On the occasion of an important event in our lives (a birthday, anniversary, etc.), we likely make plans to correctly and properly celebrate that event. We do this all the time with other more mundane things. For instance, we prepare for the next day by setting the alarm, so we do not oversleep. We may gather individual belongings and set them in a particular place so that we do not forget them. Whatever it may be, each of us engages in some form of preparation before doing anything.
If that is true, how much more, then, should we prepare for the most important activity of the week: corporate worship. Each Lord’s Day, we are invited into the presence of God to worship Him. There we sing his praises, hear from him as his Word is read and preached, pray, and are refreshed at the blessing of God’s presence with us, his people. Sadly, many in our day give little thought to preparing their hearts and minds to worship God. Indeed, they spend more time preparing for the mundane than they do the sacred.
In this article, I want to demonstrate the reason we should be diligent in preparing for worship each Lord’s Day and offer some practical advice to help us.
Why Prepare for Worship?
For the God-fearing Christian, this is not something that needs to be explained. We should prepare for worship because we are coming to meet with the living and true God of heaven and earth. There is no more enormous privilege than to be invited into his presence. As sinful people, we have no right to be where God dwells. Yet, through the work of Christ, we have been granted access to him.
Scripture gives us some examples regarding this need to prepare to worship God. Perhaps one of the clearest expressions occurs in Leviticus 1-10. Here we have a lengthy narrative that establishes this point. Throughout those ten chapters, God commands the people to make ready their hearts and lives to enter into his presence. Though the specific ways indicated are abolished in Christ, the principle remains – to enter into God’s presence is a significant endeavor and one that should be taken seriously. So, specifically, why should we make an effort in preparation to worship the Triune God?
First, we ought to prepare for worship because our hearts are fragile. Scripture is quite clear that God is interested in hearts full of devotion and love for him. Yet, Scripture is equally clear that our hearts are prone to wander. Solomon wisely counsels his son to “guard [his] heart for from it flows the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23). That is, all issues of life ultimately flow from the heart of man. Jesus expands on this summary statement in Matt. 15:18-20. Here, the Savior argues that every issue of life is a heart issue. Since it is true that God is interested in hearts devoted to him (Deut. 6:4, 5; 10:12-22) and since it is true that we are prone to wander, it is vital that we tend to the condition and nature of our hearts before coming into his presence on the Lord’s Day.
I am reminded of the classic hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. We sometimes sing this hymn in our worship. In it, we confess the nature of our hearts to wander from the living and true God. We sing, “Prone to wander – Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” None of us desires to wander, but the fact remains – though we are new creatures, we still wrestle with the sinfulness of our own lives and the indwelling sin that resides in us. This fact, emanating from our hearts, is reason enough to prepare to worship God. However, it is not the only reason.
The second reason we ought to prepare to worship God on the Lord’s Day is due to the majesty and holiness of God. Each of us has witnessed the beauty of a wedding ceremony. What we rarely see is the amount of preparation that occurs before the service, especially as the bride makes herself ready for her husband. A meticulous effort is made to ensure every hair is in place; the makeup perfect; the dress spotless. No detail is ignored. Every issue is handled so that the ceremony is flawless. The reason for this careful attention to detail is the focus and object of the gathering. That focus and object require careful preparation.
As in the illustration of a wedding, our focus is much greater. We do not gather to meet with a man, or to hear from a man, or to witness what men do or don’t do. We gather to meet with the living and true God. Scripture is clear as to the nature and character of this God, thus demanding that we approach him with preparation of the heart and carefulness of behavior. The Scriptures declare that our God is majestic (Ps. 29). It further tells us that he is holy (Isa. 6). It tells us that he is worthy of our praise and adoration and love and affection (Psa. 135; 150). It tells us that we should sing his praise (Ex. 15, Deut. 36; Psa. 149) for all that he Has done for us. Because of who God is, we should approach him with fear and reverence and awe. How can we do that if we have not made ready our lives – in exacting detail – to meet with so perfect and glorious a God?
I suspect that one of the reasons people say that they do not “get anything from worship” is because they forget who they are worshipping. There seems to be a loss of the awesomeness of God as we gather to worship him. Too often, there is a casualness that runs through the entirety of his worship. Yet, Scripture never presents God’s people approaching him in that manner. This casualness emanates from unprepared hearts and ends with the statement, “I didn’t get anything from worship today.” Perhaps the solution for our loss of awe in worship is to prepare to meet with our majestic and holy God on the Lord’s Day.
Therefore, I offer you the following as a means in which you may make yourself ready to meet with the living and true God.
What Can We Do to Prepare for Worship?
The following items are not inspired, obviously. They are born out of years of experience and observation. They are not to be followed woodenly, but with thought and intention of the heart to be ready to meet with our God.
- Preparing for worship means using the entire week with worship as the goal. Engage in the daily discipline of family worship. Husbands, lead your wife in a reading of Scripture and pray together daily. As you engage in this discipline, you will make ready the soil of your heart for the worship of God. There are many resources available on this subject (if you need help, ask your pastor). It can be as simple as reading a chapter from God’s Word and discussing it and then entering into a time of prayer. You can also utilize the monthly newsletter of the church and follow the discussion questions offered for each sermon. For those of you who are single, the advice is the same. If you are not spending time in the Word throughout the week, corporate worship will seem strange to you.
- Preparing for worship begins on Saturday evening. Three things come to mind here: First, a tired mind and body will not focus well in corporate worship. We are to worship him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. A tired body will result in sluggish thinking as you labor to worship. If you stay up all night, you will not be prepared. Endeavor to get the proper rest on Saturday evening. Second, use Saturday evening to pray for the worship service. Pray that God would be pleased with the worship. Pray that Spirit of God would help us and cause us to worship him in spirit and truth. Pray that the preaching would be a demonstration of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:1-5), and exalt Christ. Pray that God would bless his people as they gather to worship him. Third, plan ahead of time. Do you have gas in the car? Food in the refrigerator? Clothes ironed and ready to wear? Is everything in order so you can focus on the primary duty of the day?
- Preparing for worship means cultivating a spirit of joy regarding the Lord’s Day. Remember, you are not going to a funeral. You are going to worship the majestic God of heaven and earth! It should be a delight. One author puts it this way: “Cultivate a spirit of joy on Sunday mornings in your home. If this is the highlight of our week, then let’s act like it. Talk about how wonderful the day is going to be, wake the kids up with excitement, turn on good Christian music for the whole family to listen to, and put a smile on your face.”
- Preparing for worship means eliminating certain behaviors on the Lord’s Day morning. Avoid distracting items that might turn your mind to things that are not conducive to focusing your mind and soul for God’s worship. Turn off the TV, and listen to good music that will edify and encourage you as you come to worship. Avoid social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). That is going to look different for most people, but discipline your mind and behavior to focus on the purpose of the day: God’s worship.
- Preparing for worship means thinking about the sermon text that will be preached. One of the advantages of preaching through books of the Bible is that the congregation is rarely ignorant of the next sermon text. Spend some time on the Lord’s Day morning reading and thinking (perhaps discussing as well) the sermon that you will hear in a few hours. Give yourself enough time Sunday morning to utilize this discipline. We should be reading the Word of God anyhow, so substitute your regular reading for a reading of the text of Scripture that will be preached.
- Preparing for worship means examining your own heart and mind. If there are sins to deal with, deal with them. Repent and look to Christ. Don’t wait for the corporate confession of sin to blanket your personal sin. Pray as David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right Spirit within me” (Psa., 51:10). If there are offenses that need to be resolved, purpose to resolve them. That is especially true on the week when the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated.
- Preparing for worship means arriving early to worship. Nothing is more distracting to your mind and soul, as well as that of others when you are forced to rush into the church building, sit down, just as the pastor is reading the call to worship. Purpose to arrive early enough to sit still, meditate, and pray for what you are about to do: worship the living and true God. When you enter the sanctuary, refrain from conversation with other members. There is time for that after the worship service.
None of these items should be a checklist. Evaluate them honestly before the Lord. Each of us should strive to be prepared to meet our God and Savior on the day that he has provided. I pray that these items will assist you in the joyful duty of worshipping the majestic, awesome, holy, loving, kind, and good God that we serve.
There is no doubt that the market day of the soul is the Lord’s Day. The privileges afforded to the people of God on this day of worship are many. It is due to a gracious God that he calls us into his presence to worship him. Let us be diligent in preparing for this most important appointment in our week.
 Jason Helopoulos, “Preparing for Sunday Worship,” The Gospel Coalition, n.d., accessed June 5, 2020, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/preparing-for-sunday-worship/.