Gathered worship should be a priority. Our God is sovereign and supreme. Submitting our lives to His Word and magnifying Him in our prayers and praise, especially together with our church family, should be uppermost in our agendas. But preparing for gathered worship involves more than clearing our schedules and making time. It involves daily discipline and vigilance. If we are to come ready to worship God on the Lord’s Day, we need to keep our hearts and lives in tune with God through the week. We must take care each day to watch over our hearts, guard our affections, and conduct our lives in ways that honor and please God.
We are told in Proverbs:
“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23).
In Ephesians 6:18 Paul encourages us to pray and keep watch:
“…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.“
In Mark 14:38 Jesus warned his disciples as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.“
Scripture is clear. We must be on guard. We must stay alert. We are not to trifle with sin. We are not to attempt to fight sin or stand against temptation in our own strength and devices. We need Christ and the power of the gospel day by day, moment by moment, and so we are exhorted to watch and pray.
Listen to what David prays in the Psalms:
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
To busy myself with wicked deeds
In company with men who work iniquity,
And let me not eat of their delicacies!
He sings in Psalm 101:
I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.
This is an example we should follow in our own lives. We must be discerning about what we watch. We must be careful about what we listen to. We must be vigilant about what we give our attention and affection to—what we see and hear and think. There are many evil things in this life. We need to recognize them and flee from them. And there are many good things—family and fun, food and drink, work and play, and host of other gifts. We need to enjoy and give thanks to God for these. But even with good things, we need to take care that they don’t push God out of our lives and become a cause for us to stumble and fall. We need wisdom and strength from God to keep watch.
Now, why is watching our hearts and lives important as we prepare for worship?
It is important because it is an issue of spiritual health and readiness. We can’t spend the entire week imbibing the world
—living like the world lives,
—enjoying what the world enjoys,
—doing what the world does,
—loving what the world loves,
—pursing what the world pursues
…filling up our lives and our minds with things that are contrary to God and opposed to His Word, crowding out God and His Word with our own ambitions and agendas, and then come to worship with God’s people and expect suddenly to love what God loves, do what God would have us do, and enjoy what God enjoys.
Paul tells us:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
If want our hearts raised with affection toward God in times of gathered worship, we need to guard our hearts through the week. If we want our lives to reflect the joy of exalting God in worship, we need to exalt Him in our lives through the week.
Keep God first in your schedule and your planning. Acknowledge Him as supreme in your decisions and delights. Make Him the priority in your choices and conversations with others.
Keep watch over your heart and life. Love the truth of God’s Word. Stay close to it and walk in its light. Keep in tune with God all through the week and you will be ready to resound His praise in the gathered worship of His church.
(Scripture quotations are from the Holy BIble, English Standard Version (ESV) ©2001 by Crossway)