How do you prepare your heart for worship?

“A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

Think about the last time you entered a church building to worship on a Sunday. What was the state of your heart and mind when you entered? Were you focused on God and ready to worship Him and hear from Him? Were you distracted by the concerns of the day, or annoyed by the kids in the back seat? Were you coming in late, rushed and just glad you made it?

This past Sunday, we sang a song called “I lift my eyes up,” which begins: “I lift my eyes up/up to the mountains/where does my help come from?” The song is based on Psalm 121, which is part of a section of Psalms known as the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134). They were songs that were traditionally sung by Hebrew pilgrims as they traversed the uphill road to Jerusalem on their way to one of the annual festivals. The Songs of Ascent were a way for the worshipers to get their hearts in the right place before arriving in Jerusalem. As we sang that song, I thought about how we prepare ourselves to worship God on Sundays. What do you do in order to prepare your heart, mind, and body to meet with God on a Sunday morning? Or is this a question you have never really considered?

On my phone, I have a playlists of songs that I have found get my heart and mind in the right place for worship (and preaching, in my case). Although I was not basing that playlist on the concept of Songs of Ascent, I realize that is exactly how that playlist functions for me. They are the songs that help me to lift my eyes up, metaphorically speaking, to the Lord as I approach His house to meet with Him. Many of the songs emphasize longing for God, a theme that helps me enter His house with a sense of intimate anticipation, as I draw near to the one who loves me more than anyone else.

I have four children, and I definitely understand that the process of getting to church is not always smooth sailing. I imagine that walking long distances through the wilderness to Jerusalem was no stroll through the park either. But that is all the more reason to consider adopting the Israelite’s concept of Songs of Ascent, to use the car ride to church as an opportunity to lift your eyes up to God and prepare to meet with Him.

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