Why have a Prelude before Worship? (OR: How to NOT profit from church this Sunday)
This week we begin a summer blog series explaining each element of our worship service at Redeemer. We begin by thinking about the prelude. The prelude, coming directly before the start of the worship service, is a short period of time (only 30-60 seconds) which provides an opportunity for us to quiet our hearts and prepare our minds for worship.
Why have a Prelude?
We live in a world of constant business, buzz, and information overload. Even when we are not working, we rarely find time amidst our texting, internet searches, emails and Facebook updates, to actually be still and reflect on much of anything, let alone “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46).
Worship is an activity that is to engage our whole being - our thoughts, words and emotions - and unfortunately this is often not the state of mind we have as we walk through the church doors on Sunday morning. The stress of the previous week (or the coming week), the list of things to do in the afternoon, the big game later that evening - and the list goes on and on - are all competing for our focus and attention. The prelude is meant to help us prepare to fruitfully participate in the most central aspect of our Christians lives: the worship of our Triune God.
Is preparation important?
I am afraid we are losing the idea that worship is something that we must prepare for. The reality is, however, that failing to prepare yourself for worship is a sure way to not benefit from the word of God preached, hymns sung, or prayers offered. We go to great lengths to prepare ourselves when we meet with other people, have important business meetings, etc. How much more ought we to prepare ourselves to meet with Him who, as the author of Hebrews reminds us, is “a consuming fire” who must be worshipped with reverence and awe? Without taking time to prepare ourselves, not only will we not give God the praise that we should, but neither will we receive from him the good gifts that He has for us. I would even go so far as to say that failure to prepare is a major reason many Christians get very little benefit from going to church. After all, if you (1) haven't had enough sleep on Saturday night, (2) have no idea what the pastor will preach on, what hymns will be sung, scriptures read, etc (3) not spent any time asking God to prepare you to enter into his presence and give him acceptable worship - what should you expect?
How can we make the most of the prelude?
There are different ways you can use this time effectively. Read a short passage of Scripture, reflect on an aspect of God’s character and goodness, or simply pray and ask God to prepare you for worship. Something as simple as “Heavenly Father, help me to worship you in Spirit and in Truth this morning. Help me not to be distracted by the many thoughts and cares that are on my mind. Forgive me for my lack of interest and cold heart towards you who have given so much for me. Help me again this morning to taste and see that you are good, and give you the praise you so richly deserve.”