As we prepare to join with God’s people and come into God’s presence in gathered worship, one of the first things we should do is pray. True worship is not something we can accomplish in our own strength and skill. Though we may plan well and prepare well and perform well, we cannot worship well without the life-giving work of God’s Spirit. We need to commit our time and our efforts to God and ask that He might manifest His power among us—helping us to hear and understand and rightly apply His Word—helping us to sing and pray from our hearts and not just with our lips. We want to meet with God; we want His Word to change us. We don’t want to just mark time and go through the motions of worship. Without the work of God’s Spirit in our midst, all our efforts are in vain. Without His power opening hearts and minds and lives, our plans and our activities will have no life.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17–18 we are told to “pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” One of the things that we must certainly commit to prayer is our time together in worship as the church.
So what do we pray as we look forward to times of corporate worship?
We want to pray that God will meet with us—that He will accomplish His purposes among us. We want to pray for the preaching of the Word—that it will go out in power, accompanied by the Holy Spirit. We want to pray for receptive hearts and minds—so that we will hear and understand and embrace the truth—so that God’s Word will enter our lives and discern the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:14
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Without the work of God’s Spirit we would have no understanding of spiritual things. We needed the Spirit to open our eyes when God first rescued us from sin, gave us understanding of His Word, and brought us to bow before Christ in worship and praise. And we continue to need the Spirit, day by day, as we arise and seek to live a life of worship in Christ. Every time we pray, every time we read and try to understand the Bible, every time we share our faith with those in need of Christ, we need the power and grace only He can provide.
We are a people utterly dependent upon God—His grace and His mercy and His power.
And so we must be a people devoted to prayer.
Especially when we come to worship, desiring to fix our thoughts and focus our attention and engage our affections—intentionally, together—in pursuit of Christ in worship, we must prepare by committing our efforts to prayer.