Most of us hate feeling unprepared. Whether it be for a test, an interview, or a work assignment we like to have time to study or practice prior to the task. Preparation often helps us do our best in any given situation.
When it comes to worship I have found that it is also important to be prepared. So often the busyness of life can cause us to enter a Sunday gathering feeling scattered, anxious, and lacking focus. As a result we can go through the service with our hearts and minds distracted and unable to focus on what God is saying.
Furthermore, I have found that a lack of preparedness for worship makes me hypercritical. When I am not prepared to hear from God in a corporate worship setting I secretly put on my critic hat. On the outside I may look like I am paying attention, but inside I am secretly critiquing the music, the speaker, the lighting, the sound, etc. When I am not prepared to worship, my mind focuses more on how things could be done better. Or I dwell on how I am not being “entertained” or “fed” more than on what God might be trying to say to me in the moment. The sad truth of the matter is that when I become critical in my worship I enslave my ability to worship a holy God to the performance of someone else.
My guess is, I am not alone.
So, what do we do in these moments? The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 5 gives us some guidance. He reminds us of the importance of “guarding our steps” as we enter the house of the Lord. In other words be careful, thoughtful, and reverent as you come into a corporate worship setting. Take time to prepare your heart for your time of worship. This process can begin a few minutes before worship or even days. It involves taking time to ask God to prepare your heart for worship. Praying that God will quiet your heart and mind and allow you to focus on what He wants to communicate to you.
And then the Preacher reminds us of the importance of listening. This can be very difficult. Our lives can be incredibly noisy. But it is important to ask God to quiet our minds and help us to listen to His voice. But we listen not just to learn new and interesting facts about the Bible. We listen with the intent to obey. We must always be asking ourselves two questions as we come to worship. What is God saying to me? What am I going to do about it?
Our preparation for our Sunday gathering begins on Monday. Our corporate gathering is designed to be the culmination of a life of personal worship lived throughout the week. Therefore, it is incredibly important for us to daily immerse ourselves in the truths of God’s Word, seeking Him in prayer, and obediently following Him.
And so, my prayer is that each of us take time this week to prepare for our time together Sunday. Begin to ask God even now to move in our midst. Pray that we would be in awe of His greatness and power. Pray that Sunday we would all clearly hear from God and live in obedience to His calling.