What does it mean to be prepared to worship?
I know this is long but I pray it would bless every person who would take the time to read it BEFORE they head to their church this weekend.
I wonder and dream often about what would happen within the church if the people of God came ready (prepared) to worship our God each week as a family.
I was reading this morning in Exodus 19 about the people of God meeting with God to get His instructions (the 10 commandments). The level of preparation that went into this corporate gathering between God and His people struck me. The LORD commanded Moses to have the people "consecrate themselves" for 3 days to gear up for this encounter with Himself. 3 days. 72 hours of preparation. Think about that.
God also gave Moses strict orders for the people to not attempt starting this meeting earlier; promising that those who skipped the days of prep time and would try to ascend (climb the mountain) early would surely die.
Now I know the steps to take for solid Biblical hermeneutics. I know the difference between old and new testaments. I know the "veil has been torn". I know that today we are freely invited into the presence of God because of the blood shed by Jesus Christ-- Ephesians 3:12 and Hebrews 4:14-16 tells me this.
But I also know that God has not lowered His standard of holiness.
So, today we have access to the holy God whom we read about in Exodus 19 that shakes mountains as He thunderously speaks and yet, many of us spend very LITTLE time preparing our heart to meet with Him publicly each week at our church gatherings.
I know Christ is our preparation. I know He has paid all debts we owe and will ever owe. I know we don't have to earn or work for ANYTHING because of the perfection given to us by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.
I get that. I do. So don't label me a heretic when I suggest that we as Christians as a whole have some maturing to do in the area of preparation before we worship our God with our brothers and sisters in Christ each week.
We rush into a worship service 5-7 minutes late with a coffee in our hands having spent no time in His Word or no time reflecting on our sinfulness and need for our Savior, Jesus Christ, and then we have the audacity to get up and leave that service and suggest we didn't really get anything out of it.
I would ask, “What did you put in it?”
Again, as I laugh to myself, I am not suggesting like some politician desperate for evangelical votes that 'God helps those who help themselves.' We all know that is crap. But I am challenging you to think through how you USE the freedom Christ has given you to approach God in corporate worship.
I wonder and dream often about what would happen within the church if the people of God came ready (prepared) to worship our God each week as a family. I want to humbly suggest a few things we can do to prepare our heart, NOT TO EARN ANYTHING from God, but merely to help us see Him more clearly in our weekly worship services.
1. SPEND TIME IN HIS WORD. My father told me years ago that if I wanted to enjoy deeper intimacy with the Lord and take my worship to the next level, to spend time in His Word BEFORE the service ever started. I cannot tell you how impactful this little piece of advice has been for me. I try to spend some time, whether I am leading on the stage or I am off the stage, before any worship service I go into, reading something from the Word. I almost always go to the Psalms. You want a quick fix in your Sunday worship experience (we LOVE quick fixes), I double-DAWG DARE you to read a Psalm before your church service starts and SEE if you don't enjoy a sweeter time of worship with our God!
The Word is living and active and cuts our heart to the core (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible opens our eyes to our sinfulness and NEED for a Savior, which is why reading the Word ultimately stirs your affections for Jesus Christ. Nothing is more dangerous in the hands of the living God than a person who knows how badly they need God.
I think (only my opinion) that often times our worship is reserved and quiet because our heart has not been pierced with the reality that we are broken beyond repair. Our minds are consumed on the building of our kingdom and the sufficiency of our strength that we are not motivated and moved to cry out for the living God. And when you have lost sight of your brokenness, and have bought the lie that you are strong and have everything under control, the desire to exalt Christ diminishes rapidly because you don't think you need Him.
You're not strong enough. That's the point. You are ready to worship God with that confession, "God, I need You."
Once a year I get a little taste of what our worship, as a church, would be like if our heart was tuned to His Word when our body does a "40 days of passion" devotional together. It is so refreshing how the momentum and intensity of our worship begins to climb to irregular levels as we journey together through Scripture for 40 days. Each weekend service gets sweeter and sweeter. It truly is something special to be a part of. But I have come to realize what makes this time so special is we have large chunks of people coming into our weekend worship services having prepared their heart for worship by reading the daily devotional that is FULL of God's Word BEFORE they come into the service. This small act of preparation in the lives of many individuals has a massive ripple effect in our worship as a church body.
How are you doing at preparing your heart for worship by spending time in his Word?
2. CONFESS YOUR SIN. These go hand-in-hand. I already said that the purpose of the Word (Hebrews 4:12-13) is to expose your sin NOT so that you can wallow in it, but SO THAT you can confess it and deal with it joyfully knowing that you've already been forgiven of all things in Jesus Christ. God no longer sees you and your rebellion but now sees the perfection of His Son, Jesus.
Confession is a vital piece in our relationship with God and our worship of Him. My two brothers, Josh and Luke are my best friends. I love them both very dearly and I am confident of their love for me. I know that (stay with me) I could punch them in the face and they would still love me. Seriously. There would be consequences to that action, but I know they would still love me. Now, our relationship would be a bit awkward until I apologized for punching them. But I wouldn't apologize to earn or keep their love because I am confident I already have it. I would apologize to restore the relationship and breath intimacy into it.
Confession is more than apologizing to God. It is admitting your rebellion and it is the earnest cry that the Lord realigns your heart to Him. We do NOT confess sin to earn forgiveness. The Bible says those who are in Christ are forgiven and declared RIGHTEOUS! But we are still commanded to confess sin regularly, for this discipline, this preparation, deepens our walk and intimacy with the Lord. Confession restores the intimacy of the relationship.
What would change in your worship if you took 5 minutes before you ever sang a note in church and confessed the junk in your heart?
3. PRAY BOLDLY FOR HIS PRESENCE. As a worship leader, I love praying over a room of people, that God would show Himself to us so powerfully that we would leave the service talking about Him and nothing or no one else. It's a bold prayer to request the presence of an almighty God. But for those who trust in Jesus, it should be a consistent request lifted in our weekend services and waited upon with expectancy.
What a beautiful piece of grace that you and I are children today, of the new covenant between God and man and are invited into the presence of a Holy, powerful God and allowed to call him Father. Abba! Daddy! Remember the scene at the beginning of this post from Exodus 19? Mountains shaking and God swearing anyone who comes early will perish? Well, that same Holy God, because of Christ, invites us in as friends or better yet, His children (1 John 3:1) whom He delights in.
How crazy is that? Are you tracking with that? Because of Jesus Christ, God loves you and enjoys you! He welcomes you to boldly approach His throne of grace and mercy and lift your prayers with anticipation and expectation.
Prayer doesn't change the heart of God; prayer changes the heart of man. In taking time to prepare your heart for worship by seeking our God through prayer, you are allowing the Lord to open your eyes to His presence in your life. A worship service is not successful based on how much you "enjoyed" it or got out of it; a worship service is successful by your ability to encounter God in the midst of it. We come to worship Him. What we should long to "get out of a service" is Him. He is the prize. He is not only the aim of our praise but also the deepest desire of our souls. Prayer aligns your heart with His mission. Prayer connects your passion with His worthiness. Prayer focuses your heart on His glory.
I challenge you to take some time before you walk into your church building, to pray boldly that you would enjoy the presence of the Most High.
Praise Jesus we no longer need to take 3 days to encounter God corporately. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t wisdom in being intentional to prepare our heart to worship our Lord today. Let’s not trample His grace. May we come prepared with boldness and confidence to lift our lives to Him in worship this weekend for He is worthy of nothing less.
In Jesus Name,
Tom Wycuff • Director of Worship Ministries