Before the Service Begins
I was glad when they said unto me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” – Psalm 122:1
Psalms 122-134 are called the Psalms of Ascent. I like to call them the songs of preparation. They were actually the songs the Israelites would meditate upon and sing on the way to church. For many, this was quite a lengthy trip and they purposefully made great use of their time. By the time they got to the Temple, their hearts and minds were prepared to be in the presence of God Almighty.
This makes me wonder: How much do today’s Christians prepare before entering what they believe is the House of God?
As bad as I hate to admit this, I do much better now that I am the preacher than I did as an attender. My “ascent” often begins with a one or two mile walk around my neighborhood. I just pray and really make sure that I’m in tune with the Holy Spirit. I empty myself as much as possible to be clean before Him. Then, I get the family up and going at a time where we will not be rushed to get ready. We have a “no electronics for entertainment” rule until after the service. On the way to church, we generally have conversations about life and honoring God. We prepare to go to the house of the Lord.
I have found that when I prepare, I feel the presence of God in some way regardless of what happens in the service. I also find that I am super sensitive to others who have made the proper preparations. If the song leader and preacher, along with most of the congregation have prepared properly, then get prepared to feel the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing else on planet Earth like it. Could you imagine what it felt like in the Temple if all of the attenders from all directions really had these songs in their heart, sang them, meditated on them, and were enjoying God even before they arrived?
If I am honest, when I was simply a church attender with no responsibilities, I never even thought about preparing my heart. I wasn’t glad when it was time to go. I got ready in pretty much the same manner I went to work. I was only glad if the band played a song or two that I really liked. I was only glad if the youth group was doing something cool. I was only glad if a preacher that I really liked gave a really great message. I was completely dependent on the preparation of others. Consequently, my church experiences would be hit or miss. Usually, if it was a hit, it was only because someone else had made the proper preparations, not because I had made mine.
How do you “ascend” to the House of God? How do you prepare yourself and your family for the worship service? How do you build anticipation? Do you get to go to the house of the Lord? Or, do you have to go to the house of the Lord? How should the hours leading up to the start of the service look?
If the service starts at specific time, arrive before that time. As much as possible, make sure you never feel rushed. Every moment should feel peaceful and enjoyable as you prepare to enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. When you do arrive, be purposeful in your talk. Football, TV shows, movies and Facebook are nice to talk about, but not right before you offer up praise to Almighty God. Make it all about Him!
We have an amazing opportunity every week to prepare to meet God and experience Him; let’s not waste any of them.