“Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week,” wrote American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
God has set aside one day of the week as holy, for us to rest from the cares of this world and worship him without distraction or interruption. We see this in both his creation and redemption design.
Thus, Sunday—the first day of the week commemorating the resurrection of our Lord holds special significance for the Christian. It should be the constant anchor of our worship and resting in Christ, even as we sail through the journey of life.
On Sundays, the Lord’s Day, we gather together as the covenant community of God and enter his presence with great joy. We are given a foretaste of heaven itself every time we come together as the church gathered.
Faith, gratitude, joy and reverence compel us to prepare ourselves to come into the presence of a holy God along with others in our gospel community.
The Westminster Divines in the Directory of Public Worship spell this out. “When the congregation is to meet for public worship, the people (having prepared their hearts for it beforehand) should all come and join in it; not absenting themselves from the public ordinance through negligence, or upon pretence of private meetings.”
We must not take God’s holiness or our redemption by his grace lightly. It is only appropriate that we enter his presence with awe and reverence. It is a dangerous thing to be in the presence of so great and holy a king. A posture of appropriate fear and trembling is required (Ps. 2:11)
It is our blessing to prepare to meet him with loving hearts, and a lowly spirit, free of distraction and full of worship, willing to listen and respond to him.
Heed the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes who wrote: “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil (Ecclesiastes 5:1).”
How can we prepare for worship? Here are a few things to do on Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
Pray for God to still your heart and prepare you to meet him in worship.
In prayer, we humbly confess our daily need for God’s grace. It is only by the grace of God that we come into his presence.
Pray that the Lord will remove all worries that weigh down your heart and remove all distractions that surround you. Pray God would grant you a willing spirit that is attentive to his word and responds in love towards him and fellow believers.
Pray that your heart would be sensitive to the Spirit’s conviction and respond without reserve to calls for repentance and obedience. Ask him to break the hard fallow ground of your heart and open your eyes and ears.
Pray for your family members and other members who worship with you. Pray for the soil of their hearts to be prepared too.
This prayer of the Anglican Bishop Thomas Cranmer, from the Book of Common Prayer, is a lovely prayer to shape and guide our own cries to God.
“Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures. Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Along with prayer, ensure you meditate upon the gospel and remind yourself of the privilege of worshipping God in his church.
If your church publishes the Scripture portion for the sermon ahead of time, read, and ponder over it. If you go to a church that practices systematic expository preaching, you will always know what is awaiting you Sunday.
If you are going to celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, then it is proper to spend time meditating upon its meaning.
Confess your sins and offer thanksgiving to God for the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. We should come to the table of the Lord with adequate preparation worthy of the holy feast.
Plan well for everything that needs to be done for you to attend service on time.
Often families find themselves rushing to get ready. They arrive at church flustered and frustrated and perhaps late.
If you have small children, plan on getting them ready in time. Ensure they have sufficient time so they are not rushed.
Set your alarms and ensure you go to sleep at an appropriate time so you wake up refreshed. Do not stay up unnecessarily late on Saturday night.
Plan the journey and account for traffic. Give yourself some extra time to ensure you arrive a few minutes early to connect meaningfully with others.
Give yourself enough time to settle down at church, and quieten your spirit as you come into God’s presence.
Prepare the clothes you will wear in advance. Choose what you will wear and lay it out ironed and ready.
If you have small children pack their bags. Ensure your Bible, pen, and paper for notes (or a tablet for those who use that) are all ready and available. You do not want to be scrambling about on Sunday morning.
All the planning in the world does you no good unless you resolve in faith to live out your plans. Ensure that you do not compromise on your preparation. Work hard at it till preparing for Sunday mornings becomes a joyful second nature to you.
Faith and reverence compel us to pledge ourselves to meet Christ with great expectancy for he meets us with great love in his word and sacrament.
Preparing for worship shows that we are intentional about worship and serious about God. It reveals an authentic heart that longs to meet God properly.
May our hearts always be filled with great adoration that we are granted the privilege to come into God’s house and worship him (Ps. 122:1). As the words of the old hymn by Isaac Watts go:
While all our hearts and all our songs
join to admire the feast,
each of us cries, with thankful tongue,
“Lord, why was I a guest?”
Extraordinary Power Through Ordinary Means
Meeting together as the church for the Lord’s Day worship is not an option for the Christian. We are explicitly commanded by God not to neglect meeting together as saints (Heb. 10:25). It is a covenant obligation.
The joy of our salvation draws us to join with others in our local church in thanking and worshipping Christ.
This is ultimately for our own good, for it is in the church gathered that we receive the grace of God in the reading and hearing of God’s word, in the sermon that is preached, and in the sacraments administered.
This is where we fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord encouraging and building up one another (1 Thess. 5:11).
The Lord Jesus has chosen the church as his primary instrument for renewing all things in this world. Thus, to be fruitful in your Christian witness in the world, and fruitful for the kingdom of God, regular church attendance and involvement are necessary.
Our spiritual growth depends on our faithful use of meeting God in the means of grace he has provided and communing with him as our covenantal head.
The extraordinary power of God can flow into each of our lives through these ordinary means of grace. May we all tap into it joyfully and diligently.