. Giver of life and love, grant us your peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

c. The Creation Prayer (mother prays while lighting the first candle):

“This candle represents creation. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth light out of darkness.”

d. The Redemption Prayer (mother prays while lighting second candle):

“This candle represents redemption. Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.’ Our Lord also said, ‘You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before others in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify Your Father who is in heaven.’ As we light these candles and set them to give light to all who are in this room, light our lives with the great love of your Son, Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.”

e. The Blessing of Marriage (Use names of each person during blessings):

Honoring Wife and Mother (husband holds hand of wife as he reads from Proverbs 31):

“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her saying, ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’ A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Honoring Husband and Father (holding hands while she reads from Psalm 1):

“Happy is the man who has not followed the counsel of the wicked, or taken the path of sinners, or joined the company of the insolent; rather, the teaching of the Lord is his delight, and he studies that teaching day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, whose foliage never fades, and whatever it produces thrives.”

f. Blessing the Children (father goes to each child around the table, places his hands on each child’s head, and prays a blessing over each one… Each child is affirmed and offered to God with their unique abilities, dreams, personalities). If desired instead, the father may give the traditional Aaronic blessing over each child, found in Numbers 6:24-26… “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 face upon you, and give you peace. Amen.”

g. Family Sings Grace (sing a favorite; this is sung to Doxology tune):

Be present at our table, Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. Thy creatures bless, and grant that we, May feast in Paradise with thee. Amen.

h. The Prayer of Celebration (father prays over a cup of wine, after which each member of family sips from same cup):

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.”

i. The Prayer of Sanctification (father prays before the handwashing, in which oldest child brings basin of water and a towel to each family member; rinse and dry hands):

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has instructed us through your commandments, set us apart through the waters of baptism, and purified us through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross.”

j. The Prayer of Thanksgiving (father prays over Sabbath bread, after which each family member takes a piece of the loaf and eats it):

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”

k. Enjoy the Meal! (Don’t forget… No family business that relates to school or sports or work. Parents are asked to lead a biblical discussion appropriate to the ages present at the table, such as Creation, favorite Bible heroes or stories, a life lesson recently learned, a parent’s story from growing up, or maybe even the possible meaning of a favorite parable of Jesus.)

l. Grace After the Meal (father prays)

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who provides the fruit of the earth for our use. Teach us to remember that it is not by bread alone that we live. Grant us evermore to feed on Him who is the true Bread from heaven, even Jesus Christ our Lord. O God, our heavenly Father, look with favor upon all the homes of your people. Defend us against evil and supply all our needs according to the riches of your wonderful grace. Make our homes to be sanctuaries of peace, love and joy. Help us to follow you every step of our daily lives. May we always abide under the safe shadows of your love, through God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

2. The Sabbath Day, the Day Set Apart.

a. No burdensome legalism here… “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Choose whichever day works for your family; discuss as a family what “no business as usual” looks like in your home, such as putting cell phones, computers or video games aside for the day; enjoy nature and each other and neighbors; remember God and our dependence on Him; honor His kingship, and consider that the universe depends on His productivity, not ours. Stop, relax, and celebrate that we have no pharaoh oppressing us in our labor.

3. The Havdalah Ceremony – Saying good-bye to the Sabbath at sunset, and preparing for the following week.

a.  The selected woman lights the braided candle, signifying the light of God and the unity of Creation and Redemption. The room lights are all turned off;

b.  Prayer said over the lighted candle: “We are reminded, Lord, that darkness still covers the earth. We lift our hands to Your light (everyone lifts hands to the light) because we know that You are the light of the world. We ask and desire that our lives may be filled with Your light; and because we acknowledge that our only hope is in You, we dedicate the work of our hands in Your service.” 

c.  Wine: make sure each person’s cup has a small amount of wine. Keep candle lit, but turn lights back on.

d.  Selected person: “As a symbol of our desire that the blessings of Sabbath will flow into the week ahead, and also in our joy in the Lord that causes our “cup to run over,” we say to the Lord: 

e.  (All pray together) “Surely the Lord will save me; I will trust in Him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and He will be my Savior.” (taken from Isaiah 12);

f.  The selected person will place a plate under his/her chalice of wine and fill the cup to overflowing. Everyone sips some of wine in their cups.

g.  Blessing the Spice Box (includes clove, cinnamon, cardamom, pieces of orange peel, and rosebuds): A selected person prays, “But thanks be to God, who in Messsiah always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Messiah to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16).

h.  As the spice box is being passed around the table, someone prays, “May our lives carry the fragrance of Jesus, Yeshua, the Lord of the Sabbath; a royal fragrance that will bless and draw others wherever He may take us.” 

i.  The person who lit the candle extinguishes it in the spilled wine in the plate.

j. The Prayer After Havdalah (mother prays this Farewell Prayer at sundown of the Sabbath day):

“O God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah and Rachel, guard your people. Your beloved Sabbath is departing. Help us through this evening to consider the darkness that covered the earth when your Son Jesus died on the cross. May your love go with us through the night and wake us in the morning with renewed spirits, to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart. Amen.”

4. Breakfast on Morning After Sabbath

a. Mother lights a candle on the breakfast table;

b. A reading of John 1:1-16;

c. Family prays together: “And Jesus said, ‘As the Father has sent me, I also send you.'”

d. Father says triumphantly: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!”

e. Everyone responds with gusto: “Thanks be to God!”


** An excellent resource for learning more about the Jewish roots and history of the Sabbath, as well as recipes and family activities, refer to Martha Zimmerman’s book Celebrate the Feasts (1981, Bethany House Publishers) or her updated version Celebrate the Biblical Feasts.

2 Replies to “Keeping the Sabbath – A Christian Liturgy for the Family”

  1. This is Awesome! Thank you so much for publishing this for our encouragement, may God bless you richly!

  2. I remember doing all of these! Moreso at the Passover liturgy, but parts of it at other times