Worship… we all talk about it. We “participate” in it. We have grown accustomed to the “routine” of it…
How do we prepare for worship? Is it necessary? What difference does it make?
Over the next three weeks I plan to do a short series on our preparation for worship. Why we prepare, how we prepare, and the difference that preparation makes.
I’ve planned and led many worship services over the past few years and I’ve seen many different responses. It is easy to be encouraged by those who are outwardly responding to the presence of God, and it is even easier to get discouraged by those who we perceive as not “worshipping.” But something that I find necessary to constantly remind myself is that we can respond to a “moment” outwardly with an inwardly disengaged heart and mind.
That thought is horrifying.
There is no special equation for church worship services. No magical chord that we can hit or song we can sing that will instant bring the Spirit of God rushing in like a tidal wave. As a Worship Leader I need to be reminded that spiritual preparation is what sets our services apart. Spiritual preparation is what sets our worship apart.
Think about it… we wouldn’t go into a meeting with the CEO of the company we work for unprepared. We wouldn’t walk into the Oval Office and plop down in front of the President without a plan.
If you’ve ever had guests stay at your house for a night or two you know the preparations that went on before their arrival. You tidied up the whole house. You made the bed in the guest room with new clean linens. You scrubbed the toilet and the shower. How do you prepare your heart and mind for worship before asking the Spirit of God to indwell our worship?
We prepare for many things in life… how much more preparation should we do before we approach the throne of God in worship?
This week at church we are preparing floors for new carpet and walls for paint. Before we paint the walls we have to go and sand down any bumps or imperfections. We have to fill gaps, apply primer, and wait for the right time to begin painting. We can’t just begin slapping on coats of paint! To get the desired result takes time and preparation. Our worship works in the same way. We can’t walk into the sanctuary willy nilly on Sunday morning and strike the first chord and “BOOM” we are off to the races.
So… why do we prepare for worship?
- To engage Spiritually.
We are all probably “used” to church “worship.” Because of that I believe that the more we have immersed ourselves in worship the more intense our preparation should be.
Ultimately, worship is a matter of the heart. It’s not an opportunity to observe, critique, or fulfill our own wants and desires. Instead it is an opportunity to respond in spirit and truth. John 4:23-24 says,
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
Our worship is the response of our heart. If we aren’t preparing our hearts, then we’ll be more prone to engage emotionally but be passive spiritually. To respond outwardly and be inwardly disengaged.
- To realize our dependence on God.
In all of our preparing we are both being obedient and reminding ourselves that we can do nothing apart from the moving of the Holy Spirit. We are entirely dependent on God to have an encounter with God.
Like we said above… “There is no particular element or song we can include to usher in the presence of the Lord.” If there were I am sure we would have it sown to a set science by now.
In our preparation, leading, and worshipping we may get a sense of what the Holy Spirit wants to do.
This works for both worship leaders and congregational worshippers. When we prepare our hearts before worship we are removing ourselves from the equation and moving out of the way in order to interpret and follow the Lord in our worship to Him. It’s always nice to enter into a worship service with a vision or word from God and preparation makes a way for us to do this.
- To focus on what Matters.
Psalm 95:1-6 says,
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Psalm 95 may be well known by many… and it draws our eyes, hearts, and minds to what really matters when we gather. This psalm also provides instruction on how we are to come worship.
“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving…”
We are to enter into His presence with thanksgiving…already prepared and praising.
Preparation tends to point our hearts in the direction of the things that really matter. Things that matter to God. When we’re spiritually prepared, we’re not as concerned about songs and arrangements, volume and lighting, new or old. Those things may be important to us, but the presence of Jesus is so much more deserving of our attention. When we ignore the preparation of your heart, trivial matters tend to steal the show.
Let’s leave with a challenge to prepare ourselves for worship and see what the Lord can do both in our own hearts as well as the hearts of our congregations.
Isaiah 12:5 says,
Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.
Hebrews 12:28 says,
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.