Preparing for Worship

Whatever your theological conviction is concerning the sabbath, I hope you take the Lord's Day and corporate worship seriously. Even if you don't share their view of the sabbath, the Puritans had great counsel on how to prepare for and get the most out of the Lord's Day. Below is a very edited* piece from Thomas Watson's treatment of the fourth commandment as it relates to preparing ourselves for our gathering together for worship.

Preparing for Public Worship

Having awoke on the Lord's Day and dressed your bodies, you must also dress your souls for hearing the word. As the people of Israel were to wash themselves before the law was delivered to them, so we must wash and cleanse our souls; and that is done by reading, meditation, and prayer. Exod 19: 10.

By reading the word.

Scripture is a great means to sanctify the heart, and bring it into a worshipful state. ‘Sanctify them through thy truth,’ &c. John 17: 17. Read not the word carelessly, but with seriousness and affection; as the oracle of heaven, the well of salvation, the book of life. David, for its preciousness, esteemed Scripture above gold; and for its sweetness, above honey. Psa 19: 10. By reading the word aright, our hearts, when dull, are alert; when hard, are softened; when cold and frozen are inflamed with zeal; and we can say as the disciples, ‘Did not our heart burn within us?’ Some step out of their bed to hearing. The reason why many get no more good on a Sabbath by the word preached, is because they did not breakfast with God in the morning by reading his word.

By meditation.

Get upon the mount of meditation, and there converse with God. Meditation is the soul’s retiring within itself, that, by a serious and solemn thinking upon God, the heart may be raised up to divine affections. It is a work fit for the morning of our corporate worship. It is helpful to meditate on four things: on the works of creation, on God’s holiness, on Christ’s love in redeeming us, and on the glory of heaven. On creation for He who can create, can provide; he that could make us when we were nothing, can raise us when we are low. ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.’ Psa 124: 8. On God's holiness for the contemplation of it leads us to a posture of humility that is suitable to a holy God; it would make us reverence his name and hallow his day. On Christ's redeeming love for when the sunshine of Christ’s electing love has risen upon the soul, it never finally sets. Death may take away our life from us, but not Christ’s love. And on the glory of heaven for heaven is the extract and essence of happiness. The meditation of heaven would raise our hearts above the world. Oh, how would earthly things disappear and shrink into nothing, if our minds were mounted above visible things, and we had a prospect of glory! How would the meditation of heaven make us heavenly in our Sabbath exercises!

By prayer.

Prayer sanctifies and strengthens our benefit from observing the Sabbath. As we pray, let us beg a blessing upon the word which is to be preached; that it may be a savour of life to us; that by it our minds may be more illuminated, our corruptions more weakened, and our stock of grace more increased. Let us pray that God’s special presence may be with us, that our hearts may burn within us while God speaks, that we may receive the word into meek and humble hearts, and that we may submit to it, and bring forth fruits. James 1: 21. Nor should we only pray for ourselves, but for others.

Let us also pray for him who preaches the word; that his tongue may be touched with a coal from God’s altar; that God would warm his heart who is to help to warm others. Your prayers may be a means to strengthen the minister. Some complain they find no benefit by the word preached; perhaps they did not pray for their minister as they should. Prayer is like the whetting and sharpening of an instrument, which makes it cut better.

Let us pray with and for our families. Yes, pray for all the congregations that meet on this day in the fear of the Lord; that the dew of the Spirit may fall with the manna of the word; that some souls may be converted, and others strengthened; that gospel ordinances may be continued, and have no restraint put upon them.

Let us pray earnestly with reverence, humility, fervency, and hope in God’s mercy. Luke 22: 44. That we may pray with more fervency, we must pray with a sense of our wants. He who is pinched with wants, will be earnest in craving alms. He prays most fervently who prays most feelingly. This is to sanctify the morning of a Sabbath; and it is a good preparation for the word preached.

* I have updated some of the language and only included portions of his section on the fourth commandment to create an easy to read blogpost. You should pick up Watson's book on The Ten Commandments and read him on it all. It's spectacular.