Sunday mornings get out of hand quickly and by the time you reach the church parking lot, you're exhausted. You're thinking about dinner and what you have to do later in the day. What if the preacher goes overtime and the roast burns? Then what if Mrs. XYZ takes over the Sunday School class again, and hogs the whole discussion?
All sorts of distractions run through our minds and many times I've found myself singing a worship song while thinking about a dozen things other than worship. The common theme through all the muddled thoughts is that we're thinking about ourselves. The ongoing battle of self vs. God is the bottom line. What makes it so difficult to focus on God for an hour or so on Sunday morning?
As with many of the spiritual disciplines we neglect spending time learning how to worship. Brother Lawrence in his book The Practice of the Presence of God says, "That the end we ought to propose to ourselves is to become, in this life, the most perfect worshipers of God we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity."
"To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God." William Temple
Church becomes another activity, an obligation to keep. We wouldn't want to be talked about because we weren't there. But then again, staying home in pajamas with a cup of coffee is so enticing. Worship is about relationship, not religion and that begins in private. Jesus spent much time alone with His Father. Isaiah saw the glory of God--alone. "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord high and exalted..."Isaiah 6:1.
Richard Foster writes in Celebration of Discipline "The divine priority is to worship first, service second." This is why Jesus told Martha in her busyness of service that Mary had chosen the better part." It was about the relationship, not the doing.
So how do we begin to prepare for corporate worship during the hectic week? Here are three things that will help you start.
1. Time alone in the Word and in prayer throughout the week. A relationship with the living God cannot grow unless we're willing to spend time with Him. As you keep business appointments, keep a daily divine appointment.
2. Music - sing hymns, worship songs, psalms throughout the day. In the car, at home, in the shower. God inhabits our praises. Our minds and hearts are turned to him in praise. It doesn't matter if you can carry a tune or not. Just sing or make a joyful noise. If you're an instrumentalist, play for Him. Private worship gives you great freedom to "get down" and get some joy on.
3. Practice the presence of God. Turn your thoughts to Him, experience Him in every activity. Brother Lawrence said "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees." He is present in the ordinary, we only need to recognize the One who never leaves us nor forsakes us.
Corporate worship should be filled with expectancy and excitement as we come together to express our love, thankfulness, and contrition in concert. Not an obligation or another activity, but loving God with all of hearts, minds, souls, and strength.
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. John 4:23