When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, they discussed where to worship whether on a mountain or in Jerusalem. However, Jesus made the issue clear: "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" ( John 4:23-24). Our Lord conveyed to her the importance of the heart that is changed by the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that leads us into all truth as we enter into worship. So how do we prepare?
Daily Bible reading, prayer and praise are so vital to our preparation for Sunday worship services. Growing closer to God through the pages of scripture opens our eyes and unstops our ears so we are ready to join in communion with other believers. If we do not have a solid relationship with the Lord, going to church will not mean much to us. It is like being married to someone you never talk to all week, and then expecting to spend an hour of intimate fellowship with your spouse one day a week. I guarantee it will not be as meaningful as if we had spent the entire week sharing, talking and spending quality time together. Many Christians do not prepare themselves for worship. Therefore, they miss the intimacy with God that is their inheritance in Christ.
Secondly, as we worship the Lord in spirit and truth, we are to glorify Him and enjoy His presence. We come together corporately to encourage, build up and edify one another. The Apostle Paul painted a good picture of Christian fellowship when he wrote this in his letter to the Ephesians: "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ" (chapter 5:18-21). When we gather in common worship, our goal is to lift high the name of the Lord with words, songs and behavior. No discouraging words or gossip should be found there. Likewise, it is my personal belief that dress should be modest. In our current culture, it is not uncommon to see all types of inappropriate dress from pants that are pulled too low to tops that plunge. Being brothers and sisters in Christ, our goal is not to draw attention to ourselves, but to focus all attention on the Lord.
Another key element of worship is the preaching and teaching of God's Word. This must be the central part of our worship service. In the Westminster Confession of Faith 21.1, we read: "The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men,...or any other way not prescribed in Holy Scripture." Certainly, the proclamation of God's Word is one of the major elements of true worship. Also prescribed in Scripture is the administration of the sacraments, prayer, sung prayer and praises, and collections for the relief of the saints (Westminster Confession of Faith 21.5). All of these elements nurture the soul and prepare Christians to go out in the world to proclaim the Good News. There is nothing listed in the Confession of Faith that tells us to "hype" up the worship service to attract unbelievers. What draws people to Christ is the proclaiming of the Gospel. Gimmicks, fancy lighting, special bands or other dramatic activities may bring a crowd, but do people come for entertainment or for an encounter with the Living God?
With these thoughts in mind, we need to begin now to prepare for the worship we will offer on Sunday. God has promised that as we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. What a blessing to be able to fellowship with our Creator and with one another. We must remember that the heart of worship begins in our hearts. Selah!