Getting ready for worship on Sunday morning (or whenever you attend) isn’t always the most spiritual experience, is it?
Each week, you gather for worship with other fellow believers, together constituting the Body of Christ – the expression of the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth. And yet, the profoundness of the gathering often gets lost in the bustle of the morning, doesn’t it?
Come on, let’s be honest- what kind of thoughts REALLY roll through your mind as you prepare for church?
Do they sound something like the following?
“Hey, where is my black belt? I only see my brown one…maybe I should just change shoes”
“Is the baby still sleeping? He should have been up a half hour ago if he’s going to make it through the whole service without getting cranky.”
“Does the service start at 9:15 or 9:30am? I can never remember…”
“Who is preaching today? I hope it’s not the children’s minister filling in for the pastor again.”
“We really need to be out of church by 10:30am if we’re going to make it to my parent’s for lunch. Communion better not take so long this week.”
“Crud, it’s my turn to make coffee before the service, and I’m already late enough as it is.”
Again, getting ready to attend worship, unfortunately, is not the most prayerful, reflective, or spiritual experience for most of us.
But why is this? Why does the act of preparing for worship so often boil down to getting dressed, getting kids in the car, and making to the service before anyone sees you walking in late?
What if we stopped for a moment and truly evaluated our thoughts and actions before attending a worship service? Would we find that are often too caught up in the busyness of preparing for the day to really reflect on the truth that a church gathering is an expression of God’s Kingdom on Earth.
Do we recognize the Holy Spirit will be present and moving in our very midst, or that we will be standing before the presence of Jesus together as His people?
Yes, pastors routinely remind us of all the great theology surrounding the church gathering – and yet, it always seems to fall flat for us, doesn’t it?
However, I believe there is something we can do about this dilemma, and it begins with each one of us.
We can all prepare our hearts for worship, and that kind of preparation adds up as people gather together.
Again, I personally believe that preparing for worship can be so much more, and Scripture points us to that very thought. Truly preparing our hearts and minds for worship means readying ourselves for an encounter with a community of faith, ready to worship the holy and perfect God. But in order to do that, we have to fight one of the biggest issues Christian people face.
Compartmentalization means dividing your life into segments, and each segment has specific attitudes, behaviors and actions unique to them. For example, if you act one way at home, and then another way with college friends, and yet another way with church friends, you may say your life is divided into compartments. Each compartment has it’s own set of rules that you follow, and it’s embarrassing or awkward when the line between compartments bleed over.
But, of course, God is everywhere. He’s with you at work, home, church, coffee shop, or wherever it is you might be.
The puny compartments of our lives mean very little to the God of all the great expanses of the universe.
In regards to preparing to worship, compartmentalization often drives us to see worship as “something that takes place during the church service.” From this perspective, what happens before or after church has no real bearing on the worship gathering for us. When we live a life of compartmentalization, worship becomes an isolated act – separate from the rest of our lives.
The author of Hebrews provides wonderful insight into preparing ourselves for worship. As you read this passage, I’ve highlighted key phrases that we’ll dig into deeper.
Also note, the “great priest” described at the beginning of this passage is in reference to Jesus. I didn’t want you to get confused on that part!
Hebrews 10:21-25 (NIV)
“And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…“
Awesome passage, eh? So what can this teach us about preparing our hearts and minds for attending a worship service?
(1) Draw Near To God With A Sincere Heart
The act of worship begins with authenticity in heart and mind. In order to enter into that framework, we should begin our preparations with centering prayer to help us focus and calm ourselves before a worship service. Before getting dressed, getting the kids ready, hitting the road, or whatever other tasks we might face that morning – find some time and turn your thoughts with full sincerity to God.
Pray that you might maintain your sights on the act of worship. Also, to maintain a state of spiritual intentionality throughout the experience. One of the primary functions of prayer is to help guide us into a mindset more closely in tune with God’s desire for us.
A centering prayer might sound something like the following:
God, help me to bring full attention onto you today. Remove the distractions and barriers stopping me from finding peace and hope in your presence. Lord, help me to have perseverance in my focus on you. Please give me the insight and courage to continuously step past the attacks on my focus. Help me to always return my thoughts to your presence. Let us, as it is written in Hebrews, “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Amen.
Centering ourselves with prayer is the foundation of preparing for worship. Without it, we will truly struggle to find a worshipful attitude and truly be prepared for worship.
(2) Consider How We May Spur One Another On
One of the main things about attending a worship service is the realization that it’s about more than just ourselves. “Church” occurs when “two or three are gathered in my name ” Jesus said in Matt. 18:20. There is a human relations component to worship. The author of Hebrews encourages us to think about how we might encourage one another when we gather together, and that should be part of our thought process when preparing for worship. Who can we reach out to at church, whose life can we touch? We should take these thoughts into prayerful consideration before our church gathering.
(3) Not Giving Up Meeting Together, But Encouraging One Another
Look, I know that being part of church worship isn’t always the greatest experience. Sometimes people at church say rude, or insensitive things to us, or the kids get in a fight on the way there and you’re struggling to even get out of the car on arrival. Sometimes the music isn’t great, and the sermon is boring, and the service lasts too long. At other times, you could really use a couple extra hours in your day to get things done around the house, or just sleep in.
But worship is about more than your experience, or your circumstances. It’s about joining together as a group of people with a common belief, a connection of faith that bonds you.
In your centering prayer before attending church, ask God to help you see beyond your circumstances. Ask to see the larger picture of what He is doing in that day. God is always at work. The question is if we are willing to see what He is doing and where He is working.
In conclusion, I just want to remind you that God is ALWAYS present.
God is powerfully involved in every single worship gathering. The question isn’t if “God will show up,” but if WE show up, with our hearts and mind tuned into what God is doing.
I sincerely hope that this post has helped you think about some ways you might bring more intentionality and focus to your preparation for worship
Do you have any habits, prayer practices, rituals or other methods for readying yourself for attending worship? Let us know by commenting below. Also, don’t forget to subscribe for future updates and get our latest free eBook, 5 Practices For The Busy Lifestyle.