I have been carrying in my Bible for several years a statement by J. I. Packer [Quest for Godliness] that is excellent preparation for Sunday worship:
We must never, therefore, let our Sundays become mere routine engagements; in that attitude of mind, we shall trifle them away by a humdrum formality. Every Sunday is meant to be a great day, and we should approach it expectantly, in full awareness of this. [my emphasis]
How might we prepare our hearts so that worship is a joyful expectation?
George Whitfield gave six practical guidelines in how to listen to a sermon:
- Come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty. To enter His house merely to have our ears entertained, and not our hearts reformed, must certainly be highly displeasing to the Most High God, as well as unprofitable to ourselves.
- Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God. If an earthly king were to issue a royal proclamation, and the life or death of his subjects entirely depended on performing or not performing its conditions, how eager would they be to hear what those conditions were! And shall we not pay the same respect to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and lend an attentive ear to His ministers, when they are declaring, in His name, how our pardon, peace, and happiness may be secured?
- Do not entertain even the least prejudice against the minister. That was the reason Jesus Christ Himself could not do many mighty works, nor preach to any great effect among those of His own country; for they were offended at Him. Take heed therefore, and beware of entertaining any dislike against those whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers over you.
- Be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think.
- Make particular application to your own hearts of everything that is delivered.
- Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after every sermon, to endue the minister with power to speak, and to grant you a will and ability to put into practice what he shall show from the Book of God to be your duty.
In a very practical way, preparation for worship begins not just in the morning on Sunday, but in the day and days preceding it. It begins with a humble recognition that my heart needs transformation, and so I pray that the Lord will use the message on Sunday to transform me. To that end ask that God would equip the preacher of the Word with wisdom to accurately interpret the Word and deliver the Word so that the Spirit of God can use that Word of God to turn you into a man of God.
This week may be the week in which you make dramatic progress in your life — or it may be a week in which you realize one small piece of truth that has been inhibiting you from growing. Go to worship with the expectation that in either case, both dramatic or small, you are going to worship God and to hear His Word as if your very life depended on it (for it does!)