The act of preparation is preparing our hearts, mind, and soul in a posture to be able to fully receive the Lord’s blessing and Word.
When you consider your normal routine for attending a worship service, what does it usually include? Maybe you spend some time in the Word or praying over the service? Maybe you’re intentional about listening to worship music? Or maybe you honestly haven’t even considered the importance of preparing for worship. Sometimes life gets in our way and impacts our ability to prepare in our ideal way. Consider these three scenarios:
It’s 8:00 in the morning and the kids have overslept, the dog won’t stop barking and you can’t find your keys. Yet you are supposed to be the worship leader for this Sunday’s service which begins at 10:00 a.m.
It’s 10:30, you’re in the process of going to church and then you realize that you have forgotten your tablet with all of your notes, and you are the preacher for the 11:00 a.m. service.
It’s 10:45 a.m. and while you aren’t scheduled to preach or lead worship, your heart is heavy because of external circumstances that aren’t under your control. Maybe someone died or is in the hospital, or there was a mass shooting, or you have lost a friend.
Maybe you can relate to one of those situations or maybe you can relate to all three. Regardless of whether you are the scheduled worship leader, preacher, or congregant (both virtual and in-person), we have a duty to prepare ourselves for our encounter with God. But I get it; life is hard. We have a million distractions and, similar to the preacher and the congregant above, often the distractions are completely out of our immediate control.
In Exodus 19:10-11, God tells Moses to instruct the Israelites to be ready for his encounter:
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
Consecrate, as used in this context, is qâdash, which means to be set apart, to be holy, and to show oneself holy. This is the same word that is used in Leviticus 11:44-45 when the Lord tells the Israelites to “be holy, for I am holy” and again in Joshua 3:5: “then Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”
. . . for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you. Wow. But we have a duty to prepare.
You may be asking yourself why it is important to consecrate and prepare ourselves for worship. The reason is simple. The act of preparation is preparing our hearts, mind, and soul in a posture to be able to fully receive the Lord’s blessing and Word.
What does this preparation look like in the context of this Sunday morning service? Consider the following questions:
- Where are your heart and head as you prepare to enter the building or turn on the TV for the service?
- Are they focused on politics, frustrated with your kids, or understandably flustered because you forgot your notes?
- Can you genuinely say that as you are entering his gates that you are doing it with thanksgiving in your hearts (Psalm 100:4)?
No matter what is happening in this world, it is our duty (and in our best interest) to bring all of our concerns to the Lord. He is the only one who can fix them. He is the only one who can fully care for them.
I’d like to offer some general suggestions for our various scenarios.
An easy tip to prepare to lead the church in worship is to play through a recording of every song on your setlist for this Sunday. This will allow you to take the time to allow those words to penetrate your soul and heart and become real. I would expect that at least one of those songs selected was picked just for this moment through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Trust that the Lord has already placed his words on your lips and heart. A suggestion that I always have is for everyone to have a worship playlist of their top 10 worship songs which allows them to best connect to the Lord. While you are driving or on your way into the door, turn up that playlist and allow those songs to remind you of God’s greatness.
Often, consecrating ourselves means coming to the Lord with everything; bringing all of our worries and concerns to the cross. This type of consecration may have us entering the building sad, but we are still entering the building dressed and with an expectation that our Master is already at work.
Consecrating ourselves is an act of worship and reverence to Jesus. May we not take the invitation that the Lord gives us to enter into his presence lightly. It truly is an honor to take seriously.
A Prayer of Preparation
Dear God, silence all voices within our minds but your own.
Help us to seek and be able to follow your will.
May our prayers be joined
with those of our brothers and sisters in the faith
that together we may glorify your name and
enjoy your fellowship forever.
In Jesus’ name,
—Reformed Worship 19:31