If you regularly worship in a church, think for a moment about what happens when you settle yourself into your seat, whether it is in a physical worship center or in another location as you worship online. I have a friend who spent the better part of the pandemic taking her coffee every Sunday morning at sunrise to a nearby sand dune where she read a full week of At Water’s Edge devotionals as her worship liturgy. Truly, if we learned one thing during the pandemic it is that worship can happen anywhere or anytime that you open yourself in an attitude of praise and attention to God’s abiding presence. So the question really becomes, how do you prepare for worship?
When my girls were very young, I had to report early on Sundays to a church that offered multiple service times, and thus I was mostly spared what mothers and fathers do to get a house full of kids ready to go to church. Many Sundays I would look out at my girls with their father in the pew and know instantly who had gotten the final word on the day’s outfits and hairstyles. My husband never did quite master a French braid, but his pigtail braids were unbeatable. Indeed, getting ready for church with young children is sometimes a Herculean undertaking. We see you, young parents.
Worship preparation for pastors is a much different thing. Our brains are on fire with all of the details that make Sunday morning look seamless to the worshipper. Going over our sermons and prayers, checking in with other worship leaders, noting the temperature of the room, dealing with complaints, giving last minute instructions to ushers and musicians, ensuring that the offering plates/candles/mics are in place, checking on the nursery….speaking for myself, the mental focus that this requires is EXHAUSTING. I am often asleep by 2:00 on Sunday afternoon.
How do you get ready to worship? What happens in your mind, your heart, and your soul? Are you dialed in to the presence of a holy God, or are you mentally going through your list of things to do as soon as worship is over?
Psalm 29 (New King James Version)
Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
2 Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
One of the things I pray for myself and my parishioners during the opening prayer is that the Holy Spirit would come and take away all of the distractions and to-do lists that we brought into the sanctuary with us. Some days it is truly a challenge to keep the worldly things from crowding out the divine.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders;
The Lord is over many waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The psalmist reminds us of the power of God’s voice. But the truth is, we are also powerful in our ability to completely shut God’s voice out….even in the midst of worship. Worries, troubles, annoyances, distractions, crying babies, the smell of too much perfume, seeing someone in the pew who has offended you….there are many things that can pull you out of worship while your body is still sitting there.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars,
Yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes them also skip like a calf,
Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth,
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!”
We would do well to spend a moment before worship focusing on clearing our minds so that we can join together and say, “Glory!” in an attitude of humility and submission to the Holy Spirit. If we ask, God will give us his strength to do this.
10 The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood,
And the Lord sits as King forever.
11 The Lord will give strength to His people;
The Lord will bless His people with peace.
So before you enter your “church” next time, spend a moment in preparation to deeply, wholly, and completely worship God. All those distractions will still be there at the end of the hour, but you will be more fortified to handle things after having devoted yourself to worshipping God.
God invites us into the beauty of his holiness…don’t miss it.