Worship is the most important thing that we do as humans. After all, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We worship God individually and as families, but our weekly gathering to worship together is central to our lives as Christians. When something is important to us, we want to prepare well for it. For example, we put more time and effort into preparing the Thanksgiving dinner than we do for a typical lunch on a typical Tuesday. In the same way, it’s important for us to prepare well for our Sunday worship.
So, what do you do to get ready for worship? Of course, there are practical, down-to-earth things to take care of. If you are joining us in-person for worship, you have to get dressed and drive to the church in order to arrive in time. If you join us by livestream, you have to log in to Facebook on your computer, notebook, or smartphone, go to our group page, and hope that everything works as it’s supposed to. If you join us by phone, you need to dial in, enter the access code, and hope that I remember to start the conference call.
But preparing for worship involves much more than the mechanics of getting yourself to worship, in-person or virtually. Worship preparation includes the important work of preparing your heart and spirit to enter into the presence of the Almighty. If you are worshiping at home, preparation may include creating a mini-sanctuary space of your own, free from distractions. You may want to include something like a candle or a cross to help focus your attention on the Lord. If you are worshiping in the church, preparation for worship may mean taking time to sit quietly in the sanctuary and direct your thoughts toward God’s presence. No matter where you are, your worship preparation may include praying for those about to lead worship and for those who are worshiping with you. It may include disciplining your mind not to wander toward other demands in your life for the next hour. You may want to read the Scripture passages, prayers, and words of the songs that will be part of the service. You may want to review the names of the people for whom we will be praying, and to consider any prayers that you may want to share during the service.
Our ancestors in the faith understood the importance of worship preparation. Psalms 120-134 are known as the “songs of ascents.” Traditionally, they were sung by pilgrims as they ascended the hills surrounding Jerusalem in order to gather at the temple for festivals. We can find inspiration in their words to help our spirits “ascend” into the Lord’s presence ourselves as worship time draws near.
Entering into the Divine Presence for worship is nothing to be taken lightly. It is not only our duty, but our honor and great privilege, possible only because of the redeeming work of Christ, who has made us worthy to come before the Lord.