I can vividly remember the preparation that went into taking the ACT College Assessment test when I was in high school. This was a grueling, four hour test which I had prepared for months ahead of time. Leading up to the testing day, I dedicated hours studying the material, taking practice tests, and preparing myself mentally. The night before the test, I forced myself to fall asleep early so I could perform to the best of my ability on test day.
If we spend this much time preparing for a test, which is of no eternal significance, how much more then should we prepare our hearts to hear from God on Sunday mornings?
Many of us forget the incredible opportunity we have on a weekly basis to gather with God’s people for worship, fellowship, and teaching. We tend to oversleep on Sunday morning and when we DO make it to church it is after spewing verbal vomit on our family members due to being woken up early. Once we arrive, we are consistently distracted by the endless barrage of thoughts that assault our minds at any given time. We leave in anger and frustration due to the hardness of our hearts and the deceitfulness of sin.
In order for corporate gatherings of worship to bear fruit in our lives, we need to practice holy preparation:
1. Go to sleep EARLY on Saturday night.
Thousand of studies have shown the averse effect sleep deprivation has on our bodies. Specifically, lack of sleep is a serious detriment to the healthy functioning of our minds –
“Lack of sleep interferes with your ability to concentrate and learn new things. It can negatively impact both short-term and long-term memory. It gets in the way of your decision-making process and stifles creativity. Your emotions are also affected, making you more likely to have a short temper and mood swings. Overall cognitive function is impaired.” (HeathLine)
When you come to church with your only energy coming from the coffee you hurriedly grab, you are setting yourself up for disaster. If you get a healthy amount of sleep, I can promise you will find church far more fulfilling and effective in making war against your sin.
2. Meditate on the passage or concept that will be shared.
In most churches (if not all of them) you at least have a general idea of what the pastor will be speaking on. Use this information to your advantage! If it is a specific section of Scripture, spend Friday and Saturday memorizing and meditating upon the verses. If your church is in a certain series, use a topical Bible (or Google!) and study the concept on your own.
If you do not know this information, give your pastor a call a few days before Sunday. Pastors LOVE to talk and I can GUARANTEE he will be excited to share with you what he is preaching on. This will greatly encourage your pastor as he spends time studying the passage!
3. Wake up EARLY on Sunday morning to pray.
Wait… You are telling me that I need to go to sleep early AND wake up early? Yup. I understand this can be incredibly difficult. With that being said, if you had an important job interview or test to take, you would do just that so quit with the excuses!
I recommend waking up and giving yourself thirty extra minutes (at the very least) in order to allow God’s Spirit to prepare your heart for church. In this time, I recommend confessing any known sin for it is the “pure in heart who will see God.” You can also lay down all of your burdens, anxieties, and worries in God’s presence – Trusting that He cares for you and is FAR more powerful than you could ever imagine. This will enable you to have a still heart and quiet mind to receive from the Holy Spirit during the worship gathering.
I can assure you that if you practice these three disciplines on a weekly basis, God will speak powerfully into your life through corporate worship.
What would YOU add to this list? Is there anything specific you do in order to get your mind and heart ready for church? Leave a comment and let me know!