I thought I’ll share this article, which I came across in the 25 January 2017 edition of Church Leaders. It is written by David Manner.
It is recorded at the beginning of chapter five of Ecclesiastes that we should guard our steps as we go to the house of God and listen instead of offering the sacrifice of fools who don’t even know they are being foolish (Eccl 5:1).
Understanding the necessity of individually preparing for gathered worship is radically different than expecting our worship leaders to generate our worship for us when we get there. We sing our songs as an act of worship, not to create it.
Richard Foster wrote, “Worship is our response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father. It is kindled within us only when the Spirit of God touches our human spirit. Forms and rituals do not produce worship, nor does the disuse of forms and rituals. We can use all the right methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshiped the Lord until His Spirit touches our spirit.”
Norma de Waal Malefyt and Howard Vanderwell offer some suggestions to help us prepare for worship. It requires:
Internal preparation of heart: God calls us to worship him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), then we must constantly ask questions about the state of our spirit and readiness of our hearts.
Pre-arrival preparation: We can learn from the Jews who believe the Sabbath begins at sundown the evening before. So, our Saturday night and Sunday morning activities before we gather have a formative effect, positively or negatively, on our readiness for worship.
Pre-service preparation: That short period between our arrival at church and the beginning of the worship service is also critical. Intentionally quieting our spirits before the service begins will also enable us to set distractions aside and again focus our corporate attention on God.
And since worship does not start when we enter the worship service, it should not stop when we leave. So, with that understanding, I would recommend a fourth suggestion to add to the previous three: Worship begins in our hearts, not on our lips.
Pastor Robert Chew
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1978
Malefyt, N. Vanderwell, H. Database online. Available from worship.com.edu