Preparing Yourself for Sabbath Worship

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faint for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. ~ Psalm 84:1-2

The words of the psalmist personify the desires of his heart for God, especially the public the worship of God. But these words, let alone his desires for the public worship of God, are not to be the psalmist’s alone – God has provided them to be the substance of our prayers and desires as well. But these do not come naturally for most, especially because of the many struggles of the week that have gripped our emotions and attentions. So we need to quiet our hearts, and prepare ourselves for worship.

Psalm 116 is a great psalm to help us reflect on God’s love and mercy for us as he is present within our daily lives,  listening to our prayers and delivering us from our trouble. Psalm 116.1-8:

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling;

Reflecting on God’s presence with us helps us put the work week in perspective, so that we can be reminded of the greater world that exists outside our personal lives and struggles. That greater world?  The world of Sabbath rest. Psalm 116.12-14; 17-19:

What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD  in the presence of all his people….I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

When we reflect on God’s loving and merciful presence with us during the week, it puts the week in focus for us, and leads us to desire to leave our work week lives behind to go and worship God with his faith community! And when we go in faith, having already reflected on his provisions throughout the week – what we receive is nothing less than a foretaste of the greater heavenly rest that God will give his people.

Take some time this evening for silent reflection upon what God has already done in the small silent moments of the week, that you may go with faith-filled anticipation of his greater presence in the seemingly insignificant means of Word and sacrament. Let Psalm 116 help you do this.

Prayer of Preparation:

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 I, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of public worship, and grant as well that my Sabbath upon earth may be a preparation for eternal rest promised to your people in heaven. Shed forth your unending day upon all of us who watch for you, that our lips may praise you, our lives may bless you, and our worship may give you glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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