God designed the local assembly and it is His intention for believers to meet together. In the book of Acts, despite the jeopardy to their own lives, the early Christians still met together (Acts 12:12). We, too, should highly value the meetings of the assembly; each meeting has a specific purpose and focus, and we need to come with hearts prepared to participate. In the Breaking of Bread meeting (remembrance meeting) we gather to remember our Lord Jesus and to worship Him. This is central to what our lives are about, our Lord Jesus, Himself. There is a sense in which this meeting is climatic to the week past and the one to come. This remembrance is the highpoint of our lives.
One common misconception is that worship is somehow limited to this meeting. Our entire lives should be characterized by praising Him, acknowledging His worth, and giving Him the preeminence (Col 1:18). The remembrance meeting is our opportunity for collective worship, our sisters silently and our brothers publicly.
Prerequisite for worship – Authenticity and integrity
Because truth is essential for worship, our lives must be characterized by integrity and we must be authentic in our worship (John 4:24). David declared, “God desires truth in the inward parts” (Psa 51:6). He is real and He desires us to be the same. He doesn’t want pretense or half-hearted worship. He wants our complete devotion. Matthew West, in his song “The Motions,” says it well:
I don’t wanna go through the motions.
I don’t wanna go one more day,
Without Your all-consuming passion inside of me.
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything,
Instead of going through the motions?
God wants reality from Sunday to Saturday, not just an appearance of piety on Sunday morning. Words sound hollow in the ears of God when there is duplicity in the life. Our lives should reflect the God we worship. When lives are characterized by integrity, commitment to God, and love for Him, authentic worship flows freely and fully.
Preparation for worship – Its necessity
God has given us His Word so that we can appreciate more of His character and ways. Since our worship springs from our appreciation of Him, we need to spend time in His Word daily. Psalm 1 describes as “blessed” the person who meditates continually on God’s Word and delights in it. When our minds are saturated with the Word of God, our hearts are filled with Him. My encouragement to young people is to find a verse or a few verses about our Lord to focus on for the week. The passage could be about His character, an event in His life, His sufferings, or present position. Read it each day and write down your thoughts on it. Look it up in a few commentaries or other books, and prepare something you can present to God on Sunday morning.
Participation in worship – The courage to stand up
Often, doing what is right is not easy and requires stepping outside one’s comfort zone. It takes true courage to do what does not come naturally. Praise is “heart-work” and it can be intimidating to speak to God publicly. Remember to ask God for help and speak in His strength, not your own. The danger for those who struggle with speaking in public is that they will let fear keep them in their seats. The danger for those who enjoy speaking in public is that they will do so in their own strength without relying on God. We have nothing to offer Him that He has not given us, so if we can remember this it will protect us from pride. For younger brothers who struggle with nervousness in public prayer, it is helpful to pray in the smaller setting of the prayer meeting before the gospel meeting and in the home. Participating in children’s work is also helpful as you become accustomed to speaking before a group in an informal atmosphere. But regardless of your comfort level, God expects brethren to worship publicly and sisters silently.
It is always important to remember Whom we worship and why. The Almighty God is also our loving Father, so this involves both respect and intimacy. Brothers need to remember that when you stand to pray, you are acting as a representative; you are leading the assembly into the presence of God (1Cor 11). Because of this, it’s better to use the pronouns “we” and “us” rather than “I” and “me.” It is good to keep prayers short, so that many may take part. If you are just starting to worship publicly, please don’t be ashamed of only praying for 20 seconds. If you forget something you were going to say, or misquote a verse, remember that God understands and values prayers from the heart. Public worship in a large assembly can be intimidating, especially when there are Bible scholars and theologians present, but God is the One to Whom you are praying, not them. Seeking to impress others with your prayers will not bring glory to God. And bringing glory to God is the whole reason for our worship.
God expects sisters to come with prepared hearts as well. Just because you do not participate publicly, it is not appropriate to sit with empty hearts or distracted thoughts. Come with thoughts you have enjoyed about Christ and silently offer them up to God during the meeting. You can also share your thoughts with friends privately before or after the meeting. It may feel awkward at first, but the more Christ centered your thoughts and conversations, the more natural it will become.
Our worship on Sunday morning should be an extension of the outflow of our hearts to God. It should not be unusual for you to be speaking of Christ. If you are enjoying Him throughout the week, you will be eager to speak well of Him in worship. What an awesome honor is ours!