A Worshipping Community
We have focused a lot on personal prayer and worship in recent weeks, but it is important to get the balance right. Worship in eternity will be corporate and that experience is to be reflected in a worshiping community now. Jesus said that wherever two or more are gathered in His name, He is present (Matt 18:20). That is not to diminish the value of personal private prayer and worship which is essential to the spiritual health of the believer and the place to meet intimately with Christ. But we are not isolated individuals - we are a family of brothers and sisters. If our private spiritual lives are healthy we will want to meet together both for fellowship and for worship.
The Place Where God Dwells
There is an extra dimension in corporate worship which cannot easily be defined other than by Ps 22:3. The Lord inhabits or dwells in the praises of His people. He chose the Tabernacle and then the Temple to be the place where His presence rested - the place of corporate worship. Whilst we are now individually temples of God's Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), we are also being built together as a single entity (Eph 2:19-22).
This places upon us a particular responsibility when we come to corporate worship. For the body to function effectively in worship every member needs to play their part. One aspect of this is contained in Paul's teaching to the Corinthians about order in public worship where he reminds them that they all have an offering to bring (1 Cor 14:26 ff). But there is another essential element. That is that we have a responsibility to come to corporate worship spiritually prepared. The beginning of the service should not be the beginning of our worship. We should not be entering His gates with weariness and and His courts with heaviness of heart.
Songs of Ascent
The book of Psalms contains a series of songs to be sung as the worshipers approached Jerusalem and the Temple (Ps 120 -134). They are known as the Songs of Ascent. Their purpose was to prepare pilgrims for corporate worship in the Temple. We too need to prepare ourselves for time when we meet with the body for worship. To fail to do so will limit our personal ability to engage with Lord, but it will also deny to others some of the enjoyment of the fullness of the presence of God.
Prayer College Assignment
Take extra care this week to prepare yourself for your times of corporate worship. Something as simple as listening to worship songs on your way to church can make a significant difference to the state of mind you are in when corporate worship commences.