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? Continue reading
Question and answer 160 of the Westminster Larger Catechism states:
Q. 160. What is required of those that hear the word preached?
A. It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.
So how does one effectively prepare himself? Denny Burk has posted a list of ten practical steps to prepare to receive the means of grace of the preached Word of God:
1. Pray that God would give you a good and honest heart.
2. Meditate on the Word of God.
3. Purify your mind by turning away from worldly entertainment.
4. Trust in the truth that you already have.
5. Rest long enough Saturday night to be alert and hopeful Sunday morning.
6. Forebear one another Sunday morning without grumbling and criticism.
7. Be meek and teachable when you come.
8. Be still as you enter the room and focus your mind’s attention and heart’s affection on God.
9. Think earnestly about what is sung and prayed and preached.
10. Desire the Truth of God’s Word more than you desire riches or food.
The list comes from an exhortation written by John Piper for the members of his church, “Take Heed How You Hear.” I think #6 is an important one for families so that they do not sabotage their preparations and is one that most of us don’t think about. I also find #3 to be interesting given that most churches don’t adhere to the regulative principle of worship and as a result bring the world into their very worship service (or “experience” for most of those churches).
May we all diligently prepare ourselves to receive the preached Word of God in the hopeful expectation that the Holy Spirit will use it to build us up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation (SC 89).