Be prepared. It’s more than just the Boy Scout motto.
Do we give much thought for preparing ourselves and our families for worship on Sundays? (Truth be told, sometimes it seems like we are happy to just get there on time without forgetting one of the kids!)
What about the Lord’s Supper? Do we take the time to prepare ourselves and our families for it? And how are we supposed to prepare to partake in the Lord’s table? Many well-meaning Christians come to the Lord’s table on a regular basis without ever having given any thought to such questions.
Where can we look for help? The Westminster Larger Catechism addresses this very topic for us:
Q. 171. How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper to prepare themselves before they come unto it?
A. They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves (1) of their being in Christ, (2) of their sins and wants; (3) of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance; love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; (4) of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.
So preparing involves examining & renewing. It involves thought & prayer.
But what does it mean to “examine” ourselves? What it does not mean is that we are to somehow try to figure out whether or not we are “worthy” of taking part in this sacrament. (Although there is a way to partake in an unworthy manner – 1 Corinthians 11:27-31.) To think of ourselves as inherently worthy of it would practically disqualify us from partaking of it! Half the point is that we are not worthy, but the Lord Jesus Christ was worthy in our place! Remember, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, one of things that we are doing is ‘proclaiming His death‘ until His Return (1 Corinthians 11:26).
So if you are genuinely a believer in Christ and are not under the discipline of the elders of the church (or living in such a way that you should be), this is for you – it is meant to strengthen you in the faith and help you grow in grace!
So use the regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper as a time to examine yourself – to give yourself and your family a regularly-scheduled spiritual check-up, so to speak. We often fail to do that at all, but if we at least make that our practice prior to partaking in the Lord’s Supper, it will be to us an immense source of blessing and growth in the faith.
Use it as a time to examine your faith; to consider and confess your sins and need for growth in Christ-likeness; to contemplate how we are to love God as well as our brothers & sisters in Christ; to forgive our debtors as our heavenly Father has forgiven us (including those in your church!); and use it as a time to pray fervently for all of the above!
If we were to make it our practice to take the time to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s Supper (and for worship in general), how much more would we look forward to the Lord’s Table! And how much more would we benefit from it, to the praise & glory of Christ Jesus!