For the last two weeks I have been on vacation. It’s been very nice to have the rest. When I am back to work on Monday, my family and I will have had the chance to visit two other churches on a Sunday morning. One blessing, of course, is that I have been much more relaxed on Saturdays for the last couple of weeks. Even though I usually have my sermon done before the weekend, on Saturdays I sometimes still have some last minute preparations for the worship service.
And that’s what I want to touch on here: Preparing for Sundays. Because I bet most Christians don’t think about preparing for Sunday worship. That’s what the pastor, worship leader, and Sunday school teachers have to do. The rest of us can just show up.
You see, we often think of Sundays as a time of worship and fellowship that prepares us for the rest of the week. It’s where we get our spiritual fill-up. It’s our boost so we can face life’s trials on the other six days. And of course there’s truth to this.
But maybe we can also think of it another way.
What if the other six days are also preparation for Sunday? What if the quality of our experience on Sunday morning in part depends on the quality of our prayer lives the rest of the week? What if our heart’s receptivity to Scripture during the pastor’s sermon depends in part on reading the Bible between Monday and Saturday? Indeed, what if experiencing God’s presence and leading in our lives depends not only on our attendance in church, but on whether or not we are intentionally attending to God’s presence in our lives beyond that one hour or so on Sundays?
Bottom line? Each and every believer has to prepare for Sunday worship.
Here are a few suggestions about how to prepare.
- Read your Bible. Yes, yes, I know. Every pastor and church leader says this. But maybe we say it over and over because it’s true. That said, it helps to have a plan. Choose a book of the Bible to read through. Alternate between the Old and New Testament. Don’t be intimidated. Start simple. Read prayerfully through a shorter book, like 1 John. Read a Psalm or a chapter of Proverbs a day. Read it at your pace. Take notes, if that helps. There are resources to use if you come across confusing or hard to understand portions of Scripture. Ask God to open your eyes to the simple truth of his word.
- Pray for Sunday morning. Ask God to prepare your heart and the hearts of the congregation to meet with him together in worship. People arrive on Sunday morning with a mixture of expectations and emotions. Maybe some feel anxious. Others could feel complacent and distant. Some might feel guilt and shame. Pray that God would meet people where they are with the good, liberating, powerful news of Jesus! We can also get so used to our worship services that we don’t expect anything of spiritual significance to happen. Pray that God would move in a special way during your time together. Pray for those who lead the service.
- Think about who you can invite or encourage to come to church. Who do you know who hasn’t been in a long time? Who do you know who might be open to coming to church? Maybe you can pray during the week for someone you’d like to invite. Ask God to place someone on your heart and mind and to give you the courage to talk to them about joining you. What an encouragement to your pastor (and to everyone else) it would be if you showed up with a friend!
- Ask your pastor how you can help during the service. I’m serious about this. Pastors are busy, whether they pastor with other leaders or are a solo pastor. There’s a lot to think about for a Sunday morning. It could be something as simple as volunteering to read Scripture, to lead in prayer, to share a testimony about how God has been at work in your life, or to greet people at the door. Or perhaps you have a gift that would really bless people on a Sunday morning: poetry, a song, a dramatic reading of Scripture, or fresh baked goods to pass around. But take some initiative.
Taking time to prepare for Sunday worship is about recognizing that you are a member of the Body of Christ. Whether or not your church’s Sunday morning worship is life-giving and encouraging depends not only on how hard your pastors and leaders work but on how God is working through you.
How can you prepare for joining your brothers and sisters for worship tomorrow?
Here are two collect prayers from The Book of Common Prayer (2019) that you may find helpful as you reflect on attending your church’s worship service tomorrow:
“O God, the source of eternal light: Shed forth your unending day upon us who watch for you, that our lips may praise you, our lives may bless you, and our worship on the morrow give you glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
“Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
I pray that your time of congregational worship tomorrow would be encouraging and life-giving, because our Lord Jesus has met you, and those around you, through one another by the power of his Holy Spirit.