When it is time to sit down and write my “pastor’s pondering” for “The Beacon,” it is always a challenge. There are so many different things I have to say. I find myself wanting to talk about discipleship, worship, outreach and more. There just isn’t enough time or space to write all I would like to say so I must choose carefully. I have been wanting to do some teaching on worship. As a congregation, I think we would really benefit from a study in worship. I am prayerfully considering preaching a series on worship this Fall. I was planning to go from 1 Samuel straight into the Gospel of John, but I may take a detour into the Psalms for a short while first. The Session has approved a Wednesday night study of a book entitled Worship By The Book. We will begin that study on Wednesday, July 2nd. It will meet every other week for four meetings. This will be a study for those with a real interest in corporate worship.
I realize I’m digressing so back to the focus of what I want to say in this article. There are many aspects of worship to be discussed and considered. In fact worship in its fullest sense touches on every aspect of our lives, it is not just limited to the short while we spend each week gathered in the sanctuary. So in essence we have an elephant to eat. Have you ever wondered how you eat an elephant? I often ask that question in counseling. The answer is, one bite at a time. So if we are going to focus on worship, the prelude is as good a place as any to start. There is something about starting at the very beginning, its a very good place to start…
As you look at the order of service in the bulletin you will notice that it is broken up into several sections, these are: Praise, Consecration and Communion (as applicable). The first thing under the praise section is the Prelude. So what is supposed to happen during the prelude? I’m sure various people will give you various answers. How many of you would give the answer that is printed clearly in your bulletin at the very top of the order of service? That answer is, “During the Prelude, prepare your own heart for worship by reading and meditating on Psalm…” The prelude is a time usually when the accompanist plays giving the congregation time to sit quietly and pray or read from the selected Psalm for the day. This time is set aside for the very crucial task of preparing our hearts for worship.
In corporate worship we gather as a congregation before Almighty God to lift up His praises, to confess our sins, hear His word read and preached and to respond to Him in faith. Think about this for a moment. This is not something to be taken lightly. In fact this is gravely serious to present yourself before the Holy, Holy, Holy, living and true God. Serious yes, and at the same time sweet and awesome, joyous and triumphant. Worship is to be all of these things. You cannot just step into the sanctuary and flip a switch like you are turning on a light. Your heart doesn’t work that way. It takes time and focus to prepare your heart to come before the Lord. It really begins on Saturday night, but more on that later.
We typically begin the prelude a few minutes before the hour and it rarely lasts more than a couple of minutes. This is not a burden if you use it for its intended purpose. All those other important things that you would be doing otherwise can wait until after the service and if not, plan to get them done in time to spend a few moments silently reading the Scriptures, or praying so that your heart is ready to give your best to the Lord in worship. One thing I do know, He is worth it. Give yourself fully to the Lord in worship from prelude to benediction and you will find it a delight.
As a whole our congregation does a great job of singing and participating in worship and I as the Teaching Elder am encouraged by that. Let me encourage you to excel during the prelude, it is a little thing, but excellence in the little things will better prepare you for the big things.