Part 2 in a series on the church’s “liturgy”
Some years ago, we added a new element to our Sunday worship – times of quiet meditation at either end of the service; a few added minutes, simply to think, and reflect, and pray. But why? Why do we have a season of personal preparation at the beginning of the service, and a time personal reflection at the end? And what might you do to incorporate such times of silent thought if they are not built into your own church's service?
The answer to why we do what we do is partially that Justin Harig suggested it several years ago. He had experienced this practice after heading off to college in Louisville, and came home encouraged by the helpfulness of it. But what Justin experienced in Louisville, and suggested to me, is also biblical! That is not to say that there is any portion of Scripture that specifically commands moments of silence in public worship. But there is biblical precedent and instruction concerning thoughtfulness in the house of God. And this kind of thoughtfulness is usually best achieved when we cease from the very important acts of singing, and listening, and preaching … and simply meditate in the silence of our hearts.
In this regard, I love what King Solomon wrote in the first two verses of Ecclesiastes 5:
“Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools … Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.”
Aren’t those marvelous words? Before we open our mouths in the worship of the Lord, or even in public prayer, there ought to be forethought and preparation. We ought to guard our steps and quiet our hearts as we come into worship on Sundays. Hopefully, many of us take time out to do just this before arriving each week. But, even if we do, the hustle of getting kids to nursery and/or Sunday School; the rush of getting ourselves together for some role we may be playing in the Sunday service; and the opportunity to visit with one another in the moments leading up to 11am all have the potential to disquiet our hearts. Thus, it is surely wise and beneficial if, as part of our worship, we begin with a few moments to focus our minds and, as I say each week, prepare our hearts to meet with the Lord. Quiet prayer, confession of sin, or meditation on one or other of the day’s Scriptures or songs can be wonderful ways of doing so. I encourage you to make good use of that time!
At PRBC, we also have a time of quiet reflection just after the sermon, too. Why have we set that time aside? Think of those still moments as a chance to push the seeds that God has sown in your heart just a little further into the soil. As Jesus taught us in Mark 4, the devil delights in coming, like a blackbird, to snatch up the good seed of God’s word from before it can take root in our hearts. And a quick dash out the door on Sunday morning can greatly aid him in the process! Therefore, before we finish our worship each Sunday morning, we have that minute or so of reflection – a time to think over what we have heard, and let it sink in. That time is not adequate of course (which is why God has given us an entire day free from other pursuits); but the quiet reflection at the end of worship is at least a start, and perhaps a foretaste of the meditation that might continue throughout the Lord’s Day!
Now, if you attend a church that does not set aside moments, like these, for reflection and stillness ... then carve out the time yourself! Start by arriving in the pew (or stacking chair!) a few minutes early, closing your eyes (so no one will disturb you) and quieting your soul before the Lord. Then, at the conclusion of the service, do the same thing. People around you will eventually come to realize what you are doing ... and may even pick up the habit themselves!
However we do it, may we diligently use (and may the Lord kindly bless) these efforts toward personal silence and thought – both to prepare the soil of our hearts for the good seed, and then to thumb that seed in deeply and profoundly!