Saturday, November 29, 2008

Preparing to Hear the Word

A Reflection from Jeremiah Burroughs

Ligon’s post on preparation for worship coincided with my own thoughts today.

I’m presently reading (for the first time!) Peter Lewis’ fine work, The Genius of Puritanism. The first section of the book focuses on the puritan in the pulpit, while the second section of the book centers on the puritan in the pew.

What has struck me time and again in Lewis' work thus far is how central the Word is in all aspects of Puritan worship. This included, interestingly, not just the preaching of the Word but the hearing of the Word. The preacher, though certainly responsible to prepare a Word from God for the people, the people are, according to the Puritans, equally responsible to prepare their hearts to receive the Word.

The Word was the climax of the worship service for the Puritans. All that came before the reading and preaching of the Word led up to it, and all that came after the reading and preaching of the Word flowed from it. No other means could better establish men in the faith, and produce in men other saving graces than the expounding of the Word.

Now, the discipline of spiritual preparation for worship is much neglected in our day, and not a small reason why many hear sermon after sermon with little spiritual profit. Nature teaches us that seeds do not typically penetrate unprepared soil. Likewise, the gospel seed rarely penetrates the unprepared heart. All the more reason why we should take up the joyful task of asking, and diligently seeking, God’s grace for a heart prepared to meet Him.

Consider Jeremiah Burroughs prayerful example of spiritual preparation below. Then, before worship tomorrow, pray through Burroughs short lines of preparation, until his lines become your own. It may be beneficial to rewrite Burroughs reflection, putting his words into contemporary language. Whatever the case, be sure to express to God your need for him to possess your attention and affections, opening your soul to His power in worship.

“Pray beforehand that God would open thine eyes, and open thine heart, and accompany his Word; thus did David: ‘Open mine eyes O Lord, that I may understand the wonders of thy law.’ And you know what is said of Lydia: ‘The Lord opened her heart to attend the Word which was spoken.’ Now, seeing it is an ordinance thou dost expect more food from than what of its own nature is able to convey, thou has need to pray, ‘O Lord open mine eyes and open my heart: Lord, my heart is naturally locked up against Thy Word, there are wards in my heart that, except thou art pleased to put in the key that fit my heart, it will never open…Lord, I have often gone to thy Word and the key hath stuck in it [my heart], and it hath not opened; but Lord, if thou wouldst but fit it and turn it with thine own hand, my heart would open.”

May God grant you great benefit in the hearing and receiving of the Word this Sunday.

4 comments:

Neil Witherow said...

Good prayer. God is truly glorified when more parts of our hearts are locked.

Neil Witherow said...

Unlocked, I meant.

Nate Shurden said...

So true. Thanks for the comment, Neil.

jessica said...

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Jessica
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